Thursday, February 24, 2005

Book 12: Lord of Ice

TITLE: Lord of Ice
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: February 23, 2005
FINISHED: February 24, 2005
PAGES: 417
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: With a hard-eyed stare, Damien Knight, the earl of Winterley, swung the long handled axe up over his head and slammed it down with savage force, cleanly splitting the upright log down the middle.

SUMMARY: [From] Damien Knight, the earl of Winterley, is proud, aloof, and tormented by memories of war. Though living in seclusion, he is named guardian to a fellow officer's ward. Instead of the young homeless waif he was expecting, however, Miranda FitzHubert is a stunning, passionate beauty who invades his sanctuary and forces him back into society. Struggling to maintain honor and self-control, Damien now faces an even greater threat: desire.

A bold, free spirit, Miranda has witnessed the darkest depths of Damien's soul - and has seen his desperate need for love. But before she can thaw his unyielding heart, she must endure a terrifying nightmare of her own...

REASON FOR READING: It's the sequel to Lord of Fire, how could I not?

THOUGHTS: Gaelen Foley strikes again. She takes what is usually a cookie-cutter genre and turns it into something spectacular. I have always love how Foley can use words and emotions to craft intriguing stories. I also love how she can make her male leads vulnerable and real without making them seem wimpy and weak. Damien is struggling with PTSD in an age where those affected by that disorder are considered insane. He comes across as vulnerable and in need of aid, but he remains a strong and masculine character. Foley balances Damien with the ever present fiery heroine, Miranda, who is neither brash nor unbelievable.

Foley is one of the few romance novel authors I can stand to read again and again without becoming bored.

MISCELLANEOUS: I must get my hands on the rest of the series.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
RN: Slightly Married by Mary Balogh

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Book 11: Beloved

TITLE: Beloved
AUTHOR: Bertrice Small
STARTED: February 17, 2005
FINISHED: February 22, 2005
PAGES: 464
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Happy birthday, Zenobia!"

SUMMARY: [From] The daughter of a powerful desert chieftain, beautiful raven-haired Zenobia, a descendent of Cleopatra, witnesses at an early age the shocking brutality of renegade Roman soldiers and vows to hate all of the blue-eyed strangers forever. Despite that pledge, she falls hopelessly and passionately in love with Marcus Alexander Britanus, a Roman. And it will take all her cunning and skill in war to keep the precious erotic rapture she can find only in his arms....

REASON FOR READING: Ancient History + Romance = Happy Meghan

THOUGHTS: This book was beautifully written. The text was rich with vivid detail and description. I could actually see the city in my head. Sadly, however, it took me almost 250 pages to fall in love with the story. To be honest, I hated the first 250 pages. I thought it was the worst romance novel I had ever read. The beginning is overly cliched and fluffy. The use of pet names drove me nuts and the lead female character did not strike me as that strong. Zenobia came across as vindictive instead of assertive, harpy instead of independent and proud, and power-hungry instead of responsible. Marcus Alexander Britanus came across as weak and overly vulnerable.

Enter Emperor Aurelian.

His character was amazing. I know that he was suppose to be the bad guy, but I was just drawn to him. He seemed to have more depth and personality than any of the other characters in the book. I would rather spend time with him than any of the lead characters. He is what made the book a worthwhile read. It's odd that he was not mentioned in any synopsis I read. Personally, I think he made a better match to Zenobia than Marcus did. The chemistry and interaction between the two is what gave this book life.

And holy cow is this book a wall banger. I think they average break between the "bedroom" scenes is something like 10 pages. I felt as if this book was more about "carnal relations" than plot. But it worked in the end.

MISCELLANEOUS: While I was reading this, I visited the National Gallery of Art for a class. There was this one painting that just drew me. I ended up looking at it for a good 20 minutes. It showed a woman leading Roman legions. When it was time for me to go, I looked at the placard. The painting was titled "Zenobia Leads Her Legions." The book never said it was based on history, but now I have to find out how (or if) the book and the painting are connected to each or history.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep (Only because I want to read the Aurelian scenes again)
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Lord of Ice by Gaelen Foley
RN: Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Book 10: Shadow Dance

TITLE: Shadow Dance
AUTHOR: Susan Andersen
STARTED: February 8, 2005
FINISHED: February 16, 2005
PAGES: 376
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The flight was like no other Tristan MacLaughlin had ever taken.

SUMMARY: [From] Amanda Charles was a showgirl with Grace Kelly good looks and lovely violet eyes that were wide open to both the golden glamor and sequined tawdriness of Reno. But like the dancers in A Chorus Line, she did it for love. She wasn't the tough party girl Detective MacLaughlin expected when he took over "The Showgirl Serial Killer" case. Instead she was an ice maiden, cold to his advances. If her heart pounded whenever he was near, he couldn't know it, for Amanda was an expert at hiding her emotions - until the night the killer wanted her. Now the bait in a deadly trap, Amanda would soon be drawn into a thrilling gambit, racing through the neon-lit streets toward ecstasy...or death.

REASON FOR READING: I thought it was going to be about a ballet dancer...

THOUGHTS: Aside from mistaking the entire plot of this book before I read it, it wasn't too bad. It was more mystery than romance. The "Showgirl Serial Killer" was kind of hokey, but the author was able to pull it off without making me laugh. Amanda, the female lead, came across as strong and independent without being too stubborn. I liked that she and I both share a rapid hate of guns. Tristan, the male lead, sounded quite dreamy, but his Scottishness seemed forced.

For a book that was supposed to be about dance, there was very little description of dance. That was disappointing.

