Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy 2009!


Here's to a prosperous 2009. Have fun tonight and stay safe!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Visions of Heat: Review


Book: Visions of Heat
Author: Nalini Singh
Category: Paranormal Romance
Series: Psy/Changelings, Book 2
Sensuality: Hot

Okay, so I've been on a reread binge this holiday season and one of the books that I took another go at was Nalini Singh's Visions of Heat. I'm a fan of this series, though I've only read the first three (I'm reading the fourth one now), mainly because I enjoy the world building and the fresh take on the paranormal. The romance is secondary to me in these books, and that is probably a good thing since I didn't find this romance to be particularly memorable.

Vision's of Heat begins with Faith NightStar finding out from her father that her sister has been murdered. Faith is an F-Psy--invaluable to her family and to many of the Psy, Faith is able to predict monetary forecasts which means big bucks for those that depend on her. Being a Psy, Faith is not able to feel emotion, all feeling having been trained out of her through Silence. All Faith is able to do is survive on a bleak existence of seeing into the future for profitable gain for the Psy, but when she sleeps a darkness settles over her and Faith is transported to the mind of a serial killer who has already killed her sister and is stalking his next prey.

Faith knows that she can not go to her own people with her dreams because they would think that she was going crazy and lock her up, so Faith leaves her secure compound in search of the notorious Sasha Duncan. Sasha is a Psy who "malfunctioned" and left the Psy to live with the Changeling Dark River clan. But Faith finds more than help from Sasha, she finds a leopard intent on showing her how to feel.

Vaughn is a jaguar living amongst the leopard's. From the moment he sees Faith he knows that there is a connection beyond anything that he can control and he acts on it, pushing Faith to her limits with touch. This becomes almost too much for Faith to handle but with his persistence Faith will not only learn to tolerate feeling, she will catch a killer.

While I liked Vision's of Heat, it didn't grab me the way that Slave to Sensation did. In a lot of ways the story between Faith and Vaughn is similar to that of Sasha and Lucas'. Two Psy heroines and two Changeling heroes. Both women have to overcome major obstacles and both heroes worry that the heroines won't be able to ever love them the way they need to be loved. The thing is, I loved this concept the first time around better than the second. I had a hard time connecting with either Faith or Vaughn. I was never immersed in their story so it read very surface level for me, when I was hoping for something deeper.

Vision's of Heat does have its moments of goodness, though. I love reading the interaction between the Cats and the Wolves, the snark and banter is a hoot. I was also interested in what little there was of the Psy Council. I think there is more there and I can't wait to find out what. Faith and Vaughn weren't a major pull for me but their story was still sweet, and Ms. Singh's world building is something to marvel at. No holes here so far. I found Visions of Heat to be a worthy addition to the series, not as good as the first, but still a fun read. Grade B-.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top 5 of 2008

This year I read only a handful of books published in 2008. Because of that I found it hard to come up with a best of 2008 list. Now, after searching my bookshelves, I did come out with at least five books published in 2008 that I really liked. They might not be as memorable as some, but they were good books. In no particular order here they are:

His Wicked Sins by Eve Silver - Historical Paranormal: I hadn't read a Gothic Romance in a long time before getting this book. It swept me back to a time where I'd sneak my mothers Gothics and go off to read them in secret. Ms. Silver did a great job building the tension between Elizabeth and Griffin, by the time they came together, their heat flicked off the pages. The mystery worked well with the past slowly being revealed until it met up with present. This kept the mystery fresh.

Dark Desires after Dusk by Kresley Cole - Paranormal Romance: A Demon with lickable horns. Need I say more? I'm a big fan of The Immortals After Dark series, and this installment was fantastic. Ms. Cole is good at matching her heroes and heroines so that neither overshadows the other. Cade and Holly were no exception, they were a great match. The humor in her stories is great, as are the supporting cast of characters.

Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas - Historical Romance: This is one of the best Historical Romance's I've read that was published this year. Private Arrangements is Ms. Thomas' first book and it was a really good one. Cam and Gigi had to work for their Happily Ever After, and when they finally got it it felt well worth the wait.

When Twilight Burns by Colleen Gleason - Paranormal Romance: The fourth entry in the Gardella Vampire Series was the best one so far. Victoria has come into her own as a slayer, and she's also quit waffling between her two love interests and picked one. It took me some time to warm up to the series, but now that I have I'm impatiently waiting on the final installment.

Sea Witch by Virginia Kantra - Paranormal Romance: This PNR was a good change from the run of the mill paranormals out there. Ms. Kantra has taken a rarely used species in the paranormal world and used it in a way I enjoyed. Selkies are the star here. Sea Witch is the first in the Children of the Sea trilogy. I loved the hero in this book. I have a soft spot for veteran heroes, and Caleb was great. The mythology is interesting and Sea Witch was a promising beginning to the trilogy.

And though I have The Spymaster's Lady on my most memorable books of 2008, I have to add it to my top 5 of 08. That makes it a top 6 then, right?

The Spymaster's Lady - Historical Romance: I loved, loved this book. The dry humor between the hero and heroine, the secondary characters, the surprises, the overall story... it was fabulous! I became an instant fan of Joanna Bourne with The Spymaster's Lady.

Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 Reading in Review

I noticed two funny things while going back through the books that I've read this year. The first was that of all the books I've read, only one was a Contemporary Romance. Next year I'm going to fix that with a Contemporary Romance Challenge. More on that later. The second is that majority of the books read in 2008 were not published in 2008. Is it a requirement that my most memorable reads of the year have been released this year? If so I'm going against the rules. Here are the books that I enjoyed most this year.

The Spymaster's Lady by Joanna Bourne - Historical Romance
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs - Urban Fantasy
The Sharing Knife (Beguilement & Legacy) by Lois McMaster Bujold - Fantasy Romance
The Rules of Seduction by Madeline Hunter - Historical Romance
The Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon - Science Fiction
Silent in the Grave & Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn - Mystery
Eyes of Crow by Jeri Smith-Ready - Fantasy Romance
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery - Romance

Oh, and anything by Laura Kinsale!

What were your favorite reads from this year?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!


Best wishes to all during the holiday season. Have a wonderful time and stay safe. "See" you in the new year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kreativ Blog Award


I've been honored with the Kreativ Blog Award by Carolyn Jean from The Thrillionth Page. Carolyn Jean is one of the most talented ladies I've had the pleasure of coming across in blog land, so getting this award from her is great. Thanks CJ!

Now on to the festivities. With this award comes a MeMe. Rules are as follows:

~Mention the blog that gave it to you.
~Comment on their blog to let them know you've posted the award.
~Share 6 values that are important to you.
~Share 6 things you do not support.
~Share the love with 6 other blogging friends.

Since everyone before me has tweaked this, I will as well. Instead of listing 6 values of importance and 6 things that I do not support, I'm going to list 6 things that mean a lot to me.

1) Family. There were times growing up when I wished that I was adopted. I hoped that my "real" parents would come and save me from my four worrisome brothers and two annoying sisters. They never came. And for all my wishing, I'm very happy they didn't.

2) Books. I know I'm a better person for having read as much as I have in my lifetime. Or at least I hope I am. :P

3) Hot chocolate. Topped with marsh mellows. Topped with whip cream. And a peppermint stick. My own little slice of bliss.

4) Trees. I love trees. Love climbing them. Love sitting in them. Love watching the leaves bob around in the wind from my bedroom window. Love the big, pretty white flowers that bloom in those leaves and wish that they weren't poisonous so that I could pick them up when they fall.

5) The feel of my grandmother's skin. When I was a kid I would gently pinch the skin on the underside of her arm. She would shoo me away, but whenever the opportunity arose I'd do it again. Something about how soft and papery her skin felt comforted me. I'm an adult now and I still do this to her and it still comforts me.

6) Equality. Equality for everyone everywhere.

And the awards go to...

Leslie's Psyche Leslie's reviews are very informative, and she reads the type of romance books that I tend to be drawn to. I've bought a few books based on Leslie's reviews and have not been disappointed. That makes her something like a book recommendation deity in my world.

Today I read I really love Ann's blog. I happened across it a few months ago and it's become one of my must reads. Ann reviews a multitude of different genres. Her reviews are just awesome, I love reading them. She could review a book about toad stool's and I'm positive I'd be glued to it. Plus Ann loves Unicorns! How could I not appreciate a girl that is in touch with her fantasy side?

