Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Windflower by Sharon and Tom Curtis *****

The Windflower was written under the pen name Laura London, but the actual authors are a husband and wife team named Sharon & Tom Curtis. The Windflower is on the Top 100 of 2007 at All About Romance, and according to the author of the review there, "one of the most beloved historical romances" - and it's got pirates too!

As I started reading it, to be honest, I thought it was a joke. The prose is so overwhelming as to be quite deep purple, in my opinion. Indeed, when one of the metaphors was how Merry recovered from something or other and was likened to an upholstered chair, I laughed out loud - it was indeed a joke. Were these two authors laughing at the reading public, trying to see how far they could go with lush, never-ending sentences, layered adjectives, parenthetical phrases galore?

No, I guess not. It took me a while - and it's a long book, for romance: right at 500 pages - to get into the mood and the essence of the book. Yes, I do believe they tried to push the very limits of what the romance reading public would tolerate, and in doing that, apparently exceeded their goal while at the same time pleasing the hordes. Yes, by the time I got to the end, I was thoroughly in love with both Devon and Merry, and Cathcart, and Cat and even Morgan Rand. However, Morgan comes across as something of a "deus ex machina" - I mean, not exactly out of the blue, but the coincidences of his participation really stretch the imagination.

I would almost call the book pure fantasy - it even starts with Merry's recurring dreams of a unicorn. This unicorn is so sexually blatant in her dreams - his horn "poised and thick". After they stared at each other in one dream, she thinks, "He wants me to ride him." Oh, honey, does he ever! The pirates, the ones the AAR reviewer calls "the most realistic to be found in romantic fiction" are about as realistic as Hansel and Gretel's witch. They are a merry lot, with intriguing pasts, and they come to love and cherish Merry, who - yes, it's true - remains a virgin til her wedding night some many moons later. Oh, yes, very realistic. For fiction. Pure and total fiction, with no basis in fact at all.

But it's loads of fun too - swashbuckling adventure almost as wonderful as Marsha Canham's (but not quite). The virginal heroine doesn't start out brave and courageous, wanting to protect all mankind. In fact, she's scared out of her wits all the time, constantly thinking "this is it!" about her virtue and her very life. Although she grows to love Devon, she's always scared of him - it does come across as Stockholm Syndrome, saved only by her fascination with him at the beginning of the book, before he's become her captor. Devon, our devilish rakehell of a pirate, is, of course, a duke who likes to play at pirating with his bastard half brother the real pirate. Rand, the real pirate, is widely implied to be a sodomizer - lots of speculation about his beautiful boy pirates who accompany him, including Devon. Maybe he's supposed to be bi-, though, as he's always wanting a woman too.

The characters are richly drawn, if you can blast your mind through the prose with multiple adjectives, adverbs, clauses and other grammatical excesses. But you have to take several leaps of faith with the authors - could a gently-bred 18-year-old virgin actually survive 2 weeks stranded with a corpse on a deserted Caribbean island? How coincidental could it be that Rand had been in love with Merry's mother and (SPOILER ALERT) always intended for Devon and Merry to marry, even though it supposedly was an accident that she was brought aboard The Black Joke (heh heh, Black Joke, get it)?

Ok, plot redux: there's our American heroine Merry - already described - who is forced to go to England with her maiden aunt accompanied by a British officer, during the second war America had with England (of 1812-1815). Because of a series of events, she is moved into the officer's cabin and he sleeps on deck. Devon sends Cat (boy pirate) to steal something from the officer, and he steals Merry as well. Merry is a talented artist who draws portraits for her brother in support of the war effort, including a quite accurate one of Devon, so she is determined to keep her real identity a secret from him forever. Therein the conflict between the two - he assumes she's the officer's mistress and wants details, and she assumes if he finds out who she is and what she did, her brother and she will both be killed.

Lots of intrigue and swashbuckling ensues as Merry is kept aboard The Black Joke (heh heh) for months, and attempts 2 or 3 very credible but almost fatal escapes. She learns to dress in men's clothing, and the pirates teach her all kinds of things over the months before Devon decides enough is enough, and hauls her off to England, apparently to face trial. But over the course of the story, the only thing realistic is their growing relationship (if you discount the whole Stockholm Syndrome thing, that is) so that when it finally, FINALLY - and I mean they make you wait and wait and WAIT and build tension til you could SCREAM with it - finally they get to the declarations of love and the HEA, with only one more, rather scary conflict to resolve in the last dozen or so pages. At last, HEA.

The AAR reviewer mentions that there are several people hoping for a sequel. The book is so out of print as to be practically impossible to get, so I don't think anyone should hold her breath for that. I don't know if I could swashbuckle my way through more of their writing, myself.

Still, one more on the AAR Top 100 of 2007 down, and still a few to go - and I enjoyed it in the end, and give it 5 stars/favorite if not "keeper" status. Hmmm, no notable pets, and I wouldn't call Devon besotted, although I wondered how Raven and Cat managed, because I thought they were both besotted with her and yet they kept their distances.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Prince Charming by Julie Garwood *****

It took a wonderful, wonderful book to make me want to blog again! This morning I finished Garwood's The Wedding, which I had been reading just a few pages at a time for several days, and since it was Sunday and I had no plans, I decided to pick up another Garwood title.

Garwood has a sort of pattern of writing - she uses similar settings and situations in many of the books I've read. Not the plot, necessarily, but similar phrasing, similar situations. She often has the heroine trying to change the hero to be more like her father - well, that's an oversimplification, but it seems the heroine is forever thinking that the hero doesn't know how to... show love, or greet his wife, or some such, and that she will have to show him how it's done, or how her father and mother were. I'm not explaining it well, but my point really is that Prince Charming took a "charming" detour off that route!

For one thing, it's set in post-Civil War America, whereas so many of the books I've read have been medievals. Apparently she has a trilogy set in the West as well, and I have read the first one in her contemporary series, but this was especially different since I had just finished The Wedding this morning.

There are some plot points in here that many romance readers cringe at - the arranged marriage to a stranger, a will that has provisions, and children. The fish out of water - rugged American hero, prissy Brit aristocrat heroine. Even a secret child, although it isn't the heroine's. But somehow Garwood made all these plausible, and wonderful, and wrote a story with depth and intrigue (well, sorta) and plot twists. Ok, some of the plot twists got solved a little too easily - but still, the story was wonderful and I enjoyed my day very much, just reading (with somes stops for a meal or 2).

Taylor is the heroine - raised by her grandmother who is now on her death bed, her biggest fear is that her uncle, who will inherit the title, the land and the funds, will find a way to take guardianship of her 2 young nieces, recently orphaned in America. Her second biggest fear is that he will also take guardianship over her. Her grandmother finagles a marriage to an American, in exchange for the sum of money he needs to pay ransom for his younger half-brother. Oh, it is all too complicated to explain here, but in the book it made a lot of sense - and the opening was brilliant.

Lucas Ross is the bastard child of an American mother and a British titled aristocrat who only cared about his actual heir, the oldest son. His bastard son, and his 3 other sons from his marriage don't matter to him, but the boys do matter to Lucas. He came to England to pay the oldest brother a ransom to let the youngest one go free. Since he's never planned to marry anyway, this marriage of convenience works well for him - escort the silly twit to Boston, and get an annulment before heading back to Montana.

