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.