Avid Book Reader Keishon is another blogger who reviews many different genres. Her weekly commentary on Graphic Novels has led me to look into a genera that I otherwise wouldn't have. Keishon and I also share a love of television shows. When I began blogging, I was happy to find, in her, another person who watched The Wire, and I found out not too long ago that she watches The Shield, too! Makes me wonder what other shows we have in common.

Romance Rookie Jill is just fantastic. She reads and posts reviews faster than anyone I know. Her reviews consist of just about every sub genera of romance there is. Jill also puts up a "Sunday Series" post every Sunday where she gives out information on the many series that she is following. This is a great tool for anyone interested in a series and wanting to know more about it. For me, it helps keep track of the ones I'm already reading and opens me up to ones I haven't tried.

Books, Books and more Books I really adore Nath. She's a mostly contemporary romance reader, but she still comes by and reads my mostly historical romance reviews. :P I'm plotting out a Contemporary Romance Challenge to begin next year and I've been using Nath's positive contemporary reviews as a starting point in my book buying. I know she won't steer me wrong.

Jace Scribbles... Jace's blog is one that I find a lot of comfort in. Since I like to visit her blog and stay a while, I always wait for her posts to build up and then I go over and glom. Aside from her blog about books, she has Jace Makes, a craft blog that shows just how extremely creative she is. Jace makes the prettiest origami bookmarks, book thongs and other truly beautiful hand made work.

Contemporary Romance Challenge Link-Up

UPDATED 5/27/08

Mr. Linky has dissapeared on us, so please leave links to your reviews in the comment section, while I try to fix the problem.

Thanks,

Brie


Leave all links for the Contemporary Romance Challenge here. All you have to do is leave your name with the book name in parentheses and then post a link to the review and click enter. It is that simple.

Note: Please ignore the In "Other" Words title in the box, I had no choice but to use it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2009 Reading Challenges

2009 challenges that I am participating in.

Contemporary Romance Challenge hosted by Brie

Rules:

1. Any contemporary romance of your choice is eligible. By contemporary I mean any book placed in a contemporary setting with no paranormal elements.

2. Read at least one contemporary romance a month and post a review for that book within the month. I haven't set a unified date because I'm not good at sticking to dates, and having no monthly time limit should ensure that everyone in the challenge is able to read at least one contemporary a month.

3. After posting your review leave a link to it in the comment section of the monthly Contemporary Romance Challenge post that will go up here on Musing of a Bibliophile once a month. This will make it easier for me and anyone else interested to find your review.

Note: So that the post to link your reviews to does not get lost in the rest of the posts for that month, there will be a link to it on the side bar. The challenge runs from January 2009 - December 2009.


2009 Re-Read Challenge hosted by Nath

Rules:

1. The book you choose for the challenge must be one that you've already read :D

2. Review must be posted on the last day of the month.

3. At the end of each month, I'll put up a post for the Re-Read Challenge. Please post the link to your review in the comment section - this way, it'll be easier to keep track of all reviews so everyone can find them easily and enjoy them :D

To sweeten the deal, I'll give away a 10$ gift certificate each month to one challenger. I'll draw the winner among the challengers who will have posted their review link as requested in rule #3. The gift certificate is to whichever bookstore the winner wants, provided that I can purchase the gift certificate online and send it by e-mail.


Year of the Category hosted by KMont

Rules:

1. Book reviews can be posted any time during the last week of each month. I want this to be as relaxed as possible, so no set day other than during that week.

2. You can choose a new or old category romance to read/review from ANY of Harlequin or Silouhette’s lines. I’ve been perusing the line names on their ebook site. So Harlequin Blaze, Historical, Presents, Superromance or Silhouette Desire, Nocturne, etc. - it all goes.

3. Please indicate clearly in the title of your review that it belongs with this reading challenge. Elsie’s Year of the Category #2, or Year of the Category: The Billionaire Boy Band’s Drummer and the Waitress Who Served Him.

4. No restrictions or any such nonsense on the reviews - write ‘em however you want, but I would appreciate efforts made at more than a three-line paragraph.

5. Please link back to this post when you do a Year of the Category review or I may post a list of participants and you can link that one if you prefer.

The Windflower World Tour hosted by Ciaralira and The Book Smugglers

Follow The Windflower as it makes its way around the world



TBR Challenge 2009 hosted by Keishon


Rules:

Rules are the same as before, 2007 and back, the older the title the better. No penalty for reading 2008 books if that is all you have. No 2009 reads (nope).

Books can be of any genre, fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, etc. The day to post your review will be every third Wednesday of the month with reminders from me the week before or the week of if time gets away from me. I will keep a separate page of participants like before and again, this is all voluntary. Readers can continue to join even after the challenge has started.

I decided to assign a particular challenge for each month with the default being that if you can’t do the assigned challenge, you can read whatever you like from your TBR pile and post your review as per usual. I wanted to shake things up a bit, make you all dig these books out of your stacks. No purchase is necessary to participate in this challenge (so please don’t run out and buy a book just to participate…unless you want to).

We will officially start January 2009 (dates will be posted this weekend) and here are the assigned challenges:

January It’s all about the category, baby. Harlequin, Sil. Intimate Moments, Harl. Blaze, Harl. Presents. A lot of readers have been enjoying some great category titles of late. Hey, they’re quick reads, too! Did you buy any of them last year and didn’t read them? Now is your chance. Don’t have any? Grab a book out of your stacks and get to reading, you’re not excused.

February Find a DIK review book at AAR that you bought and read it. We’ve all bought some of these books and now is the time to see if they truly are DIK. Let’s demystify some of these claims or validate them. Any genre. Don’t have one (really?), just grab a book and read it.

March This month is dedicated to the historical novel (and dying breed). Do you have a good historical novel just lying around that you really, really, really want to read? If you don’t care to read a historical, follow the procedure as stated above, just grab a book out of your stacks and read it.

April Urban fantasy, fantasy or SFR…ohhhh, Patricia Briggs, Ann Aguirre, Charlaine Harris to name a few. Did you buy any of their stuff and didn’t read it yet? Now is your chance and if you’re already caught up, just pick a book out of your stacks and read it with the rest of us.

May Ok, challenges get more specific. For the month of May, pick a book that has a friends to lovers theme or some variation to it. All of us have these somewhere in our stacks and if not, you know what you need to do (see above).

June Tortured heroes are my favorite! They are usually found in historicals but see if you can find a tortured guy in your stacks or a tortured heroine (they’re even rarer!). Read and review it and if you have no luck with finding such a hero in your huge, humongous stacks, just grab a book and read it.

July Wrongfully accused or just released from jail theme books are another favorite of mine. I always seek these out and I may have to do some rereading for this month as there are some real good ones out there that I’ve read but I think I should have some in my stacks. If you don’t have such a book in your huge mountain of books, you know what you need to do (see above).

August Ok, I’m going to start assigning authors - Julie Garwood, Liz Carlyle, Judith McNaught, Nora Roberts, Johanna Lindsey, Connie Brockway, Laura Kinsale, Mary Balogh, Carla Kelly, Joan Wolf - own any of these author’s books and haven’t read them yet? Now is your chance. Already caught up - you know what you need to do.

September Linda Howard, Elizabeth Hoyt, Joanna Bourne, Sherry Thomas, Meljean Brook, Lois Bujold, Shanna Abe, Penelope Williamson, Jayne Ann Krentz, Amanda Quick, Rachel Gibson, Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Sandra Brown, Loretta Chase or whoever else you have in your stacks and you just haven’t taken the time to read them yet.

October Horror. Yep. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or whoever else you have in your TBR stacks and if you don’t want to read anything scary, you know what you need to do.

November Turkey day. Find a book that has a Thanksgiving theme (good luck with that!) or if you can’t find a book that does have a turkey theme, just grab a book out of your stacks and read it.

December Easy. Christmas themes and if you’re like me and can’t stand Christmas themed stories, just grab a book out of your stacks and read it. Congratulations, you’ve completed this year’s challenge.