Oh, if only romance writers would leave these poor heroes alone to do as they planned!! Taylor isn't any more desirous of the marriage, and looks forward to getting to Boston, getting rid of this American husband, then getting her sister's twins and heading West to hide forever from the evil uncle. But grandmother - now smiling down at them from Heaven, no doubt - managed to truly find a Prince Charming for Taylor - a man who couldn't leave her or the twins or the half-breed boy found taking care them either. Not to mention the single, pregnant woman Taylor befriended crossing the Atlantic.

I laughed and smiled and was worried and figuratively on the edge of my seat throughout the book (since I was mostly on the futon, I wasn't really on the edge, but... you know). It was a nice long book, too - over 500 pages!

I've pretty much given up on any challenges this year - I don't know if it fits in any of the ones I was involved in before fate took a twist for me, and moved me back to Houston. Working, and that damned Mafia Wars (so addictive! I cannot stop!), are both keeping me from my passion for reading. But today I indulged, and I'm glad I did. Maybe it's the first of many more reviews and challenges and reading.

5 stars and it's a Favorite too!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A to Z Challenges 2009

2010 UPDATE: looks like I didn't make it but I'll start another for 2010.

Another popular reading challenge is the A to Z Challenge - read a book in 2009 that starts with each letter in the alphabet, or by an author whose last name starts with each letter of the alphabet.

I'll try one of each for 2009.

A - Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught - ***
B - Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts - ****
C - The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer - *****
D - Deep In The Valley by Robyn Carr - ***
E - Everyday, Average Jones by Suzanne Brockmann - ****
F - First Lady by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - *****
G - Get Lucky by Suzanne Brockmann - *****
H - Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - ***
I - It Had To Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - *****
J - Just Over The Mountain by Robyn Carr - ****
K - Kill and Tell by Linda Howard - ****
L - The Love Potion by Sandra Hill - ****
M - My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway - *****
N - Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - *****
O - One Night for Love by Mary Balogh - ****
P - Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke - ****
R - The Reluctant Viking by Sandra Hill - ****
S - The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale - *****
T - To Taste Temptation by Elizabeth Hoyt - ***
V - A Virtuous Woman by Kaye Gibbons - **
W - What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - ***

A - Andersen, Susan - Hot and Bothered - ***** audio
B - Burke, James Lee - Pegasus Descending - ****
C - Carr, Robyn - Deep In The Valley - ***
D - Delinsky, Barbara - The Passions of Chelsea Kane - ***
E - Enoch, Suzanne - Before The Scandal - ** (haven't blogged it)
F - Foster, Lori - Treat Her Right - ***
G - Gibbons, Kaye - A Virtuous Woman - **
H - Hill, Sandra - The Love Potion - ****
I - Ivory, Judith - The Indiscretion - ***** (a relisten on audio, 2/23/09)
J - James, Judith - Broken Wing - ****
K - Kinsale, Laura - The Shadow and the Star - *****
L - Lorrimer, Claire - Mavreen - ***
M - McNaught, Judith - Almost Heaven - ***
P - Phillips, Susan Elizabeth - First Lady - *****
Q - Quinn, Julia - When He Was Wicked - *****
R - Roberts, Nora - Midnight Bayou - ****
S - Singh, Nalini - Slave to Sensation - ****
W - Weldon, Susan - Spring Rain - *

And some ideas for Z titles from a Shelfari discussion:
Zach by Ana Leigh
Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald
Zinnia by Jayne Ann Krentz

Saturday, October 17, 2009

so far behind!!I

I haven't really stopped reading, but I'm not reading as much, as fast, as I did in the days before I had a full time, out of the house job. And I've let myself get so sucked into Facebook games - Mafia Wars, Diva Life, Cafe World (what am I doing??) and it's so addictive that I find myself doing that instead of reading, instead of living!

Some notable new releases and completely new to me books I've read - I'm noting them here because I don't want to forget them before I get a chance to fully blog them:

Linda Howard's Burn - Liked it a lot, 4 stars, but it wasn't quite as compelling as last year's Death Angel, which I loved.

Jo Goodman's Never Love a Lawman - really liked it a lot, maybe not in my top 20 books of all time, but she is such a master with prose. She manages to capture the moment, verbally, in a way that really puts me in the moment with the characters - her descriptions are vivid, and in touch with the time period, and the action.

Rachel Gibson's Truly, Madly Yours - this is one I have put off getting, partly because Gibson can be hit or miss with me. I spent the day today out on my balcony in the sun reading and just finished it (all in one day!) - loved, loved, loved it! Her descriptions are also good - not in the way that Goodman's are, but in an earthy, realistic way. (hmm, not that Goodman's aren't realistic, but Goodman is a word-spinner, and Gibson is more a Tell It Like It Is storyteller) It was fun, and funny - I laughed out loud several times while reading - and sexy and heart-wrenching and of course HEA. I'd go with 5 stars just because it drew me in and kept me reading.

Suzanne Enoch's trilogy - I'll have to go look up the names, but frankly I gave them all 2-stars. She's a new-to-me author, and the books weren't awful, but they just weren't that good. And they were a little too much... alike. Oh, and... she really ... uses a lot of, well... ellipses. Very annoying...

I have an iPhone that I now download Kindle books too - it's not as big as a Kindle, but hey, it's pretty fun to have a book with you in your phone! I have now read 8 Blazes on it (short, hot) - 4 pretty good, and 4 pretty mediocre. There was a 6-title special, with Lori Borrill, Tori Carrington and another author whose books I like but whose name escapes me, and those 3 were good, and they were the first 3 - which set me up for high hopes for the last 3. But I was disappointed, because the last 3 were pretty dang mediocre - overused, cliche-ridden conceits, tired plot devices and protagonists I was hoping would just go away.

I have listened to some more audio books -

Nora Roberts' Vision in White, which I believe is the first in a 4-book series about a wedding business run by 4 friends. It was good, but the narrator was only mediocre. She was better than the previous narrator I listened to... (oops, ellipsis) I stopped listening to the book where the narrator has a slight lisp - very slight, just a sibilant s sorta thing that narrators really shouldn't have. (This was Sarah Mayberry's She's Got It Bad, I think.) The story wasn't that interesting and I just gave up.

I got the latest in the Troubleshooter's from the library but for some reason couldn't get it loaded on my Sansa Clip before the 2-week library time period was over, so now I'm on the waitlist for it again. Wouldn't you know?? I just picked it up and downloaded it the first time, and should have spent more time figuring out why the Clip wouldn't take it!

I think that covers some of my reading. My books are still a mess, and I'm still on vacation hold for my PBS account, since I'm too busy playing Mafia Wars to set up my shelves and unbox the books! Maybe that will change in the next few days or weeks...?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife: The Movie

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is one of my all-time favorite books, and I have read it at least once and also listened to the unabridged audio book at least 2 times. This was a pivotal book for me, one that got me really reading a lot while I was out in the desert. I was like other die-hard fans, awaiting the movie with both excitement and dread. Movies can and usually do alter the storyline so much that it's almost unrecognizable.

I haven't read any other reactions to the movie - no reviews, no discussions online, so my opinion comes only from my personal reaction. I loved it - I really did, but I do wonder if it might have been a different movie if certain elements had been retained.

First, I think the gist of the story was truly encompassed in the movie. The story editor(s) did a wonderful job of keeping the central theme of Henry and Clare's love first and foremost, and how the two of them dealt with his time-travel was the driving factor. But almost all of Henry's non-Clare life was left out, obviously for time/movie length reasons. The movie is only 1 hour 45 minutes long, however, so maybe they could have touched a little bit (more) on his pre-Clare life - his cynicism that shows through his relationship to his co-workers, his relationship to his other girlfriend Ingrid, even his later life relationships with Gomez and his personal "drug dealer" whose character name I've forgotten. The result is that the movie is lush and romantic, a chick-flick through and through, and the special effects and consequences of his time travel don't really go into how he had to deal with the worlds he entered, naked and unprepared.

