Friday, February 27, 2009

Reader's Block

If there is such a thing as Reader's Block, i haz it. This isn't a reading slump. I want to read. I have books tempting me to read. I just can't get into the book that I need to finish. I have to read this book, but every time I pick it up I can only get through a few pages before I am either falling asleep or get distracted. Ooh, shiny!!! (Raccoon syndrome strikes again!)

It is my turn on the Windflower tour. It is long past my turn and starting to get ridiculous. I have been trying to read the book for the past week and am only on page 46. 46!!!! That's pathetic! I could blame it on the fact that I had grades due today, but that really isn't it. Poor Merry hasn't even been kidnapped yet and my attention is wandering.

I hang my head in shame. Epic Fail. I am going to give it a go again tonight. Think of me, my friends. Send me your good reading juju. The Windflower shall not get stranded in Chicago. I will beat this book! I will shake off the Reader's Block. Oh God, please tell me I can do it!

How have you powered through a case of Reader's Block? Helpful hints and suggestions are needed!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Loving Loretta

I have found my new favorite Historical author. I have my Quinn, my Kleypas, my Balogh. Now I have my Chase.

I read my first Loretta Chase novel over the summer, Lord of Scoundrels. It was one of those books that reminded me why I love to read. I fell hard for her characters. Sebastian and Jessica were vibrant and alive. Because of this I have been hesitant to pick up another of her books. What if I had started with the very best and no other book could live up to my first experience?

Well, no worries here. I just finished reading Mr. Perfect and loved it. No, it wasn't as good as LoS, but very few are. Benedict and Bathsheba were fun characters. Benedict was socially perfect to the point of being repressed. The image he presented to the world did not always match what was hidden beneath the surface. His internal struggle was well written and developed in a real way. Bathsheba was a woman with a reputation, but was it really deserved? Absolutely not! Yet, she was no sweet, retiring miss. She had just enough of her rebellious family's personality to make her the perfect foil for Benedict. Throw in a road trip, some childish high jinx, and sexual tension, and you get one satisfying read.

So where do I go next? Which Chase novel should I read next? Which ones are your favorites?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mini Review: Simply Perfect

Title: Simply Perfect
Author: Mary Balogh
Genre: Historical Romance

From Publishers Weekly:

Balogh's lovely Regency series centering on Miss Martin's School for Girls closes with the story of founder and headmistress Claudia Martin, an aging spinster past 30 who does not see marriage in her future. Two former teachers have recently made titled matches, however, and one of them sends Joseph, marquess of Attingsborough, to the school, along with his good looks, friendly manner and offer of a carriage to London. His title puts Claudia off; she distrusts his apparent interest in her school; his near-engagement to Lord Balderston's daughter, the icily perfect Portia Hunt, makes him unavailable. For his part, Joseph, at 35, can no longer put off the need for a male heir. He is resigned to the match, but there is a very delicate matter that he needs to resolve beforehand, with Miss Martin's aid required to safeguard his secret and his reputation. Joseph's heart isn't in the subterfuge, however, and as social pressures come to bear, both he and Claudia are forced to reexamine their priorities.
Mary Balogh is one of those authors that I just can't quit. I cut my romance teeth on a number of her books years and years ago.  Every so often I come back to her, gorging myself on her backlist, before suffering from and overdose that results in long periods of Balogh-lessness.  Why do I keep coming back?  Her characters.  I do so love them.  Sure, she recylces certain plot devices (nearly the entire Bedwyn series was comprised of fake engagements!)  Her characters are just so damn entertaining.

Ever since I read the first book in the Simply series I knew Claudia Martin would get her own installment.  She had to.  No author would create such a great character, simply to ignore them.  In Simply Perfect we finally get her HEA.  It was sweet.  Her hero was so utterly devoted and loving (not just to her).  I enjoy the love across social classes storyline.  It was lovely.  Nothing terribly exciting, no murders to solve or people to rescue.  It was romance, pure and simple. 

If you are looking for sizzling heat, this is not the book to grab.  Claudia and Joseph had this restrained passion about them.  Something in their relationship reminded me of Elinor and Edward in Sense and Sensibility.  All very proper and under control, yet you knew that their feelings ran deep.