2009 Young Adult Challenge hosted by J. Kaye

Rules:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. Read 12 Young Adult novels. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

3. Challenge begins January thru December, 2009.

4. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Tailor's Daughter

Book: The Tailor's Daughter
Author: Janice Graham
Category: Historical Fiction
Setting: Victorian England
Series: No
Sensuality: Subtle
Growing up in Victorian England, where her father owns a tailoring shop on fashionable Savile Row, Veda Grenfell and her family have always assumed she would one day make a suitable match. But when a fever leaves her deaf at the age of sixteen, Veda resolves to prove her worth in a realm that is usually off limits to respectable women. Dressing in gentlemen’s clothes, Veda reinvents herself as a tailor to London’s smart young set. Her beauty and spirit attract unexpected suitors, including a young viscount---but when passion turns to betrayal, Veda embarks on a treacherous journey that will lead her into a world of deception and murder.
What initially drew me to The Tailor's Daughter was the unusual heroine, and the even more unusual trade that her family was in. It seemed like a change from my normal Victorian reads, which was what I was looking for. I went in to reading this book with a certain idea of what it would be about in my head, and found that all of my preconceptions were wrong. The Tailor's Daughter turned out to be a much deeper read than had I thought it would be.

The story starts out with Veda telling of her life from a child. She was brought up in a family of trade. Her family's business is Grenfell & Son, a mens tailoring shop. From a very young age Veda takes to the family business, she likes fine material, and loves to cut and sew and create beautiful men's clothing. Her love of the trade isn't something that either of her parents encourage because they do not want Veda's reputation socially tainted by having her directly involved with her father's operations. Instead, her father tries to groom her older brother Reggie, who is more into books and literary pursuits than tailoring, to take over the business and steers Veda towards the upbringing of a genteel lady so that she will be able to make a good match. Ultimately, the stifling demands of their father lead to Reggie turning away and the family suffers a great tragedy for it.

When things look like they may be on the mend another tragedy strikes when Veda becomes deathly ill. After surviving a fever that almost killed her, Veda realizes that she no longer has her hearing. Her whole life is turned upside down in an instant, leaving her with no marriage prospects. Everything that she thought she would become--a wife, mother, lady of genteel society--is taken away with her hearing. At first the blow is shocking, and leaves her feeling sorry for herself, but slowly, with the help of her brother's once tutor, Mr. Nicholls, Veda learns how to survive in a world without hearing. She learns to read lips, and to use gestures to communicate with those close to her.

Soon she has a suitor in Mr. Nicholls, and another in the head cutter of her father's shop, Mr. Mr. Balducci, who has taken a liking to Veda and hopes to secure his place within her family's business by marrying her. But Veda's heart belongs with Lord Harry Ormelie, a Viscount that she met when she was still able to hear. Their romance is a forbidden one for many reasons, the main one being Veda's station. The attraction causes much ado in the book and flame is added to the intensely burning fire when deception strikes and Veda finds herself in a world where she can trust no one, and where family secrets lead to murder.

One thing that is a constant in the story is that Veda is deaf. There is never a moment after Veda loses her hearing that it is forgotten that she suffers that disadvantage. This is not because her deafness reiterated over and over, because it isn't, it stems from the fact that Veda, as a person, changes dramatically after her deafness comes into play. She must light candles, which are costly, in order to read lips in dim light, she carries around a slate and chalk to use as a communication aid when it is too hard to lip read, and she uses hand and body gestures to interact with her good friend, Ester.

Veda never stops trying to find ways to get along in a world of hearing people, even though doing so in the Victorian time period was hard. There were few people who were willing or able to teach a deaf person, and the few schools that existed for the hearing impaired were sad excuses, not allowing children to use their hands as a form of communication. Veda's struggle with hearing loss is very real. There is no miraculous recovery or communication tool, she never masters lip reading, and finds it a strain on her eyes and mind to follow long conversations. Her voice changes and people tell her she sounds strange, she is snubbed because of her disability, and it is also used against her. But Veda preservers in the most remarkable of ways.

For the most part, The Tailor's Daughter is a really enjoyable book, but I do have a few quibbles. First, the amount of tragedy to strike Veda became overwhelming at a certain point, and I wondered if she would ever get a break? It made me not trust that anything good would come from the story. Second, as I mentioned in a previous post, there were moments where I was jarred from the book because of musings that appeared to come from a medical book and not from Veda's thoughts. Like this one:
A half-hour intensive session was enough to strain my eyes and tax my concentration. To read lips, the mind must learn to register lip patterns while working to select the correct meaning from a vast number of possibilities. Consonants and vowels are formed by tongue movements of which many are scarcely visible, and certain groups of consonants like p, b, m, or sh, sh, and j are indistinguishable. I despaired of ever understanding moving lips.
Maybe it's just me, but the bolded does not seem to be something a young, Victorian era girl would think.

And finally there was the burgeoning romance between Harry and Veda that left me skeptical. Veda came off as infatuated with Harry, I accounted this to her age at the time, as she was only sixteen. It also came off false because Veda did not know Harry, only that he was something of a cad and he was nice to her once, therefore the reader did not know Harry, which made her instant desire for him unrealistic. It took Veda growing up and losing her hearing for me to see her interest in him as anything more than puppy love, and then I had trouble with Harry. The difference in their class made it hard for me to believe that Harry could be truly interested in Veda. I understood his attraction to her, but it took a while for me to warm up to him seriously wanting to be with Veda. When more about Harry was learned, and his character became less of an enigma, I was finally able to accept their romance and it then took on a poignant feel that was simply heartfelt.

In the context of their classes a love like theirs would have been hard pressed to work, and in many ways it didn't, which kept with the tragic realities of the story and of the time. And maybe it was because of the gritty realism prevalent throughout the book that the ending seemed a little too neat for me. Though, by the end of the story I truly wanted Veda to find a slice of lasting happiness, I didn't expect it to be wrapped up cutely in a neat little bow. On the other hand, after all of the suffering she went through, maybe that was exactly what was needed.

Besides Veda, there was another star in the story and that was the clothing. Tailoring is as much a catalyst in moving things forward as Veda's disability. The attention to detail is not spared when it comes to portraying the clothing that Veda made. So, the story is not just Veda's, it belongs to her family's trade as well. Ms. Graham has woven a entrancing tale with The Tailor's Daughter. The Victorian era comes to life beautifully through the eyes of Veda. All of the characters are portrayed in such stunning imagery that they too became very real. My minor problems with the book aside, I can not deny that The Tailor's Daughter was otherwise immensely enjoyable. Grade B.

Excerpt

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Taking Flight

I'm off to Atlanta today for my younger sisters college graduation. For a nine hour plane ride there are a few things that are a must have for me: lots of snacks (Cheetos preferably), Tylenol PM (so that I'm sedated enough to not be nervous) and books to keep me company during the few hours that I am actually awake. I'm only taking two books for this flight since I hope to sleep through most of it.

The Tailor's Daughter by Janice Graham
Growing up in Victorian England, where her father owns a tailoring shop on fashionable Savile Row, Veda Grenfell and her family have always assumed she would one day make a suitable match. But when a fever leaves her deaf at the age of sixteen, Veda resolves to prove her worth in a realm that is usually off limits to respectable women. Dressing in gentlemen’s clothes, Veda reinvents herself as a tailor to London’s smart young set. Her beauty and spirit attract unexpected suitors, including a young viscount---but when passion turns to betrayal, Veda embarks on a treacherous journey that will lead her into a world of deception and murder.

So far I am finding this story interesting. The historical accuracy seems to be dead on, and though told in first person from Veda's POV, all of the characters are stunningly portrayed. But there are some sections that drag a little, and from time to time a sentence will strike me as something coming straight out of a medical book, not from Veda's thoughts and musings. It is jarring but most of the story flows naturally so I can overlook that. I hope to finish it on the flight.

The Temple Dancer by John Speed
When Maya, a graceful, young temple dancer with a mysterious past, is sold into slavery, she enters a world of intrigue, violence, and forbidden love. Bought by a Portuguese trader and sold as a concubine to the dissolute vizier of Bijapur, she embarks on a treacherous journey.

In a caravan led by the dangerous settlement man Da Gama, she travels by elephant on the hostile road to Bijapur, joined by Geraldo, a Portuguese adventurer, and Pathan, a handsome prince who carries a dark secret. Together with Lucinda, a beautiful, spoiled young Goan heiress, and the manipulative eunuch Slipper, they climb the windswept mountain road through the Western Ghats.