I felt the things that they did end up changing for the movie worked well to solve issues that arise from leaving out characters and scenes - how he convinces Dr Kendrick to work with him, for instance, is changed so that the characters of Kendrick's family are never even introduced (although they appear in the movie, you don't know it unless you read the book).

The actors playing Clare (Rachel McAdams) and Henry (Eric Bana) were really, truly wonderful. Clare's obvious excitement at first meeting Henry in the library shone through her eyes - she was also wonderful in the movie The Notebook with these same expressions. She's a very fetching and engaging actor, almost as wonderful as Amy Adams, a real favorite of mine whose eyes are so expressive. I actually thought Eric Bana was almost too good looking to fit my vision of Henry, but he had me at the movie trailer. He never really got a chance to get into the cynical Henry in my mind, since that part of Henry's character isn't explored at all in the movie. The actor playing his mother was also wonderful - very warm.

I wasn't as enchanted with the little girls playing Alba, although using sisters that looked so much alike worked to show the slightly different ages. She had a very fetching look but her spoken dialogue seemed so stiff.

The storyline is that Henry has a gene that causes him to time travel without much warning and with no control. He travels both back and forward in time, but the rules of his time travel are that any amount of time can take place while he is gone and where he goes - for instance, he could only be gone 5 minutes in our present but might have been in the other time for 5 days. He goes only with his body - no clothes, not even fillings, so he arrives naked and penniless. He learns to pick locks and steal to find clothing and money to survive on in the other time, something his adult self teaches his child self early on - meaning he can be an existence of more than 1 when he travels. In fact, he watches his mother's death hundreds of times because he is a visitor there at several ages.

After his marriage to Clare, he travels back to her childhood and is an off-and-on presence in her life from her age 6 on, but when he meets her in real time - she's in her early 20s and he is 28, he has no idea who she is. It's a wonderful scene in the book and I thought it was also a wonderful movie scene as well.

I expected to cry in the movie, because in the book I cry for pages and pages every time I read it. Although I did feel fully engaged in their relationship during the movie, I wasn't moved to even tear up. I would say it was because I already knew what would happen, but I read the book/audio book 3 or 4 times, and cried every time! And in the movie, it's no secret that something is going to happen, but I just didn't get emotional about it.

So - I'm going with 5 stars - it was a wonderful movie, but with the caveat that it's a chick flick through and through, almost to the point of being sappy. The interesting time-travel aspects and the overriding negatives in Henry's life - his alcoholic father, his mother's death when he was 6, his inability to control his time travel, the horrors of his travels - how many times he was arrested, for instance, or the fact that he can't travel by airplane because it wouldn't be where he was when he left, so he would be killed in the fall on return - none of that is really brought out in the movie. Oh, yeah, sure, they show his father drinking, they show him being arrested once and then disappearing - but those are only seconds on screen, where in the book they are given much more weight.

If you're up for a chick flick, this is a wonderful fairy-tale romance - but if you're expecting a time-travel classic and special effects, stay home!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Twilight The Movie

I have now seen the movie of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight - and I must say, they did a good job of portraying the story, in my opinion. The major points were there - of course they had to skip some minor plot lines, and merge some things (the Sadie Hawkins-type dance with the prom) and leave some details out (the whole secret of going to the prom). The vampire/effects were pretty good - I sorta expected a little more from the baseball game, but it was fun anyway.

I wonder if you haven't read the book if you get the full experience. Somehow, when an author describes the look of someone's face and then the emotions behind it, you get a full idea - but on screen you just have to imagine what the actor is trying to show. When the actor is very very good, you are likely to get a closer idea, but even then it's so subjective. In the book, when she describes Edward seeing Bella and his reaction to her in class, you know more about what is going on than when you watch the movie and see the actor look like he might hurl. What, was his lunch bad? really, it's not that clear.

The actress did a good job, in my opinion, of showing Bella's insecurities but not as good a job showing her budding teen-love feelings for Edward. More than once I wanted to tell her to close her mouth. There was so much angst there, and not as much feeling for Edward. Edward, on the other hand, showed more of his true feelings for her. It did seem to rush from "oh, we can't be together" to "I'm taking you to meet the family" - again, on screen there isn't the luxury of time like in a book.

I wasn't sure what the point was of showing the other vampires as practically incestuous couples with commentary from Bella's friends, since they really didn't go into how the vampires lived. Jasper and Emmett were truly back-seat characters, practically wallpaper, and really none of the vampires, including Edward but especially J & E, fit the book description in my own head - beautiful, attractive, tall, strong. I realize my own standards are very different from today's teens, so I guess that's part of it.

The movie focuses mostly on Bella and Edward, with very little interaction with the other human teens, and not much more with the Indian teen Jacob who warns Bella about Edward. In fact, he never does tell her - she finally reads about the Indian legend online. Bella moves to Forks, starts school, meets Edward. Edward tells her in dialog much of what she discovers about them so that we don't have to wait long for her to figure it out. They spend time together, he takes her to the family ball game and BAM the Others show up and Bella's life is in danger.

And once again, a heroine with no talent at all for saving herself manages to decide she knows what is best and ditches the vampires to meet The Other and her own death to save the hero. Where do these heroines get these ideas... I must say, in the audio book, the case is made that she does have to get away to save her mother, whereas in the movie - well, she just walks away without all the buildup, without all the information about what is really happening and how the vampires are there protecting her, and meets the Other where he menaces her. I didn't get a true feeling of the danger she was in or even that she felt she was facing her death, in spite of the voice over.

I am giving it my personal 3 star rating - liked it, didn't love it, but I had a good time watching. I found the young actors engaging if not personally attractive, and the vampire effects fun.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I'm torn between 3 and 4 stars for this book. I listened to it on audio book (free! from the library) because I've been wanting to see the movie and really wanted to have read it first.

It's classified as YA - young adult, which in book lingo really means younger teenagers. I'm not sure why the word "adult" is in there. When I think of young adult, I think 19 or 20 - 24 or 25. But that age is old enough to read Real Adult books, whereas the younger teens are a little old for children's books and a little young for Real Adult books. Hence Young/Adult which I prefer to think of as 2 separate words, rather than Young defining the age of the Adult. Adults read YA all the time, and in addition to the hordes of young teens in love with Edward (and Bella) there are hordes of adult readers who loved it too.

In light of the fact that I read - and love - romance, and it qualifies in many ways as romance, I read it, not sure what to expect. My first impressions: I can definitely see the appeal for younger readers. The teenage girl feeling out of place, both with her mom in Phoenix where she grew up and with her dad in the small Washington town he lives in. That is a feeling many young people get - I don't belong, I'm not like everyone else, and I think it's a fantasy of many that somehow you, the young teen, can take control and make decisions that will change your life. Bella chooses to leave her mother and live with her father as a sacrifice - she hates the small town, but her mother needs the freedom of not having a child to look after. I don't think most of us had the ability to make this type of decision at this age - to move across country.

Then there's the Boy - Edward - that she's so drawn too, and who is drawn to her too. Again, she has control of the situation, because although he can read everyone else's minds, he can't read hers. It's heady stuff - she has control over him because she can mask her thoughts. And he's hopelessly fallen for her, which takes a while to get to the point (sorry if that's a spoiler - although how can it be when everyone knows they get together?)