I am often annoyed by the "scandalous secret" used in Historicals to amp up the tension. In the case of this book, I felt it added another layer to the story.  The secret is not kept hidden from Claudia for long.  It takes longer for it to be revealed to society. This secret brings the H&h together rather than causing conflict between them. 

The icing on the cake for me was all of the continuity.  Balogh has built a world of interlocking stories and characters.  In Simply Perfect we get to revisit our heroes and the women they love from both the Simply and Slightly series.  There was even a passing mention that made me reread a scene three times.  The heroine from my all time favorite Historical category (one Ms. Balogh wrote back when I was but a teen) was one of the musicians performing at the musicale near the beginning of the book.  This brief mention made me smile and yearn for my long lost copy (someday I shall find you again, Red Rose!!!)

Huh, guess the review isn't so mini.  A good book does that to you.  Go read some Balogh. You need to catch up.  There is a new series starting next month!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Culling the herd

As I am slowly creeping up on my one year blogoversary it has come to my attention that I may have a problem.  A growing problem.  It is called the TBR pile.  The damn thing has grown exponentially over the past year!  I know, it is the natural course of things when you start a book blog.  The thing is, I have not acquired all of these books willingly.  Quite a few have been passed along to me by well meaning coworkers and friends.  While I am wildly appreciative of free books (who isn't?) I think I have reached a point where I must cry uncle.  That pile is never going to shrink at this rate. 

So I decided it was time to cull the herd.  This literary Leaning Tower of Pisa had a solid foundation of "must read soon" books and authors: Kleypas, Showalter, Christopher Moore, La Nora, etc.  Unfortunately, the structural integrity of this edefice was being undermined by some real stinkers.  I won't go into detail, but let's just say I couldn't even make it through the backflap of most of the books. 

Since I am planning to move by the end of summer, I decided it wasn't too soon to start weeding out some of my excess belongings.  The entire TBR Tower was relocated from the office/large storage closet (I mean really, if it has no closet it isn't an actual bedroom) to the family room.  Two hours and a couple Buffy episodes later, the books had been sorted and organized.  I had piles, y'all: Contemp keepers, ParaRom keepers, Historical keepers, other-stuff-I-like-to-read keepers.  It all was transferred back to the desk in the front room, but this time in tidy piles for easier access.  What was left behind?  Three Trader Joe's bags full of books to discard. 

Now, ever since I was little the idea of throwing a book in the garbage has given me hives.  That was someone's hard work.  I may not have liked the story, but the book represents months or even years of work by the author.  And who knows, someone else may want to read it and will like the book.  Since the dumpster was out of the question I decided to take the books over to The White Elephant.  I mentioned this store about a month ago.  It is the second hand store/fund raiser for Children's Memorial Hospital.  It is the lovely place that I struck gold, purchasing eighteen books for about $15.  I figure this way I get to donate the books to a store that helps fund medical treatment for critically ill children, and allow another reader the chance to get their hands on some books.  I think it is a win-win situation all around. 

Now I just need to adopt the same approach to my clothes closet.  I am SO not going to pack up and move all of those shirts I haven't worn in three years.  Can you say "pack rat" anyone?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Categories, my love-hate relationship

As some of you may know, I am not a big fan of category romances. Theoretically, they sound great. A format that provides the reader with heat, romance and a HEA in a shorter, quicker read. Pressed for time? Busy professional and personal life? No problem! Pick up a category and you get all that you need in a tidy little package.

More often than not I finish one of these slim novels and feel cheated. Two dementional characters, insufficient development of emotion to connect the hero and heroine. This is not the authors fault. I often think, "If only they had the chance to turn this into a full-length novel..." So much potential, so few pages.

This is my issue. I know that. I have a very strong bias. I started to worry that it was keeping me from reading some lovely stories. To make sure that wasn't the case I decided to take a chance on a few new releases. Since I had heard some positive hubub about the Blaze line I decided to take a shot at those.

The first book was Coming Undone by Stephanie Tyler.

“I want you to start by running your tongue slowly around my ear…”

Oh no!