When their caravan is attacked by bandits, the travelers’ lives are turned upside down. In the aftermath, Maya and Lucinda suddenly find themselves stranded in a strange, exotic world, a world filled with passion, romance, and deception, pure love and lurking evil, where nothing is as it seems and the two women are faced with great temptation as well as heart-wrenching decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.

I've only read the first few pages of The Temple Dancer, so I don't have much to comment on here other than I'm looking forward to reading a story set in this time period and setting.

I'll be back next week with reviews. And I'm off!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Midsummer Moon: Review


Book: Midsummer Moon
Author: Laura Kinsale
Category: Historical Romance
Series: No
Sensuality: Hot

With the recent reissues of three Laura Kinsale books, Midsummer Moon, Seize the Fire and Prince of Midnight, those who have yet to discover Laura Kinsale have been given the opportunity to read a historical romance author considered by many to be the master. I've had the pleasure of reading a few Laura Kinsale books and have since fallen in love with her writing, so the chance to read more of her work that might otherwise be hard to find was one I could not pass up.

When Lord Ransom Falconer arrives at the crumbling estate of Merlin Lambourne, he expects to find the man behind an invention that England is trying to keep out of French hands. His goal is to get Merlin and his coveted invention to safety, clear of the clutches of Napoleon's forces. What he finds is a young, absentminded woman who claims to be the Merlin Lambourne. Ransom is at first disbelieving, then shocked, and finally intrigued. Not only is Merlin not a man like he was led to believe, but she can hardly remember what is told to her from one minute to the next.

Nevertheless, Ransom is bent on keeping her safe. He tells her about the plot to take her and her invention--which Merlin believes to be the flying machine that she is working on. Ransom thinks that the idea of a flying machine is ludicrous and writes that off as not being what Napoleon's spies are after. Then he witnesses Merlin communicating with a servant on a speaking box and knows that this ingenious idea is what the French must want. At the sight of Merlin using her masterful invention, Ransom becomes instantly smitten with the innocent and brilliant young miss. He's taken with her smarts and finds Merlin's quirks to be refreshing. And to say any more would spoil the book, but what comes next is a charming story of kidnappings, espionage, stolen virtues, mystery, and--oh yeah, love.

What I loved most about Midsummer Moon is what I'm sure is a major quibble for most readers, and that is the heroine. Merlin, to me, was one of the best Kinsale heroines I've read to date, mostly because she just doesn't care. Ransom walks around attempting to stretch his long ducal arm, and Merlin remains aloof to his pretentious air. She's led a very sheltered life, so that Ransom is a duke, means nothing to her, as shown below.
Merlin stood up. She squared her shoulders and glared up at him. "If I ever get to be a duke, I won't be as big a bully as you are, I can tell you that!"

"Since you are exceedingly unlikely ever to get to be a duke, I don't think we need concern ourselves with the prospect."

"One just never knows, does one?" She held out her skirt and turned from him with a flounce. When she reached the door, she stopped and looked over her shoulder. "And if I should, I shall expect you to address me properly. It will be 'Miss Duke' to you, you may be sure!"
She fits into what I call Laura Kinsale's "innovative heroine mold" perfectly. While her naivety and tendency to space out may be an understandable annoyance to some readers, it is what drew me to the character. What I also love about Merlin is that she wont let anyone stand in the way of her dream. This leads to the major conflict between she and Ransom. See, Ransom wants to marry Merlin but she has figured out that if she does marry him, he will be able to use his power to prevent her from building and flying her flying machine. And she will not have that.

And while I'm speaking on my loves, I must talk of Ransom. His affection for Merlin was profound in many ways. It doesn't bother him in the least that Merlin wears drab dresses, tool stuffed aprons, carries a hedgehog around, and has oil stained fingers. And though Ransom is trying to keep Merlin from building her flying machine, I still understood his reasons. He thinks that it is not only impossible, but if it were--by some crazy chance--able to be built, her flying it would be too dangerous. Ransom is also secretly deathly afraid of heights and can not bare to see Merlin at any elevation. What it comes down to with him is that he fears losing Merlin to her dreams, both physically and emotionally.

It should be mentioned that the reissue of Midsummer Moon has quite a few errors. Really simple ones that should/could have been fixed before the books went back out. Words like 'be' instead of 'he' in some instances, and missing commas in others. I also noticed this in the reissue of Seize the Fire. I wish that before the reissue the books had been re edited.

Editing flubs aside, Midsummer Moon was a great book. It is one of Laura Kinsale's lighter works and is, in my humble opinion, superbly funny. Jessica of Racy Romance Reviews along with a few other commenters talked about the "light" humor that appeared in Laura Kinsale's Seize the Fire a couple weeks ago. I don't know if it was ever agreed upon as to whether it was truly light or not. But my thoughts on it is that Laura Kinsale does humor in such a way that it almost seems as though it is not supposed to be funny. It comes off in a natural, real life way, that borders on dry and cynical, but at the same time it can be laugh out loud hilarious.

Unlike most of her other books that have humorous moments here and there, Midsummer Moon is filled with the funny. She has taken the lightness that shows up sporadically in Seize the Fire and her other work, and expanded it through the entire of Midsummer Moon. I had a great time reading a side of Kinsale's work that I never had before. Who knew she could do comedy so well? But don't get me wrong, the story is not a slap stick comedy, it has depth as well. I think I can best describe it as amusing with a chance of thoughtful. I want more. Oh, well. This book charmed me into the wee hours of the night and in the end, I really, really enjoyed it. But I may be biased because there isn't much that Laura Kinsale has written that I haven't cared for. Grade A.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Blue Castle: Review


Book: The Blue Castle
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Series: Stand Alone
Category: Romance, 1920's
Sensuality: Kisses

The Blue Castle had been sitting, unread, on my book shelf for close to a year before I finally cracked it open. Had I known what a beautiful story awaited me between the covers, I would have read it a long time ago.

Valancy Stirling has just reached her 29th birthday and has nothing to show for the years she has lived. She is unmarried, lives with her widowed mother and meddlesome cousin, bows to the whims of her overbearing extended family, and suffers a life of monotony. Her only retreat is into the day dreams of her Blue Castle, a place where Valancy is something more than dutiful daughter, cousin, niece, where she is happy and full of life, and she always has a beau, though his face has changed over the years. But outside of her Blue Castle dreams, Valancy mutely accepts that she will be alone forever and doesn't push her own boundaries, out of fear of upsetting her family.

Then her whole life suddenly changes when it rains on the day that Valancy is supposed to attend her Aunt's engagement picnic. This natural occurrence leads to a dramatic shift in Valancy's life. She decides to shirk responsibility to her clan and throw caution to the wind. Her actions shock her family and lead Valancy into a life that she had only dreamed of.

To say I loved this book would be putting it lightly. The Blue Castle was awesome! In the beginning chapters I was a little more than upset with Valancy for letting everyone around her treat her so badly. It is not that she is abused, but she is continually taken for granted, and looked at as a sort of blot on the family since she has never managed to find a man. Valancy has to deal with everyone fawning over her pretty cousin Olive, she has to laugh at her uncle's bad jokes, she must endure her mothers strict demands that are stifling the life out of Valancy, she must answer to a nickname that she hates but her family refuses to quit calling her by... When Valancy finally takes control of her life and says what she is really thinking to her family members, I cheered her on. Her family was left dumbfounded by this odd change in Valancy. "She's dippy--I tell you she's gone dippy," Her uncle declares at one point.

Valancy's family is left unsure of whether to commit her or to just wait it out and pray that she would come to her senses. Meanwhile, Valancy has gone off and started living. She leaves her mother's home for the first time, going to live with the town drunk and his dying daughter. She falls in love with the town mystery man, Barney Snaith, who is whispered to be every sort of evil known to man kind. He was the one main character that the reader never gets in the head of, so he is left a little ambiguous, but he is just so great. Barney is a woodsman who takes great pleasure in time spent outside exploring the forest. He admits that he doesn't love Valancy the way she loves him. This could deaden a story in one second flat, but the way Barney does it is just so darn endearing.
"Valancy," he said, trying to speak lightly, "of course I'm not in love with you-never thought of such a thing as being in love. But, do you know, I've always thought you were a bit of a dear."
Ms. Montgomery's description of Barney was so striking that it stuck with me long after the story was over. His mismatched eyebrows and the way he sat with his hands in his pockets and his chin on his chest. I smile just thinking about it. The montage scenes where Barney is opening Valancy's eyes to the world around her were just beautiful. The island and Mistawis Canada come to life as the story unfolds and one can almost smell the pine trees and see the purple lake mist surrounding Valancy and Barney's island.