Here's the YA thing: they hardly even kiss, and really there is no sexual tension at all. OK, maybe there's some slight sexual tension underneath, but you're led to believe that what he's feeling is some vampire thing that humans don't experience - really, he's drawn to suck her blood and basically kill her, not boink her blind. No mention of Sensitive Body Parts. No thrills that shoot to You Know Where. Nothing that even hints of Doing The Deed. In fact, when she describes his body - cold, marble, white, hard (not THERE) - his lips as icy, his hands as frozen - well, I didn't feel anything but Teenage First Love there, not even a drop of lust.

There is some violence which is hinted at strongly in the opening Prologue, and no doubt in the movie will be spectacular. It isn't anything you didn't see in Buffy or countless other prime time tv shows and popular movies. Apparently in American culture, blood, guts, violence, it's all ok for kids to see, just keep the body parts out of it. Oh - there were no bad words that I recall either.

I enjoyed it, but didn't get caught up in Twilight/Edward&Bella fever. For one thing, it's made clear over and over that she's only a junior in high school - so what she thought and felt didn't appeal to me as much as heroines in my Real Adult romance novels, even when they are not much older. The fantasy of being 17 and having so much control over my environment isn't one that strikes my fancy any more, although God knows I indulged in that fantasy for hours when i was that age (and younger, especially younger - yes, I was going to go live with some relative in a completely different state, go to a new school where no one would know me, use a new name, be a different person altogether!)

The story, for anyone who doesn't know, is that Bella goes to Forks, Washington, where she meets the Cullen "family" - a young doctor and his wife and several adopted "teenagers". They're actually vampires who have managed to subdue their human bloodlust, and feed on animals instead. They live in an area as long as possible, then move on to another small town and start over - after all, they don't really age so after a while it might be suspicious that the teenagers never graduate. They're different; she's different. It's a match made in heaven. Like all good vampire tales, the heroine is the vampire hero's soul mate - and he has to have her at any cost, but fights it because it will OUT their vampire-ness. Meanwhile, she's not unpopular there, and makes a lot of friends. But once she develops a tendre for Edward, the shit hits the fan.

There is the Indian tribe that KNOWS and has a treaty with the vampires to keep them off their land. There are the "in" crowd kids who think the Cullen siblings are too creepy to be friends with. There's the protective dad who is also the law there - he likes the Cullens but feels protective towards his daughter's chastity (which is not compromised). And there are The Others - well, you'll have to read the book.

Does Bella become a vampire? Well, not in Book 1, but it's a long series so I guess I'll have to keep reading (or listening) to find out. Now I can rent the movie!

3 stars- that's my final answer. I liked it. I didn't love it.

some random notes about my life

I know, I know, it's been eons since I posted. I haven't stopped reading, but my reading has slowed dramatically with my major life shift. I have a full time outside-the-house job now, where before I worked about 30 hours from home, and even read while working.

Now my job doesn't leave much, if any, time for reading during the day. I had put aside even my audio books while I adjusted to the change, but finally was able to finish Lavinia - which was good - on my way to Baton Rouge last week. On my way back I started Twilight, and finished it up today. I plan to write my review of Twilight next, and if I can remember Lavinia I'll write that one too. I started a new-to-me author, Suzanne Enoch, with a series and I'm on #2, Before The Scandal. Her voice (it's a book - I mean her writing voice) - is ok but nothing special. It's almost as if she has a checklist of points to cover and checks them off as she goes. Also, her use of language is so different from anyone else's - almost too modern, although I don't claim to be an expert of how people spoke during the Regency period. "Apologies" her characters say when asking pardon, coming in tardy, bumping into someone. That sounds so modern.

It's hard to keep an audio book going when my driving commute is only about 10 minutes each way. When I was in Arizona, a trip to the grocery was at least 45 minutes each way, which got me a good ways into a book. But today I managed to just sit and play solitaire and listen to my book - something I hadn't indulged in in a while!

Even reading books is something I'm only doing at bedtime, and then only for 30-45 minutes max, so it's taking me much longer to get through a book. This is less about my being too busy and more about my not having developed a good reading area, and not having adjusted to my new status as single apartment renter - after so many years of sharing a domicile, first with the SO and then with my sister. I have renter issues- last night the air conditioning stopped! I ended up staying in a hotel until the landlord finally answered his phone this morning. (He got the electrician over and it's now fixed, thank gawd!)

I did make it through about 4 of the July releases I'd been looking forward to, and need to catch up on reviewing them. I didn't even try to do any sort of challenge this season - I am trying to get my bearings.

I do so love my new job! It's such a good fit, and everyone there is working hard to do their part. I love being a cog in the gear-system, and I love working for a non profit again, doing what I do best (organizing, bookkeeping, problem solving, the background stuff).

My new apartment is nice too, although this air conditioning issue had damn well better be resolved. I realized today that living in a rented apartment is like being a woman giving birth in a hospital - lots of strangers come in at any time and see your "stuff" - ok, the "stuff" is a little different, I admit, but still! I cleaned up one evening for the next day visit from the landlord's painters, only to discover they had already come in and finished - with my underwear strewn about the bathroom and various other things I would rather not have shared with house painter/strangers. I'm about over it - I have nothing to hide (although I am wondering where my little purse with my laundry quarters and the extra key to the house are...).

My body is not reacting well to the change - the less said about it, the better, but I think I better get serious about getting into better shape. Mentally I have 2 moods - the euphoria of working a job I enjoy, and the bland nothingness I experience when I get home and don't want to face putting together the chest of drawers and shelving units I bought for my clothes and books. I need to break out of the bland nothingness mood - as soon as the temperature in the apartment goes under 79, I promise. (It's at 86 now since the air conditioning wasn't repaired until noon.)

My social life is a little iffy, and I need to reach out to the many folks I know and get out more. However, I'm usually quite happy alone. But I know how I am, and I better start calling folks and reminding them I'm still alive!

So my to do list includes getting my apartment furnished properly, my books put away so I can take my PBS account off vacation and start trading again, my clothes put away, get out and start walking and... lose some weight. Really, even just 4-5 pounds would help, a lot.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Catching up!

I have done some reading in the past month, even though I haven't posted here much. An update on what's happening to me: it's all good!

I got offered a wonderful job, doing exactly what I love doing - I'm the Business Manager of a non-profit called Discovery Green Conservancy. The organization runs a city park in the middle of downtown Houston. It's a 12-acre green space built over a parking garage. It's a sort of new concept for Houston - the park being run by a nonprofit instead of by the Parks Department itself.

The park opened in April 2008, and offers daily fun for kids and families and just folks. Oh, and dogs too! There's the regular park stuff - green space where you can sit and picnic and run and play. There's a wonderful fountain - no, 2! - with water that kids (and just folks) can get wet in and scream and have a great time. There are 2 restaurants, 1 casual, 1 a little more upscale. There are 2 actual performing spaces with stage-type platforms (mind you, it's nothing like Miller Outdoor Theatre - no major full-scale shows with drops and lights and sets). But there are scheduled bands performing and such. There are spaces to rent for birthday parties and family reunions and fund raising parties. There are free classes in yoga and pilates and more. There are 2 dog run spaces, one for smaller dogs and one for larger dogs.

On weekends you can rent little radio controlled sailboats and sail them around the "lake" (ok, it's more of a large pond, but to the tiny sailboats, it's big!) (oh - they're not really TINY - about 3 feet in length) Also on weekends, recycling collection and a green market/AKA Farmers Market.