Surfer – make that ex-surfer – Carly Winters can’t believe she accidentally faxed an erotic letter to…a secure military line? Now Navy SEAL Jonathan “Hunt” Huntington is at her door, fax in hand, asking her how the fantasy ends.

Talk about fate…
Because Carly’s parents think Hunt is her new boyfriend, and Carly does need a wedding date ASAP. Hunt’s ready to play – only on one condition. Carly’s got to teach him to hang ten. Problem is, it’s been a while since Carly’s career-ending accident and she’s terrified of anything aqua. But with Hunt, letting go just may make her fantasy a reality!
Oh baby! HAWT! This book lives up to the Blaze idea. Hot, steamy sex with a good, solid romance. Carly and Hunt are fully developed three dementional characters. I liked them both. Really liked them. Carly's fear of the water was realistic and well written. She was tough, yet vulnerable. Hunt was simply fantastic. He didn't let Carly back down. He challenged heremotionally and sexually. There was an additional story line that gave the book even more emotional depth. If all categories were like this I would be buying them by the truck load.

Since my first foray into the Blaze line was such a success I picked up In a Bind by Stephanie Bond.

Soon to be married flight attendant Zoe Smythe is on her last flight to Australia when she opens the fantasies letter she wrote 10 years earlier. The erotic words she wrote about being bound while making love stir a dormant desire. And the hunky Aussie in first class is only too willing to make her fantasies come true…

I should have know when I read the first sentence of the backflap that I was going to have a problem. "Soon to be married..." The heroine is getting married in one month. The hero is not her fiance. DEAL BREAKER. I mentioned this in an earlier post. It is not official: this book was DNF. I just couldn't do it. I have very strong feelings about fidelity and marriage. What the characters did was cheating. I was simply unable to continue reading.

I need to be honest and say that I didn't have a problem with the writing. What I read was well written. The objection to the plot eclipsed my enjoyment of the writing. I wish that wasn't true.

So here I am, still unsure about categories. One great, one anger inducing. I think I need your help. Which categories have you read that you would recommend?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Embracing the day

As readers of romance, we embrace on a daily basis those things that today represents: love, caring, passion, romance, devotion. We seek out and infuse our lives with these qualities every time we pick up a book. Through reading, we give our selves a chance, whether we are single or coupled, to experience the joys and agonies of love. It is so easy to turn a page and dive into a relationship. It is safe to encounter the heartache, misunderstandings, danger, exhilaration, passion, longing, anger, hope, and contentment two people can find together when it is printed on paper. If it becomes too much you can mark your page and set down the book while you take a chocolate break.

Life isn't that easy. Life is messy. And scary. And amazing.

Love in real life does not always guarantee a HEA. That is part of the thrill, part of the fear. Could this person be the one? You don't know at the beginning. You have to take that risk and put yourself (and your heart) on the line. There are no standardized tests to administer that will result in conclusive evidence. There is no set pattern of behaviors that are indicative of a HEA in life. Each person is different, so each relationship will be, too. And isn't that a wonderful, amazing thing? One relationship can be passionate and tumultuous. The next might be sweet and gentle. There are those individuals who you connect with over shared interests, while you are draw to another person who is wildly opposite from yourself. Friends, family, distance, work can all factor in to complicate the equation. It's messy and it's real, and it can be absolutely freakin' amazing. Or the most frighteningly unsure moments of your life.

This is the beauty of the romance novel. All of that scary craziness in a controlled setting. Are you looking for a whirlwind romance to push your erotic boundaries? There is one out there waiting to be read. Do you want the chance to answer the question "what if" regarding someone from your past? Have I got recommendations for you! Do you want a shot a happiness with someone who will take charge and sweep you along? Alpha heroes abound. Perhaps you want to completely escape the reality in which you live. Open up one of the thousands of ParaRom flooding the market. Or what if you desire the kind of romance that makes your heart jump with just a brush of the hand or a longing look? The stiff upper lip, stoic hero has been alluring readers for centuries.