Gosh, this story was fantastic. It was great following Valancy on her adventure into life. Reading about her finding her inner strength, and eventually, her Blue Castle, was just magical. I've never read any L.M. Montgomery books before this one, and don't know if I will read anymore, but I will forever have a special place in my heart for The Blue Castle. Grade A+.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Completed NaNoWriMo!

Today I finished the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo! I still have a little more to add to my story, but at least I met the goal! I did not do it alone, though. I had a lot of online support from NaNo Live Journal, and from the Hawaii NaNo Region. Katiebabs encouraged me to add some sheep to my story on Twitter, Ann-Kat gave me good insight through email, and many of you left encouraging comments. Without all this I probably would have never made it. So, thank you all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tagged: Page 56, Sentence 5

I've been tagged by Ann-Kat from Today I Read to participate in this MeMe.

1) Open the closest book to you, not your favorite or most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment, and turn to page 56.

2) Write out the fifth sentence, along with the following two to five sentences.

3) Pass this along to five blog friends.

The closest book to me, which also happens to be the one I'm writing a review on right now, is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.
Olive always told Valancy all the details of her love affairs, from the days when the little boys in school used to "persecute" her with love letters. (sentence 5)

Valancy could not comfort herself by thinking these affairs were mythical. Olive really had them. Many men had gone mad over her besides the three fortunate ones.

"I don't know what the poor idiots see in me, that drives them to make such double idiots of themselves," Olive was wont to say. Valancy would have liked to say, "I don't either," but truth and diplomacy both restrained her. (The next 5)
I'm not tagging anyone right now, because I'm short on time. But if you'd like to join in, feel free!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Silent in the Sanctuary: Review


Book: Silent in the Sanctuary
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Series: A Lady Julia Grey Mystery, Book 2
Category: Mystery, Historical
Sensuality: Kisses

After reading and loving Silent in the Grave, I could only hope that Silent in the Sanctuary would live up to the first. I was not disappointed.

A year has passed since Lady Julia Grey, with the assistance of private investigator Nicolas Brisbane, solved the murder of Julia's husband. She has joined her brother's Plum, Lysander and his new bride, Violante in Italy to recover from her ordeal. Though she loves the warm beauty of Italy and is enjoying time spent with her brothers and their handsome friend and guide Alessandro, Julia yearns for something more. The investigation into her late husbands death has left her with a heart for intrigue, and she finds that watching life happen and not taking part in it does not have the same luster it used to. When Julia and her brother's are summoned home by their father, demanding that they return to England immediately for Christmas holidy, she could not imagine just how much action would await her.

A house party hosted in her fathers home is in full swing when Julia and company arrive at Bellmont Abbey. Among the guest list is Nicolas Brisbane and his new fiance, Charlotte King. Julia, who holds an affection for Brisbane after their work together to find her husbands murderer, is shocked at this latest news. She doesn't think that Brisbane's fiance, Charlotte King, is a woman that he would marry, let alone pursue. Julia is suspicious of them right away and decides that she will get to the bottom of this sudden match, but first she has to deal with temperamental family members, a handsome suitor, and tensions within the house. Her plans are further thwarted when a house guest is found dead in the Abbey's sanctuary, bringing the holiday festivities to a halt. On top of the latest tragedy, a snow storm has blown through, trapping everyone inside of the Abbey with a killer on the loose. Julia and Brisbane form a duo and set out to find the killer. What comes next is an intriguing tale of espionage, thievery, attempted murder, family secrets and more.

I really loved this second installment in the series centered around Lady Julia Grey. Julia has come a long way since Silent in the Grave. She has become headstrong, stubborn and smartly independent, while still retaining her endearing wit. Really, she is a great protagonist. The host of characters that play a role in the story are immense, and yet all are masterfully characterised and vividly displayed. The mystery plays out like a game of clue, placing suspicion on each of the characters at some point, leaving the reader guessing as to who is the culprit of any given crime. In the end, all of the threads to the many mysteries surrounding the house party are tied up nicely, with a few shocking revelations that make for a satisfyingly, eye opening ending.

Though Silent in the Sanctuary is not as dark as Silent in the Grave, it is just as strong. I will admit that I wanted the mystery to come in to play sooner, as the first 200 plus pages were devoted to catching up with Julia and meeting new characters. Still, I never found myself bored, just a little impatient for the real fun to begin. And while this is the second book in the series and the events of book one are alluded to here and there, the answer to that mystery is never given away so the books could be easily read out of order. But I think that reading them in order makes Silent in the Sanctuary a more fleshed out read.

As far as follow ups go, Silent in the Sanctuary is a very worthy one. It brings us up to date with Julia and her eccentric family. It shows a little movement between Julia and Brisbane, and reveals more about Brisbane's past. I'm just awed by Ms. Raybourn's knack for characterization and attention to detail with the plot. Even the most minute of details end up playing a large role in the overall mysteries. Well, I guess I've gushed enough about Silent in the Sanctuary. I look forward to reading the the third installment, Silent on the Moor, when it is released in March. Grade A-.

On a vain note, I'm not really liking the new cover art for the series. It lacks the mysterious feel of the other covers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Honesty


Suggested by JM:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?
No, a review should be true to the readers experience. It is a huge disservice to the author and the review readers to give a positive review just because it is an ARC. Reviewers owe it to those who read and trust their reviews to give them honest commentary, regardless of whether the book was a review copy sent by an author or not. Any author requesting that a reviewer read their books and share their feelings about said book on a blog, message board, in a book club, or any other review outlet--should be fully prepared for all feedback, good or bad.

As for disclaimers. In the end it is up to the individual as to whether or not they want to post a disclaimer. I don't think that it is necessary (for all of the reasons I stated above), but if they want to that's fine.

More Booking Through Thursday-ers

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good Books I'm Not Reading

Recently, I was sorting my books into neat little categories like: read & keeping, read & donating, and, the ever growing pile of to be read. As I separated the books I found that a lot of them weren't fitting into any of my three categories and I had to create a new one labeled, half read & still need to finish. I ended up with more half read & still need to finish books than I had keepers or ones that needed to be donated.

I was a little miffed at myself over this. How could there be so many books that I have started and not finished? What was it about these books that didn't hold my interest?

I figured that they must have been bad--I mean, why else hadn't I kept on reading them--but to be sure, I began looking through them in an attempt to figure out why I didn't stick it out to the end. A few, I decided, were DNF's. But way more were books that I liked, but didn't stick with for reasons now beyond me, though, I'm sure at the time I had made sense out of putting a half read book down. Below are a few books from my enormous pile of reading neglected books.

Demon Angel by Meljean Brook:

At 97 pages in, Demon Angel has all of the elements that I need to enjoy a book. Great writing, interesting characters that I can grow to care about, an intriguing premise, etc. And still I gave up on it.

Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair:

At page 265, I'm more than halfway through Games of Command. Like Demon Angel, it has everything I need in a book, but I haven't been able to get passed the middle hump to finish out the story.

Heir to the Shadows by Anne Bishop:

Another book that I'm more than halfway through. Unlike the first two, I do know why I stopped reading Heir to the Shadows. It was because I became a little annoyed with Janelle. She was bordering on Mary Sue territory when I closed the book at the halfway point. BUT the story is good. I loved the first book in this series and I want to finish this trilogy.

Does this happen to anyone else, or am I on an island alone with starting and not finishing books? Are there any good books that you are not reading?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mini Celebration


I just wrote my way to the NaNo halfway point and wanted to celebrate! Yay me! I might actually finish this. For a while I thought that I would never make it this far, and now things are going really well. Fingers crossed that I can keep it going.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Sharing Knife (Legacy): Review


Book: The Sharing Knife (Legacy)
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Series: The Sharing Knife Volume 2
Category: Fantasy Romance
Sensuality: Warm

Warning! This review contains some spoilers that relate to Volume 1.

After reading Beguilement, the first volume in Lois McMaster Bujold's Sharing Knife series, I was eager to start this second volume. I jumped right into Legacy and hit a road block, the story just wasn't pulling me in the way first book had. But after getting through the first few chapters things picked up and I was able to sink in to reading it.