It's really everything I love, with kids and theater and farmers markets and all that and more! And I get to work right there, in the park, in a wonderful glass building that looks out at the busiest fountain filled with kids. I have to laugh - my co-workers are pretty jaded by 18 months of kids screaming outside the office, whereas I am still filled with wonder and awe at the energy and hopefulness of it all.

What with having to find and rent an apartment and then furnish it, and start a new job in a new city, I have been a little busy. Plus - drat my friend for getting me addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook! I need to back off the mafia stuff and get back to reading! It was bad enough when I played solitaire and freecell constantly, but add Mafia Wars, Metropolis and a couple of different gem-drop games, and I'm sunk. Then - since I had to indulge in an iPhone, I started playing games on it too! Someone stop me!!

I have read at least 4 books and listened to one and a half audio books in the past 4 weeks, and if I can remember them well enough, will post my reviews. I don't even know if I posted a summer challenge, but I can guarantee I haven't looked at it or even tried to do find books that fit.

Thanks to all who follow who knew I was going through a transformation and sent good wishes. This job is so ME - it's the skills and talents I already possess, the folks are great, the atmosphere wonderful. Now I just need to Get A Life again, one that defines me as just me, not me and someone else. That's actually harder than it sounds, for someone my age and with my history!

The books I read:

Julia Quinn, What Happens in London - 4 stars. It's good, I enjoyed it but wasn't wowed by it. There was some funny stuff, and I loved that she read the Miss Butterworth book because I howl everytime I listen to my audiobook of It's In His Kiss where Hyacinth is reading it!

Loretta Chase, Don't Tempt Me - 4 stars. Another good but not great read for me. I love a lot of Chase's books, and this one came close - but no cigar. I wasn't that taken with the heroine.

Sherry Thomas, Not Quite A Husband - 4 stars - ok it's a pattern. Three of my very favorite authors with new releases all of which I really liked but didn't love. I had higher expectations for Thomas, maybe because of the buzz, maybe because I loved her first 2 books. I just never could see the appeal of the heroine - she seemed so mannish and not attractive. What did he see in her?

Marsha Canham, Under The Desert Moon - 4 stars. Yep, another favorite author, another 4 star read. I wanted more from this book. Maybe it was the American West setting that I didn't find as appealing. But hey, I still liked it very much, just not a keeper status book.

Oh, and the audiobook was a Dave Robicheaux book (what's the author's name? James Lee Burke I think) which was just 3 stars. The half audio book is Lavinia, don't recall the author, and I was really enjoying it but have about half to go...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gentle Warrior by Julie Garwood ****

This was a good book, especially the ending! I think this was her first (published) book - and I can see traces of her trademark writing style and conceits in it. I especially noticed how the heroine tried to manipulate (for want of a better word) the hero, in the way that many of her heroines do, not by telling him how to do things but by showing him, for instance in her trying to get him to accept her shows of affection as being something she saw her parents doing. In some of her later books, the heroines became somewhat overwhelming with this conceit, but it was more subtle in this book.

The book takes place in medieval England.

The "gentle warrior" describes both the hero and the heroine - Elizabeth is also warrior-like, with her ability to shoot arrows and her courage and determination to get revenge for the massacre of her parents and siblings. She and her youngest brother witnessed the slaughter and she managed to hide them in the woods until the hero, Geoffrey, came to claim the property. The brother, about age 7, is so traumatized that he does not remember her or what happened.

Geoffrey hears her story, where she claims that her uncle is behind the massacre, and vows to find the actual culprit and bring justice. Elizabeth and Geoffrey get married (ok, it has been a few days since I finished it, and it took me several days to read it, what with driving back and forth to Houston and all, so I can't recall how they got to the point of marrying) - Geoffrey believes his marrying her will not only protect her and the property, but that he will also be able to control her. He doesn't know much about marriage and relationships, something Elizabeth tries to teach him. So they spend a lot of time at odds with each other, him trying to control her and her trying to train him.

The ending was really funny and touching, and once again brought a good book up to a great read! So I went with 4 stars - really liked it. Sorry, not much of a review but maybe this is enough to remind me of the plot...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Busy Month!!!

I had a job interview June 2 (after waiting anxiously since April 24 when I submitted my resume), got the job, drove back and forth from Baton Rouge to Houston 3 times, rented an apartment, and now have to pack up and move (again!). I've been doing a bit of reading, but with all the visiting and such, reading time has been cut down to the bone. I did audio books in the car except when I got sleepy, then I had to turn on music and sing along to stay awake!

So, I finished the Chesapeake Bay trilogy on audio, finished Smooth Talking Stranger by Kleypas on audio, and ... what else? I dunno, will have to back track and update the blog as soon as I'm settled (say, mid-July). I'm moving next weekend, going to visit my parents during the week of July 1, then starting the new job July 6.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Venetia by Georgette Heyer ***

This is another of the "classic" romances written by Georgette Heyer before I was born [oops, published 1958 - 3 years after I was born, sorry!]. Her stories have been hit or miss for me - and part of it is the obscure language she uses, the jargon, slang maybe, that makes it next to impossible for me to follow what the heck the characters are talking about. The story was engaging enough but... what the heck are all those weird references?

Venetia is "on the shelf" at the grand old age of 25. She is the middle child - with an older brother, off at war, and a younger brother, Aubrey, with a hip deformity. Her father has recently died, and her mother has been out of the picture for years, after her parents - *gasp*- divorced when she was young. She is now the mistress of their family home, with 2 suitors in the area calling on her from time to time. One is Edward, who is a know-it-all, and the other who is younger than Venetia and thoroughly besotted.

Into Venetia's life comes Jasper - the rake from a nearby home who has been gone from the area for years - and by accident. Well, Aubrey's accident. He's closer to Jasper's home, so he goes there to recuperate, and Venetia visits him everyday. Jasper and Venetia develop a friendship. Venetia is outspoken, a blue-stocking, and apparently good looking as well (if you stick with the story long enough, it becomes clear) and Jasper decides perhaps this time he's in love.

It's shocking for Venetia to visit Jasper's home, and even more shocking for him to visit her home since there are no chaperones - even though they pretend he's come to visit Aubrey. Eventually, Jasper starts to declare himself to Venetia but gets thwarted. There are a couple of twists and turns - the older brother marries and sends his meek wife and odious mother-in-law to their family home; Venetia goes to London to get away from the odious mother-in-law; she learns the truth about her mother; and in the end, Jasper (on his 4th attempt) gets to ask Venetia to marry him, which is where the story ends.

It took me several days to wade through the story (I think I finished 2 audio books in the duration). OK, so perhaps her characters' manner of speaking is more authentic than Regencies written today, but if I can't understand it, how can I read it? I don't feel the least bit more educated because I've read books with weird slang and jargon.

It's an AAR Top 100 of 2007, so at least I get to check that off.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Virgin River by Robyn Carr *****

I first read this book November 8, 2008 and reviewed it then. Now I have it on audio as well.


This is an author I'd been hearing about on the forums, and truthfully I don't recall what made me add this book to my PBS wish list, but I am so glad I did! I loved it!

Author Carr managed to create a whole boatload of lovable, 3 dimensional characters, in a way that made me want to get out my flannel shirt and drive to California and live with them all. I didn't just love the hero and heroine, I loved every single character she created. (well, ok, there was a villain or 2.)

I also wanted to experience reading a book where the heroine had my name (Melinda) - however, since everyone called her Mel, and hardly anyone calls ME that, it wasn't exactly the experience I thought it might be.