Whatever it is you are longing for, there is a book for you. So whether you are a singleton celebrating your fabulously independent self today, or are coupled up with someone special, treat yourself to the kind of romance you most desire. I am going to enjoy some unrequited longing, what are you going to indulge in?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review: So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish

I have a confession to make.  I broke one of my cardinal reading rules: Thou shalt not knowingly read a series out of order. I am so sorry. Please, I beg for forgiveness. 

I did have a good reason, though.

At Christmas time I received the book So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish as a gift from a rather special someone.  It is the fourth book in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.  While I have the first book languishing on my TRB pile, I have yet to actually read it.  Books two and three had not even been a blip on my radar.  Yet there I was in early January with book four in hand.  Do I set it aside while I read the previous installations of the series, or do I ignore my reading OCD and dive right into Arthur Dent's travels?  I chose to ignore the voice screaming in my head that I was a horrible reader.  How could I wait when the special someone who bestowed the gift of the book handed it over with the comment "You remind me of Fenchurch."  I had to find out what he meant.

::le sigh::

Back on Earth with nothing more to show for his strange, long trip through time and space than a ratty towel and a plastic shopping bag, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past 8 years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination.  But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription, the mysterious disappearance of the Earth's dolphins, and the discovery of his battered copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy all conspire to give Arthur the sneaking suspicion that something otherworldly is indeed going on.

God only knows what it all means.  Fortunately, He left behind a Final Message of explanation.  But since it is lightyears away from Earth, on a star surrounded by souvenir booths, finding out what it is will mean hitching a ride to the far reaches of space aboard a UFO with a giant robot. But what else is new?
Having not read the previous books (although I did see the movie), I knew I had missed a metric ton of backstory.  I didn't really miss it. I mean, yes, there was a moment here or there where I would have benefitted from reading of Arthur's previous adventures.  I'm sure the appearance of certain characters would have felt more important, but I still greatly enjoyed this book. 

Arthur is sweet and slightly clueless.  He is a man of much experience, yet oddly innocent.  After landing back on Earth, he hitches a ride into the town, apprehensive over what he might see.  Had he been gone long? Was this the same Earth he had seen explode? Would anyone remember him?  What follows is Arthur's return to "normal" life, his discovery that not all is quite the same, and how it all changes with Fenchurch in the picture. 

Who is Fenchurch?  She is the creative, sweet, quirky woman that Arthur falls hopelessly in love with.  Something about her is just a wee bit off.  She knows it.  Arthur loves her for it.  You see, she knows the truth.  Or she did, until Earth was blown up and then somehow reassembled.  Just before the explosion 8 years earlier (that Arthur remembers, but Fenchurch does not), she had an epiphany.  She realized "how the world could be made a good and happy place."  Unfortunately, she can't remember the details now.  Not only is this haunting her, but there is the fact that her feet never seem to touch the ground.  Quite literally. Together, she and Arthur fly among the clouds over England, discover what happened to the dolphins, fall in love, and gaze upon God's final message. She is the traveling companion that Arthur needs in life.

After reading this book I have added all previous installments in the series to my TBR list. Adam's writing is crisp and quirky, by turns sweet and funny.  I highly recommend So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish.   It entertained me and made me smile.  I mean how could I not smile?  "You remind me of Fenchurch. I don't think your feet touch the ground either."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Tour Continues!!

Attention passengers!  The Windflower has landed.  I repeat, The Windflower has landed!

Yup, I returned home from my workshop today to find that (in)famous book in my mailbox.  Woohoo!!! I can't wait to start it.  Tropical islands, ships, pirates... what could be better?  I know!  The fact that it arrived the same day that I will be attending a pirate themed Valentines party.  How cool is that?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lamb: Let's discuss!

I know, I know, I'm late. And that is news how? That fact that I was born a day before my due date was a complete fluke. Punctuality is overrated, I say!

OK, so on to the book!

I hope you all read Lamb. Am I the only one? Hellooooooo!

So let's discuss:

What did you think?
Were you offended by this book in any way?
Did this book make you consider Jesus in a different way?
Did you find Lamb to be fairly true to the Bible as you know it?
Were there any characters or events that spoke to you? Do you have a different appreciation for them/it after reading Lamb?

I hope you had fun reading this book. I know I did!