Legacy picks up directly where Beguilement left off. Fawn and Dag have just left Fawn's parents farm as newlyweds, and are on their way to Dag's Lakewalker family in hopes of finding out the mystery behind the mis-enchanted sharing knife. After a leisurely travel to Hickory Lake Camp, they are immediately faced with unease about their marriage. The Lakewalkers, especially Dag's family, are up in arms over the two, being that they do not believe that Lakewalkers should marry Farmers. While attempting to deal with the rising tension, a malice attack occurs in a distant camp and Dag is called away to help. This leaves Fawn behind in Hickory Lake to deal with adapting to a new place where she is looked at as an unwanted outsider.

The glimpse into Lakewalker life that Beguilement gave has turned into full on understanding. The Lakewalkers, much like Farmers, are very much set in their ways. They believe the way they go about life to be the right one and aren't up much for listening to the other side or open to change. While living with the Lakewalkers, Fawn continues to learn and prove herself, even if most are reluctant to recognize her strength. Dag is very much the same patient, thoughtful man that he was in the previous book and it is interesting to see his interactions with his family. Both Fawn and Dag stay very much in character, never doing or saying something that I wouldn't expect them to for the people they are.

Something that I appreciate about this series is that the info about the world is doled out slowly so that you never feel like the details are being bombarded upon you, rather being shown as the story unfolds. Interestingly enough, there are moments when explanation about some occurance is required, these were the only points where I did have moments of confusion. The most notable was pertaining to the sharing knife and its role in this volume. I had to reread some passages on it a couple of times to get the full grasp on what was happening, and I'm still not totally sure I got it. Still, the overall world building is rich in complexity and easy to understand.

The quiet and detailed prose that captivated me in Beguilement has carried over to Legacy. And even in times of disquiet the writing is subtle, never boastful. Ms. Bujold uses her descriptive voice in a way that is utterly transporting, as illustrated below.
Rounding a tangle of wrack and cattails where red-winged blackbirds traded barking chirps and hoarse whistles, they came at last upon a broad open space crowded with flat lily pads, their white flowers wide to the sun. Thin, iridescent blue dragonflies, and thicker scarlet ones, stitched the air above the marsh, and rows of turtles sunned themselves on logs, yellow-striped necks stretched out, brown backs gleaming like polished stones.
The dialogue is also another area where the writing shines. During their continual fight to be together, I especially enjoyed the passages where Fawn and Dag were able to relax and just have fun with each other. Below is one of those times.
"I still don't agree. I'd want my trousers. In fact, if I were waked up out of my bedroll in a night attack, I think I'd go for them before my boots or my bow."

"But Patrollers sleep in their trousers, in camp," she objected. "Although not in hotels," she allowed in a tone of pleasurable reminiscence.

"That gives you a measure of importance, then, doesn't it?" He batted his eyes at her. "I can just picture it, a whole patrol riding out armed to the teeth, all bare-assed. Do you have any idea what the jouncing in those saddles would do to our tender bits? We'd never make it to the malice."

"Agh!" Now I'm picturing it!" She bent over, laughing. "Stop! I'll allow you the trousers."
I think what I liked the most about Legacy was the same thing I liked most about Beguilement and that is the strength in the relationship between Dag and Fawn. Though they are faced with opposition every step of their relationship, they don't let that get between them. They fight to be together and at the same time love each other enough to realize that if it comes down to it, they will let each other go for the greater good (if that makes sense).
She raised her face to meet his beautiful eyes square, and went on, "So I just want you to know, if you have to choose the patrol--I won't die for it. Nor be worse off for having known and loved you for a space. I'll still be richer going down the road than when you met me, by far, if only for the horse and the gear and the knowing. I never knew there was much knowing as this to be had in the whole world. Maybe, looking back, I'll remember this summer as a dream of wonders...even the nightmare parts. If I didn't get to keep you for always, leastways I had you for a time. Which out to be magic enough for any farmer girl."
After not being grabbed by the very beginning of the book, I'm glad to say that I ended up liking Legacy a lot. I'm interested in seeing where the next volume leads Dag and Fawn on their journey to unite the cultures of their world. Grade B+.

Excerpt

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Eyes of Crow: Review

Book: Eyes of Crow
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Series: Aspect of Crow Trilogy, Book 1
Category: Fantasy
Sensuality: Hot

Lately I've been in the mood for fantasy, but not just any fantasy. I've wanted something with a strong protagonist (female), understandable mythology, a little romance, some action, and a good book--all wrapped into one. Mostly, I've come across books with some of those qualities but not all, until Eyes of Crow.

In a world with a culture somewhat reminiscent of early Native American, where animal aspects are bestowed upon each of the people of this culture, Rhia of Asermos has been given the rare aspect of crow. Rhia's aspect is a hard one to bear, for the crow ushers in death. Rhia has a hard time dealing with her aspect and she struggles with knowing too much about the eventual deaths of those around her. This takes a toll on her and Rhia delays her bestowing and the first phase of her gift, fearing what full use of her powers will entail. But when her decision proves to be a hurtful one, Rhia realizes that she has to now face her bestowing and all that will come with it in order to be helpful to her people.

Since the crow aspect is rare and there are no other crows in Asermos to train her, Rhia has to travel to Kalindos to learn under the tutelage of a third phase crow woman. This change isn't that easy for Rhia, as the cultures of the Ascermons and the Kanindon's differ vastly, but she is able to find a friend and lover in Marek, a troubled wolf aspect. Still, it is Rhia alone who must face the gift she is reluctant to embrace. And with the foreign Descendants preparing for war against her people, Rhia and her gift are needed now more than ever.

The world that Jeri Smith-Ready has created is wonderfully realized in Eyes of Crow. Intricate in detail, yet still easy to understand, the mythology comes together flawlessly, lending to the story in rich detail. The relationships between the characters, especially those between Rhia and the men in her life--her brothers, father, her childhood sweetheart, and the poignant romance between Rhia and Marek--all leap from the pages. Though the third person narrative is inclusive to only Rhia, none of the other main characters come off as less than three dimensional.

Eyes of Crow is very much about Rhia's journey in finding herself. She starts out timid and afraid of her aspect and as the story progresses she becomes stronger and more self assured. Through reading about Rhia, her fears became my own, as well as her achievements. I wanted her to succeed and find strength in her aspect. As I clung to the book hoping for an outcome worthy of the character Rhia grew to be, I was not disappointed.

The book ends on a bittersweet note that fit in line perfectly with the story as a whole. Eyes of Crow was a fantastic Fantasy Romance, one of the best I've come across. Grade A+.

Excerpt

Friday, October 31, 2008

Seize the Fire: Review


Book: Seize the Fire
Author: Laura Kinsale
Series: None
Category: Historical Romance
Sensuality: Hot

Olympia of Oriens is a princess. Exiled to England, she longs to return to her battle torn country and bring justice to her people. But she will be going up against her uncle who is, in her opinion, pure evil. She seeks out a recently retired, highly decorated Naval Captain, Sheridan Drake for help with her cause. Olympia has great expectations of Sheridan, his many accomplishments give him great acclaim and she is sure that he is just the hero to help her.

Captain Sheridan Drake is not the hero every one thinks him to be. In fact, he knows he is not a hero at all, more like a lying scoundrel. Returning home to his deceased father's house of pranks and nothing more, Sheridan finds himself down and out. Then the adorably plump Olympia St. Leger shows up at his door, pleading for his help. Sheridan hears out Olympia's plan. He is amused by the fierce passion Olympia has for her country, and knows she doesn't have the first clue about how to run it, much less take it over. But he is desperate and in need of money, and the beautiful, unassuming Princess is a jackpot in Sheridan's eyes. He takes Olympia up on her offer and they set out on the adventure of their lives.

I've always found Ms. Kinsale's writing to be emotionally draining, and Seize the Fire is no exception. Olympia and Sheridan were great characters. Olympia is a little reserved, but she has big dreams and even bigger notions about what she thinks the world should be like. This character trait was both a good and bad thing for her character because while it made her innocently endearing, it also put her and Sheridan in a lot of unneeded trouble on multiple occasions. Sheridan is mostly disenchanted with life and people in general. He is tortured to the nth degree, hates Olympia's hero worship of him, and as soon as the opportunity arrives to prove to her he is anything but, he takes it.