Mel was a young widow, a city slicker who worked as a midwife and nurse practitioner in Los Angeles. Her husband was killed in a convenience store robbery. In an attempt to completely change her life, she answered an ad soliciting a nurse/midwife to a small, rural town in the mountains of northern California. She was promised a rent-free cabin, and lured by photogenic shots of a quaint little town. She gave up everything - her house, her things, her career, and drove to northern California for this job. Her experience wasn't quite what she expected. She arrived in a rainstorm, and managed to get her BMW convertible stuck in the mud. The cabin was filthy and falling apart, and the doctor she was being hired to help didn't want any help. Her first reaction was to plan a fast getaway.

Jack Sheridan was a former Marine who had moved to Virgin River a few years back, looking for someplace to call home. He runs the local bar with the help of Preacher, a Marine buddy who is the hero in a future book in the series. He's got a little thing going on with a woman in the next town - a sort of friends-with-benefits arrangement. He's never had a serious relationship, although Carr did manage to write him as a true fantasy lover/hero - he only dallies with one woman at at time, whether that's 1 night or a few months. He gets one look at Mel and heads to the next town to break it off with Ms Benefits to free him up for Mel. Well, ok, he slips up and does her one more time - jeez, you didn't expect him to be perfect, did ya?

That's his only slip in the entire book, and since there was no relationship with Mel at that point, I guess we can all forgive him (and wish we had been the one he fell off the wagon with... sigh!). After he decides Mel is The One, he's a man on a mission.

I'm telling you, I was in love with Jack, with Mel, with Doc - shoot, I even liked Hope a whole lot - from about page 2 1/2 on. I went into their world and felt cozy and loved and accepted as if I'd been there in the back room of the store watching soap operas with Connie and Joy. It's a true gift when an author can surround you with her world and make you feel as though you were there. And, sappy as it may seem, I never felt like it was sappy - it all felt real. Yeah, all those women in Grace Valley pregnant and having a passel of kids - that is so far removed from my reality, I'm surprised I didn't just close the book and walk away. But I couldn't because I was there, I was in Virgin River, I was at the bar, I was in the Hummer driving to town.

The conceit that keeps Mel from leaving town is an abandoned baby - left on Doc's doorstep the day Mel decides to leave. This is in all the blurbs, but truthfully is only a very minor plot point in the story. We learn that Mel and her husband had tried everything for years and couldn't get pregnant, so it had me thinking the baby would be more a focal point. The baby does make Mel feel obliged to stay long enough to find foster care, but doesn't become a major issue. The longer she stays, the more she is drawn into the town and the spell it weaves around her and around me the reader.

There were even more than just a few heart-pounding moments - danger, intrigue, suspense, near death experiences - but somehow the entire story just felt like someone in flannel and jeans was sitting there picking at a guitar, singing a song and making me feel warm and cozy. It was a wonderful feeling and this one is going on the keeper shelf.

5 stars.

Audio notes: the narrator is Therese Plummer, a narrator I heard read some of Susan Mallery's Buchanan series. She's a good narrator, maybe above average but not wonderful like Barbara Rosenblat or Anna Fields. I tried to find whether "midwifery" had 2 pronunciations, since I thought the pronunciation was "mid WHIFF ery" not "mid-WIFE-ery" the way she said it. Her male voices were just ok, and since Jack is one of my all-time favorite heroes, I was hoping for something a little better.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rising Tides by Nora Roberts *****

First reviewed July 2008 when I read it - I have now listened to it on audio book as well!


I have now finished the trilogy and love them all, although Sea Swept is still my favorite. Maybe it was Cam's personality, or maybe it was the freshness and newness of just meeting all the characters, but that one grabbed me and ran with it and left me breathless and smiling and - but not quite happy because it does leave the mystery open!

Ethan has been secretly in love with local girl Grace for years. I had a hard time figuring out the Quinn brothers' ages - I guess they were all about the same age? But he was about 7-8 years older than Grace, and first noticed her when she was only 14 and still officially jailbait. That, coupled with his fear that he was bad blood, has kept him from acting on the relationship even though Grace is now 23, divorced and has the cutest baby ever to grace the pages of a novel. That Nora - she writes men, she writes women - she even writes toddlers to perfection.

Grace is trying to make ends meet - all the time. As a single mom, it's tough. It's tougher still when you have parents nearby that you feel didn't lend their support when you needed it, so you refuse to ask again. Growing up, Grace wanted to be a dancer, but when push came to shove and it was time to go to NYC and give it a try, Daddy put his foot down. After years of dance lessons, he felt it was time for her to get realistic and stop dreaming. I never did get a feel of whether she actually had the talent and motivation to make it - that part is sorta skipped over. But when Daddy cut the dance funding, she was going to do it on her own - but met the baby's father and married him instead when she got pregnant. Speaking of skipped - that's what the baby's father did before the baby was even born.

Ethan was pretty much an asshole to Grace a lot of the times - more than seemed judicious, more than seemed necessary and more than I liked. He was protective, but he didn't seem to want to discuss it with her, he just made wild and crazy ultimatums and accusations about her jobs and her life. So what if she worked in a bar, so what if she flaunted her body a little to get better tips - that's how it's done. It seemed a little weird to me that he kept offering to pay for things, like getting her car fixed and such, when they had no relationship other than she was the Quinn housekeeper and they were friends.

Meanwhile, the story of Seth continues and we learn more about his upbringing and get more tantalizing clues about his mother.

Ethan has to think he's dreaming when Ray Quinn appears to him as he did to Cam - eventually Ethan accepts Ray's presence and guidance, which I found to be a great addition to all 3 books. Ethan's main hurdle is overcoming his fear of himself - he has spent all these years thinking he was genetically off and couldn't have a relationship for fear of exposing his bad side or passing on his bad seed. He needed to look around, wake up and smell the goddam coffee!! Lucky for him, Grace was a kind of take-charge girl who pushed him to figure it all out.

While it wasn't quite as good for me as Sea Swept, it's still a 5-star keeper. Now I have to find Seth's story - and see what secret he'd been hiding from us!

Monday, June 1, 2009

AAR's Best of 2008 Quest

OK, another challenge for me: the winners of the Best of 2008 at AAR. I have read 9.

I have this theory that I need to sort of "catch up" with romance readers in general before voting in these types of polls, which is one reason I am reading all the AAR Top 100 of 2007. Since I really only started reading in the genre a little less than 2 years ago, I feel like I need to have read a lot of the popular books and authors to get an idea of how things stack up. Do I like books more (or possibly less?) after having read a number of those books considered the best? Do I gain a better understanding of what is good and what isn't? Or do I still react the way I would if I just picked it up, having never read a romance before?

I dunno. But I do feel I can give a better review and comparison if I have more books under my belt.

So without further ado, here is the list:

Best 2008 Romance Novels (from AAR)
Best Romance The Spymaster's Lady, Joanna Bourne
Best Contemporary Romance Blue-Eyed Devil, Lisa Kleypas - 5/10/2009 ****
Best Romantic Suspense Death Angel, Linda Howard - 9/1/2008 *****
Best Paranormal Romance Lover Enshrined, J.R. Ward
Honorable Mentions - tie Dark Desires after Dusk, Kresley Cole
Mine to Possess, Nalini Singh
Best Historical Romance Set in the U.K. The Spymaster's Lady, Joanna Bourne
Honorable Mention Private Arrangements, Sherry Thomas - 8/5/2008 ****
Best Historical Romance Not Set in the U.K. Your Scandalous Ways, Loretta Chase - 7/7/2008 *****
Funniest Romance Not Another Bad Date, Rachel Gibson - 6/25/2008 *****
Honorable Mentions – tie Like No Other Lover, Julie Anne Long
The Lost Duke of Wyndham, Julia Quinn - 6/11/2008 ***
Just One of the Guys, Kristan Higgins
Biggest Tearjerker Blue-Eyed Devil, Lisa Kleypas 5/10/2009 ****
Honorable Mention Broken Wing, Judith James - 3/3/2009 ****
Best Love Scenes (in a Mainstream Romance) - tie To Seduce a Sinner, Elizabeth Hoyt - 2/24/2009 ****
Your Scandalous Ways, Loretta Chase - 7/7/2008 *****
Honorable Mention To Taste Temptation, Elizabeth Hoyt - 1/25/2009 ***
Best Debut Author Sherry Thomas
Best Series Romance A Most Unconventional Match, Julia Justiss
Best Chick Lit/Women's Fiction Just One of the Guys, Kristan Higgins
Honorable Mentions – tie Queen of Babble Gets Hitched, Meg Cabot
Remember Me, Sophie Kinsella
Best Erotica Wicked Burn, Beth Kery
Honorable Mention Dangerous Secrets, Lisa Marie Rice
Best Romance Short Story From This Moment On in It Happened One Night, Candice Hern
Honorable Mention Spellbound in It Happened One Night, Mary Balogh
Guiltiest Pleasure Romance Lover Enshrined, J.R. Ward

New To Me Authors

Ok, now there's a New To Me Author Challenge floating around bloglandia - and while I don't really need to increase my wobbling TBR pile right now, I do have some authors in my sights. I'll list those as my Challenge authors.

1 - Nalini Singh - she has a book on the AAR Top 100 of 2007 I need to read
2 - Laura Kinsale - another AAR Top 100 author not yet read by me
3 - JR Ward - yep, another one I haven't read any of, shocking I know
4 - Gaelen Foley - another
5 - Laura London - (Sharon and Tom Curtis actually - can this count as 2?)
6 - Patricia Gaffney - hmm, lotta top 100 authors I've yet to read...
7 - Charlotte Bronte
8 - Jane Austen - yes, yes, I know, haven't read either of these classic authors
9 - Erin McCarthy - lotta buzz about her books, so I'm intrigued
10 - Sabrina Jeffries - I have 4 books in the TBR pile, but haven't read her yet
12 - Tracy Anne Warren - I have one in the TBR
12 - Carla Kelly - in the AAR Top lists for 98-04
13 - Paullina Simons - The Bronze Horseman - now in my TBR!
14 - Margaret Mitchell - I actually have GWTW in my TBR, never read it, hated the movie...

and others to be listed as I read...


(1) Kaye Gibbons - A Virtuous Woman, 2/25 **
(2) Mary Jo Putney - Thunder and Roses (an AAR Top 100 of 2007) read 2/13 - **
(3) Laura Kinsale - The Shadow and the Star (AAR Top 100 again) read 2/15 - *****
(4) Claire Lorrimer - Mavreen - read in Jan 2009 - **
(5) Susan Weldon - Spring Rain - 3/29 - * this was so awful!
(5) Judith James - Broken Wing - 3/3 **** author's debut novel
(6) Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice - 3/31 ** audio book
(7) Nalini Singh - Slave to Sensation - 3/31 ****
(8) Sabrina Jeffries - Never Seduce A Scoundrel - 4/1 ****
(9) J.R. Ward - Dark Lover - 4/9 ****
(10) Tracy Anne Warren - His Favorite Mistress - 4/12 ***
(11) Gaelen Foley - The Duke - 4/22 *****
(12) Erin McCarthy - Flat-Out Sexy - 4/24 ***

Serial Readers Challenge 2009

Beth AKA Just Your Average Carpool Queen has challenged us to read books in a series in 2009! I love series just as much as she does and for the very same reason: I love knowing what happens after the Happily Ever After of the characters! In fact, today I spent an hour or so reading the Extras PDF from Suzanne Brockmann's Into the Fire, which is Book 13 of the Troubleshooter Series (which I read as an audio book this fall). If you're a TSS fan and haven't done this, you must go to her website and find all the extras she offers - short stories, writing tips, excerpts - it really enhances the experience for me.

I am so in with this challenge - and it works out well for me that I have a couple of Mary Balogh series to complete, with AAR Top 100 of 2007 books in the series, so that will make 1. Also, I just bought a Lot of Sandra Hill books (not "a lot" but a Lot as in a bunch) on eBay - assuming I like her writing style (I have no idea... hmmmm... I just GLOMMED before reading!), there are at least 4 series in my physical Mount TBR right now. And Brockmann has #14 of the TSS scheduled for release in January... And I've been promising myself a re-listen to the entire Chicago Stars/SEP... AND Gabaldon's Echo in the Bone is scheduled for a 2009 release as well; I'm working up to a complete re-read.

The real question is: CAN I WAIT TIL JANUARY 1ST TO START THESE BOOKS??? Update - no I couldn't wait and read a series before it started. I have now changed the date on the post to keep it at the top of the blog.

Here's my potential list:
(1) Mary Balogh's Slightly Series
One Night For Love ****
A Summer To Remember *** READ IN DECEMBER 08

(2) Mary Balogh's Simply Series

(3) Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Chicago Stars Series on audio
It Had To Be You *****
Heaven, Texas ***
Nobody's Baby But Mine *****
Dream A Little Dream *****
This Heart of Mine *****
Match Me If You Can *****
Natural Born Charmer *****

(4) Linda Howard's CIA Series (aka John Medina series)
Kill and Tell ****
All The Queen's Men ****
Kiss Me While I Sleep ****

(5) Sandra Hill's Cajun Series
The Love Potion ****
Tall, Dark and Cajun ****
The Cajun Cowboy

(6) Sandra Hill's Jinx Series - ooops read it in 2008, couldn't wait.

(7) Sandra Hill's Viking Series - there are 2!
The Reluctant Viking - Series 1 #1

(8) Sandra Hill's Creole Series

(9) Robyn Carr's Virgin River Series
Second Chance Pass - #5 - ****
Temptation Ridge - #6 - ****
Paradise Valley -#7 - ****

(10) Robyn Carr's Grace Valley Series
Deep In The Valley - #1 - ***
Just Over The Mountain - #2 - ****
Down By The River - #3 - ****

(11) JD Robb's In Death series - hmmm I'm partway through already

(12) Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series (Ok, it is NOT ROMANCE but it is a series!)
I plan to do a reread in time for Echo In The Bone's release - whenever that is (can't find any reference to it right now, late in 2009 I think?)