Per usual, while reading Laura Kinsale, there were times when I became exasperated with the amount of angst and the heaviness of the characters internal demons. But I knew there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel, and there was. Though it was not exactly how I expected it to be (the ending is just as torturous as most of the book is) it worked for the people that Sheridan and Olympia had become. Exasperation and all, I can not get over Ms. Kinsale's way with words, she can weave a story and leave me hanging on her every word.

At 583 pages, Seize the Fire is epic in scale. Sheridan and Olympia are taken to lands far away, deserted islands, tropical paradises, multiple ships and more. They deal with intense hardships on their journey, fall in love, get it torn away, they are nearly killed a few times and whatever else could happen, happens to them. Watching the characters finding themselves through loving each other was wonderful yet bittersweet. Sigh. Seize the Fire was a great, heart-wrenching romantic adventure to read. What else is left to say other than I loved it, misplaced hymen and all. Grade A-.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reading Interrupted + Finished Challenge + Randomness

There is nothing like a misplaced hymen to jolt me out of a book. I'm reading Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale right now. At about 150 pages in of what was shaping up to be great reading material, she lost me. She really lost me.

His fingers met the unbroken barrier inside her.

Me--> Say what? Groans loudly and rolls eyes. Keep reading, how much worse can it get?

Heat flashed through him, the desire to ram and force, to crush her, spread her, take her delicious sweetness in absolute possession.

Me--> ... the desire to ram and force, to crush her...? That much worse, huh?

Once the hero is abruptly reminded that his voluptuous little virgin is a princess and he will be killed if he passes that misplaced barrier that is, let's say... about four inches within her, he's out of steam and bloody mad.

Mr. Hero thinks he has problems? What about me? I'm left to rework the scene so that it makes anatomical sense. I'm also forced to blank ram and force, to crush her out of my mind just to be able to get on with the book.

In other news, I finished the RIP III Reading Challenge hosted by Carl V of Stainless Steel Droppings. This was my first year participating and I had fun reading two books that I probably wouldn't have if not for this challenge. For this challenge there were a few different reading options, I chose Peril of the Second which required that I read two darkly themed books and review them.

I completed:

Mina: The Dracula Story Continues by Marie Kiraly
Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Another book I read during the challenge time period that I did not include in the challenge, but really fits is Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn. I loved this book!

In just a day I will begin writing in the NaNoWriMo Challenge. NaNoWriMo covers the whole month of November or whenever I make it to 50k words. Since this is my first go at this challenge and I have no idea how time consuming it will become, I just want to apologize in advance if my blog posts come slower than my usual slowness. I don't know how much time I'll have for reading during the month of November.

Oh yeah, Jace has a drawing going on her blog for some pretty handmade book thongs. Go forth and enter!

Well, I'm off to carve a pumpkin and finish making my daughter's costumes for Halloween. Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Sharing Knife (Beguilement): Review


Book: The Sharing Knife: Beguilement
Author: Lois McMaster Bujold
Series: Sharing Knife, Volume One
Category: Fantasy
Sensuality: Warm

At eighteen years old, Fawn Bulefield finds herself in a predicament that she is unable to share with her family. Determined to deal with her problem on her own, she leaves her family's farm and sets out on a journey to a new town and life. While traveling alone, Fawn is taken by a malice (creatures that are made up of other dead creatures). She tries to fight them off to no avail, and then a man shows up to help her. Fawn later finds out that the man's name is Dag and he is a Lakewalker (a race of people who kill malice's) Dag had been tracking the malice and that was how he found her.

Fawn and Dag are soon faced with another malice that proves to be more of a problem. During the fight with the second malice Fawn is able to kill the creature with Dag's sharing knife that has been blessed by death. The kill mis-enchants the knife, leaving Dag and Fawn to find out how to deal with the knife that has inadvertently intertwined their fates.

Beguilement is a Romantic Fantasy with the fantasy elements taking a backseat to the romance. By that I mean that there is no intricate world building or fantastical appearances, except for when dealing with the malice's. The overall driving force of the story is the romance. The world itself is simple enough with (at this point) two different groups of people. Farmers and Lakewalkers. The relationship between the two groups is a wary one, with both sides having preconceived notions about each other. Lakewalkers are looked at to be dangerous because they are thought to have magic and be able to beguile simple farm folk. And Lakewalkers tend to think farmers aren't too bright. This difference in background makes Dag and Fawn's burgeoning romance a hard pill to swallow on both sides of the fence.

The story flows at an intermediate pace, unfolding the world layer by layer as the characters actions deem it so, making the book character driven, rather than plot driven. Since I liked both Dag and Fawn, I didn't mind reading about them figuring each other out, finding love, and dealing with discrimination from outsiders. Though, if I hadn't liked one or both of them, then the story might not have worked for me. The plot is there, but is slow in coming. It is one of those predicaments where the "something more" can be felt looming just under the surface and you're just waiting for it to come. It doesn't in this volume.

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the story. Ms. Bujold's writing is naturally enchanting, her discrpitive voice is subtle and lends a magical feel to the overall book. For some readers the May-December romance between Dag and Fawn may be a problem, but I had no trouble with it. I found the romance to be lovely. If I had a complaint it would be with the publisher who split volume one and two into two books. They should have been one as book two picks up directly where one leaves off. No fair! Good for me that Legacy is already out. Beguilement was my first book by Ms. Bujold, but after falling in love with her writing it won't be my last. Grade B+.

Excerpt

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Heart of Stone: Review


Book: Heart of Stone
Author: C.E. Murphy
Category: Urban Fantasy
Series: Negotiator Trilogy, Book 1
Sensuality: Kisses

Margrit Knight is a tough New York City attorney. She spends her days as a Legal Aid attorney and her nights running in Central Park. One night while running Margrit comes across a man in the park who sets her on edge. The guy is very tall, pale and blonde. After a brief exchange with the stranger Margrit leaves. That night while watching the news she learns that there has been a murder in Central Park. A woman was killed and the man described by the witness sounds a lot like the man she came across in the park.

Margrit takes this knowledge to her on/off again boyfriend and cop, Tony, thinking that it would be the last bit of involvement she would have with the case. But the man from the park seeks Margrit out. His name is Alban and he claims he's innocent but needs Margrit's help to prove it. Margrit is wary of him as he has done a few things that seem beyond human capability. To get her to trust him completely Alban lays it all on the table and reveals his true nature to Margrit, showing her that he is a gragoyle. After inexplicable proof, Margrit has no choice but to believe Alban. And when another murder happens in Central Park and Alban is with her at the time, she believes him to be truly innocent of the crimes and sets out to help him.

Through helping Alban, Margrit gets sucked into the world of the Old Races. She becomes a one woman avenger for a selkie who has had her pelt stolen, a go between for a Vampire and a Dragon, and a defender for Alban. All the while having Tony and the police department breathing down her neck, and unknowingly being targeted by the real killer behind the Central Park deaths.

Heart of Stone started out a little slow for me. I liked the tone of the book and the characters, but the story drug along for about the first 200 pages, laying the groundwork for what was to come, I think. After that passed, the story took off at break-neck speed and didn't let up. Margrit was a sore spot for me at first, too. She came off harsh in the beginning chapters, and I could find no real reason in the story or her back story as for why she was so snappish. But as the story picked up, I began to warm to Margrit, and by the end I really liked her.

Criticisms aside, I did enjoy most of the book. The list of characters is a little long, but not hard to keep track of. I really liked Daisani, the vampire businessman, and Janx, the dragon gangster. Margrit's interactions with them were some of my favorite scenes. I also enjoyed Alban. He is a little unsure of himself when it comes to Margrit and he's not the aggressor in the relationship, but he had a strong presence that made him great. I loved that Margrit is an African American protagonist. It is rare to come across a series centered around an AA character, especially one not written by an AA author. I always applaud writers that are able to step outside of racial boundaries and write about multicultural characters. (One of the reasons why I heart Nalini Singh as well).

As far as beginnings go, I think that Heart of Stone is a strong one. Ms. Murphy's writing and characterization is strong, as is her world building. The Old Races is an interesting take on paranormal mythology, one that I found refreshing. The story ended with a thread that promised more to come, but enough closure to make the book satisfying, and aside from my minor qualms--I really enjoyed Heart of Stone. Grade B-.