(13) Suzanne Brockmann's Tall, Dark and Dangerous series
Prince Joe - *****
Forever Blue - *****
Frisco's Kid - *****
Everday, Average Jones - ****
Harvard's Education - ****
Hawken's Heart - *****
The Admiral's Bride - *****
Identity Unknown - **
Get Lucky - *****
Taylor's Temptation - ***
Night Watch - ****

(14) Elizabeth Hoyt's Legend of the Four Soldiers
To Taste Temptation #1 - ***
To Seduce a Sinner #2 - ****
To Beguile A Beast #3 - ****

(15) Linda Howard's Duncan/Evangeline (related by characters)
Duncan's Bride - ****
Loving Evangeline (read in 2008) ****

(16) Nora Roberts' In The Garden trilogy
Blue Dahlia - ****
Black Rose - ***

(17) Mary Jo Putney's Fallen Angels
Thunder and Roses - **

(18) Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters
Dark of Night - **** #14

(19) Elizabeth Lowell's Only series
Only His - ***** #1

(20) Susan Andersen's Marine Series
Hot and Bothered - ***** #3

(21) Julia Quinn's Bridgertons
When He Was Wicked - ***** #6 audio

(22) Pamela Clare's MacKinnon's Rangers
Surrender - **** #1 (read in 2008)
Untamed - ***** #2

(23) Julie Garwood's Medieval Series
The Secret - **** #1 (read in 2008)
Ransom - *** #2 (read in 2008)
Shadow Music - *** #3

(24) Laura Kinsale's Medieval Series
For My Lady's Heart - **** #1
Shadowheart - #2

(25) Rachel Gibson's Author Friends Series
Sex, Lies and Online Dating - ***** #1
I'm In No Mood For Love - ***** #2

(26) Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series
Slave To Sensation - **** #1

(27) Sabrina Jeffries' School for Heiresses series
Never Seduce A Scoundrel - **** #1
Only A Duke Will Do - **** #2
Beware A Scot's Revenge - **** #3
Let Sleeping Rogues Lie - *** #4

(28) Lori Foster's Men To The Rescue series
Caught in the Act - ****#1 read in 2008
Treat Her Right - *** #2
Mr. November - *** #3

(29) JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) series
Dark Lover - **** #1

(30) Tracy Anne Warren Mistress series
His Favorite Mistress - *** (not sure which - not #1)

(31) Julie Garwood Buchanan-Renard series
Heartbreaker - *** #1

(32) Elizabeth Lowell MacKenzie Blackthorn series
Reckless Love - ***** #1 audio

(33) Marsha Canham's Dante series
Across A Moonlit Sea - ***** #1
The Iron Rose - ***** #2

(34) Gaelen Foley's Knight Miscellany series
The Duke - ***** #1

(35) Erin McCarthy's Fast Track series
Flat-Out Sexy - *** #1

(36) Lisa Kleypas's Hardy Cates series
Sugar Daddy - **** #1
Blue-Eyed Devil - **** #2

(37) Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay series
Sea Swept - ***** #1 (audio this time)
Rising Tides - *****#2 (audio this time)
Inner Harbor
Chesapeake Blue

(38) Rachel Gibson's Chinooks
Simply Irrestible (read in 2008)
See Jane Score (read in 2008)
True Love and Other Disasters - ****

(1) Pegasus Descending by James Lee Burke, audio **** part of his Dave Robicheaux south Louisiana homicide detective series
(2) Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught - *** - part of the 1800 series, also an AAR Top 100 for 2007
(3) The Love Potion by Sandra Hill - **** - Cajun Series #1
(4) One Night For Love by Mary Balogh - **** - Slightly series #1
(5) Kill And Tell by Linda Howard - **** - #1 in the CIA/John Medina series
(6) All The Queen's Men by Linda Howard - **** - #2 in the CIA/John Medina series
(7) Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard - **** - #3 in the CIA/John Medina series
(8) It Had To Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - ***** #1 Chicago Stars
(9) Deep In The Valley by Robyn Carr - *** - Grace Valley #1
(10) Just Over The Mountain by Robyn Carr - **** Grace Valley #2
(11) Down By The River by Robyn Carr - **** Grace Valley #3
(12) Heaven, Texas by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - *** - Chicago Stars #2 audio
(13) Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - ***** - Chicago Stars #3 audio
(14) To Taste Temptation by Elizabeth Hoyt - *** - Soldiers #1
(15) Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard - **** - Duncan/Evangeline #1
(16) Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - ***** Chicago Stars #4 audio
(17) This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - ***** Chicago Stars #5 audio
(18) Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - ***** Chicago Stars #6 audio
(19) Tall, Dark and Cajun by Sandra Hill - **** Cajun Series #2
(20) Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts - **** In The Garden #1
(21) Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - ***** Chicago Stars #7 audio
(22) Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney - ** Fallen Angels #1
(23) Dark of Night by Suzanne Brockmann - **** Troubleshooters #14 audio
(24) Prince Joe by Suzanne Brockmann - ***** Tall, Dark and Dangerous #1
(25) Only His by Elizabeth Lowell - ***** Only Series #1 audio
(26) Hot and Bothered by Susan Andersen - ***** Marine Series #3 audio
(27) To Seduce A Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt - **** Soldiers series #3
(28) When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn - ***** Bridgertons #6 audio
(28) The Reluctant Viking by Sandra Hill - **** Viking series 1 #1
(29) Untamed by Pamela Clare - ***** MacKinnon's Rangers series #2
(30) Forever Blue by Suzanne Brockmann - ***** Tall, Dark and Dangerous #2
(31) Shadow Music by Julie Garwood - *** Medieval Series #3
(32) Frisco's Kid by Suzanne Brockmann - ***** Tall, Dark and Dangerous #3
(33) Second Chance Pass by Robyn Carr - **** Virgin River Series #5
(34) Black Rose by Nora Roberts - *** In The Garden Trilogy #2
(35) For My Lady's Heart by Laura Kinsale - **** Medieval #1
(36) Everday, Average Jones by Suzanne Brockmann - **** Tall, Dark and Dangerous #4
(37) Temptation Ridge by Robyn Carr - **** Virgin River Series #6
(38) Sex, Lies and Online Dating by Rachel Gibson - ***** Author Friends #1
(39) I'm In No Mood For Love by Rachel Gibson - ***** Author Friends #2
(40) Paradise Valley by Robyn Carr - **** Virgin River Series #7
(41) Slave To Sensation by Nalini Singh - **** Psy-Changeling Series #1
(42) Never Seduce A Scoundrel by Sabrina Jeffries - **** School for Heiresses #1
(43) Only A Duke Will Do by Sabrina Jeffries - **** School for Heiresses #2
(44) Treat Her Right by Lori Foster - *** Men To The Rescue series #2
(45) Mr. November by Lori Foster - *** Men To The Rescue series #3
(46) Harvard's Education by Suzanne Brockmann - **** Tall, Dark and Dangerous #5
(47) Let Sleeping Rogues Lie by Sabrina Jeffries - *** School for Heiresses #4
(48) Beware A Scot's Revenge by Sabrina Jeffries - **** School for Heiresses #3
(49) Dark Lover by JR Ward - **** BDB #1
(50) His Favorite Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren - *** Mistress series, not sure which #
(51) Heartbreaker by Julie Garwood - *** Buchanan-Renard series #1
(52) Hawken's Heart by Suzanne Brockmann - ***** TDD #6
(53) Reckless Love by Elizabeth Lowell - ***** MacKenzie/Blackthorn #1
(54) The Admiral's Bride by Suzanne Brockmann - ***** TDD #7
(55) Across A Moonlit Sea by Marsha Canham - ***** Dante series #1
(56) The Duke by Gaelen Foley - ***** Knight Miscellany #1
(57) Identity Unknown by Suzanne Brockmann - ** TDD #8
(58) Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy - *** Fast Track #1
(59) Get Lucky by Suzanne Brockmann - ***** TDD #9
(60) Taylor's Temptation by Suzanne Brockmann - *** TDD #10
(61) Night Watch by Suzanne Brockmann - **** TDD #11
(62) Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas - **** Hardy Cates #1
(63) The Iron Rose by Marsha Canham - ***** Dante #2
(64) Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas - **** Hardy Cates #2
(65) Sea Swept by Nora Roberts - ***** Chesapeake Bay #1
(66) True Love and Other Disasters by Rachel Gibson - **** Chinooks #3
(67) To Beguile A Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt - **** Soldiers #3
(68) Rising Tides by Nora Roberts - **** Chesapeake Bay #2