Excerpt

Monday, October 13, 2008

Coraline: Review

Book: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Category: Young Adult
Series: No

Coraline is the story of a young girl named Coraline Jones. Her family had just moved into a old home that has been converted into flats. With both her parents busy with work and having little time for her, Coraline finds herself very bored. She tries to fill up her days by exploring the grounds of the old house, and with visiting her neighbors. Miss Spink and Miss Forcible are two old ladies that used to be actresses. They drink tea with Coraline while telling her of their theatre days. Mr. Bobo lives up stairs and trains mice. Her neighbors, while nice, are really no better than her parents when it comes to listening to her, they even call her Caroline, not Coraline, though she has corrected them many times.

On on particularly boring day, Coraline tells her father that she has nothing to do. He suggests that she explore the flat.
"Count all the doors and windows. List everything blue. Mount an expedition to discover the hot water tank. And leave me alone to work."
Coraline sets out on her exploration. She counts 14 doors in her flat and notes that one is locked. Curious about the door, she asks her mother where it goes. Her mother pulls out an old black key and shows her that the door leads to nowhere. The other side of the door has been boarded up with bricks that separate the Jones' flat from the empty one next to them.

Coraline finds this interesting but thinks nothing more of it until one day her mother and father are out for the afternoon. Coraline, having nothing else to do, gets the key to the door and unlocks it. She is surprised to find that the bricks are no longer blocking the way. She walks the long corridor and enters another flat exactly like her own, furniture and all. Coraline is greeted by a woman that looks a lot like her mother, only she has large black buttons in place of her eyes.

The woman tells Coraline that she is her other mother, and that she would like it if Coraline stayed. Coraline meets her other father, who also has buttons for eyes. She explores the other flat and finds that everything on the other side is just a little bit better than home. The toys come to life, the food is tasty, her other mother and father have time for her, the other neighbors (with button eyes) don't call her Caroline, and a cat talks to her. Though, life appears most extraordinary on the other side of the door, Coraline is wary. The more she explores, the stranger the other side becomes.

Coraline goes back to her real home, but her mother and father are still gone. A day passes with no sign of them and then Coraline gets a message from her parents through a mirror telling her that they need help. Coraline believes that her other mother has something to do with her parents disappearance and sets out for the other side to find them. Soon Coraline realizes that there is more to the other side than she first thought, and what she finds is quite horrific.

Essentially, Coraline is the story of good vs evil: Coraline vs her other mother. It is also a story of courage. Coraline has to play a dangerous game with the other mother to win back her previous life. She bargains for her parents, and there is a real chance that she will lose, not only them, but her own life. But Coraline is brave and never lets the fact that deep down she is afraid keep her from her goal. For someone so young this is a great challenge to face alone. Coraline faces it head on.

Coraline was a creepy story with a spooky atmosphere and bits of dry humor sprinkled in here and there to break the darkness of the book. The illustrations by Dave McKean, offered a visual that, though, at times bordered on disturbing, played nicely to the mood of the book. Overall, I had a great time reading Coraline. I look forward to seeing the movie adaptation and hope that it is just as spooky. Grade A.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Salon: Reading and Writing

The Sunday Salon.com

Today is my first go at Sunday Salon even though I signed up a long time ago. I read Nadia's of The Bookworm's post and became inspired.

I'm juggling three books right now. Coraline by Neil Gaiman is the first, which I am reading as a part of Carl V's RIP3 Challenge. This is an interesting Young Reader book that involves a young girl named Coraline who ends up in an alternate world much like her own except everyone from her real life is known of as the "other" in this place. The others in this book are strange and have buttons for eyes. It is freaky in a deliciously creepy way.

On an interesting note, Coraline has been made into a movie. It releases Feb 6, 2009. Here is a quick behind the scenes look.

I'm halfway through Heart of Stone by C.E. Murphy. This is the first book in her Negotiator Trilogy that follows a New York City lawyer, Margrit Knight. I'm finding this book really cool. Why? Well, lets just say that those stony gargoyles that are supposed to remain perched on the tops of gothic inspired buildings, don't. I'm a fan C.E. Murphy's writing. I think the draw is in her female protagonists. They do not easily fit into any preset heroine mold, which is refreshing.

The last book I'm juggling is Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair. I have most of Ms. Sinclair's back-list, but this is the first of me reading her work. I'm halfway in and wondering why I waited so long to read one of her books. Kel Paten is just lovely, and Jace Serafino isn't so bad himself. Oh, and the ladies are great as well. Excellent book so far.

With any luck I will have reviews up for all three of these books sometime next week.

Finally, I have entered the NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. Beginning November 1st I will have exactly one month to pen a 50,000 word novel (175 pages). No pressure, huh? Luckily for me I've connected with some seasoned NaNo writers in my region and they are a lot of support. I've already told myself that I'm just going to have fun with it. If I finish--great, and if I don't, then at least I tried. :)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Silent in the Grave: Review


Book: Silent in the Grave
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Series: Julia Grey, Book 1
Sensuality: Kisses

Very rarely do I come across a book that I lose sleep over. Even if I really like a book, most times I am able to put it down when it's time for bed. Only the books that go beyond enjoyable to enter great status are able to leave me sleep deprived. So as I sit here rubbing my tired eyes and yawning over the keyboard, I can honestly say that Silent in the Grave was one of those books. A great one, that is.

From the first sentence in which Lady Julia Grey is looking upon her husbands convulsing body as he dies on the marble floor, I was hooked.

"To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husbands dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor."

From this point forward, I knew that this book would be a special one.

In 1886 London, Lady Julia Grey has just lost her husband Edward to a weak heart, leaving her a young widow. Though Julia knew that her husband was ill, and had been prepared for his death, she is left not knowing what to do with herself now that she is no longer a wife to Edward. She decides that after her year of mourning is over that she will leave London to join two of her brothers in Italy. But her plans are thwarted when the enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane brings to her attention that her husband had hired him prior to his death after receiving ominous letters that he believed threatened his life. Brisbane is convinced that The young Mr. Grey was hurried along to his grave by the writer of the letters. Julia dismisses Brisbane's claims, thinking him to be cruel to come to her saying such things after her husband had just died. She believes that Edward's death was natural and that the letters were nothing more than a jest. But the seeds of doubt have been planted.

A year passes and Julia is just coming out of her widow weeds, when while cleaning her husbands study she comes across a letter addressed to him with malicious intent. Brisbane's words come back to her of the letters that her husband had been receiving, and Julia realizes that there is a good chance that her husband was murdered. She takes this evidence to Brisbane to ask for his help in finding her husbands murderer. To Julia's dismay, Brisbane is aggravatingly nonchalant about the matter now that a year has passed since he brought it to her attention. After threatening to find the murderer alone, he relents and agrees to help her. Through their investigation, Julia's eyes are opened to the people around her, revealing their darkest secrets, and bringing her unwittingly close to the murderer.

I really loved this book. Lady Julia Grey's smart narrative along with her blind innocence in some matters while being overly wise in others made her a very real and very relatable heroine/protagonist. Before the death of her husband, Julia's life fit into a perfect little box. She was a wife, a daughter, and a sister. Coming from a family of daring individuals, Julia was simply boring. She spent so much of her life trying to be unlike her eccentric family members, and attempting to be the wife that her husband wanted, that she had lost herself in a world of self imposed normality.

After her husband's death, Julia is slowly able to spread her wings. She stops caring so much about what she should do and does what she wants to do. The growth of Julia's character was one of the highlights of the book, another being Nicholas Brisbane. Brisbane is dark, brooding and elusive, while remaining honorable. The fact that Julia is so put out by him, when she is normally the picture of control, made for a delightful budding romance. And then there's the supporting cast of characters that consists of largely of Julia's family, her service staff, those who aid in the investigation, and the occasional pet. With a cast so large it would be easy to forget and mix the characters. To the credit of Ms. Raybourn, that never happened. Each of the characters introduced had personality and were brought to life through Julia's eyes.

Silent in the Grave was a great book. From the opening scene--to the witty and self deprecating humor of Lady Julia Grey, to the cast of characters that add an eclectic mix of eccentricity, nobility, scandal, and pride--right down to the very last word, I was thoroughly immersed in the story. The second in the series, Silent in the Sanctuary, is waiting for me on my nightstand. More sleepless nights ahead of me, I think. Grade A.

Excerpt