MISCELLANEOUS: Never again will I buy a book without reading the real synopsis.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Giving to Melanie in "The Box."
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Beloved by Bertrice Small
RN: Maybe Lord of Ice by Gaelen Foley

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Book 9: A Visit From Sir Nicholas

TITLE: A Visit From Sir Nicholas
AUTHOR: Victoria Alexander
STARTED: February 3, 2005
FINISHED: February 7, 2005
PAGES: 384
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Affectionately Yours, Lizzie.

SUMMARY: [From] Everyone knows that an Effington always gets her way ... but this time it's not going to be easy!

Lady Elizabeth Effington simply could not suitably feel the joy of the Christmas season. Ten years had passed since she had boldly declared her love for Sir Nicholas Collingsworth. He rebuffed her and set out to seek his fortunes, while Elizabeth was left a woman scorned. Now, she discovers in horror that the inheritance she's managed beautifully was never hers to control. No, power over her finances lay in the hands of the last man she ever wants to see again: Nicholas!

But running Elizabeth's life isn't part of Nick's plans. He's intrigued when he discovers that the frivolous and flighty girl he once knew has turned into a beautiful and capable woman. Nick vows to woo -- and win -- her, and while she seems unmoved by his fervent seduction, he swears he will not rest until she accepts that most precious gift of all -- the gift of love.

REASON FOR READING: I still *heart* romance novels.

THOUGHTS: Out of all of the Victoria Alexander books I've read, this one is by far the most amusing. I found myself laughing out load (in a fun way) while reading this book than I have for any other book in a long, long time. There was some scenes that were just so endearing (Pirate King!) that I know that this is one of the best romance novels I've read. (And I've read a lot of romance novels.)

While there was very little sexual tension between the two main characters (something I usually consider vital for a good romance novel), it didn't seem to hurt this book. The characters were believable without the dramatic tension. Their responses to each other and their situation seemed very realistic.

MISCELLANEOUS: Oh no! Beware the dashing Pirate King! He is looking for wenches.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Shadow Dance by Susan Andersen
RN: I'll figure it out later.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Book 8: No Man's Mistress

TITLE: No Man's Mistress
AUTHOR: Mary Balogh
STARTED: January 31, 2005
FINISHED: February 2, 2005
PAGES: 358
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The picturesque village of Trellick, nestled in a river valley in Somersetshire, was usually a quite little backwater.

SUMMARY: [From] Lord Ferdinand Dudley is accustomed to getting what he wants...that is, until he appears at the door of Pinewood Manor, attempting to claim his rightful estate, and is met by the bewitching fury of Lady Viola Thornhill. She refuses to cede him the home she calls her own. He refuses to leave. So the contest begins. Each day under the same roof brings its share of frustration...and temptation. But Viola knows it is a battle she cannot afford to lose. Marriage is out of the question, and she will be no man's mistress even as Dudley's unnerving presence threatens to melt her resolve. Against his better judgment, Lord Ferdinand Dudley is beguiled. This maddening beauty has stirred him as no woman had before. And now he is bound and determined to make her his own.

REASON FOR READING: I *heart* romance novels.

THOUGHTS: Mary Balogh does it again. This is a romance novel that is not cheesy, mushy, or overwritten. The plot was great and the twists were even better. I got very frustrated at some points... but in a good way.

MISCELLANEOUS: The cover is gorgeous, sensual without being overtly sexual. I didn't feel embarrassed to read it in public. Not that would in the first place.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: A Visit From Sir Nicholas by Victoria Alexander
RN: Shadow Dance by Susan Andersen

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I never would have thought...

I'm going to have to buy this book. I graduated from CCS as well.

* * *

CCS grad to publish novel

Staff Writer

Budding author and former Cooperstown Central School graduate Eugena Pilek plans to release her first novel, "Cooperstown," this July.

It is a work of social satire, playing on quirky, small-town drama, Pilek said. The novel, fittingly, is structured into innings instead of chapters, and is set between the 1950s and the 1970s.

The story is about a psychologist who moves to Cooperstown from a larger city. The book follows him as he and his family attempt to adapt to its small-town culture. Pilek said the psychologist's personal struggles "parallel the plight of the town."

The characters in the book are all fictional, but the issues they deal with and the backdrop are not. Pilek makes reference to many well-known landmarks, including Doubleday Field and the statue of James Fenimore Cooper.

The story deals largely with commercialism, Pilek said, asking, "When is it too much."

"When I lived there, things were a little more subtle," Pilek said. "Now, it is like a mini-amusement park in itself."

Pilek, 34, said she always knew she wanted to write this book, which actually evolved from a short story about herself. Writing in her spare time, she said the book took her four years to complete.

"[Releasing a book] is very surreal," Pilek said. "It is a process that goes on and on-like waiting for a baby."

Pilek said, with her first book, she is "throwing her work out to the world." But that is not holding her back. She said she has already begun working on a second novel, but is not ready to release any details on it.

During the day, Pilek works in New York City as a books editor for US Weekly magazine and as a book reviewer for the Media Mix section of the Washington Post.

Pilek, a CCS graduate in 1988, went on to Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., where she graduated with a degree in English. She later traveled and lived abroad in Edinburgh, Prague and Taiwan.

While abroad, she met her fiance whom she plans to marry this summer in Cooperstown.

Pilek has dedicated her first novel to her high school English teacher, Nick Alicino, who passed away last year. He had a profound impact on her writing, she said.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Book 7: The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great

TITLE: The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great
AUTHOR: Steven Pressfield
STARTED: January 24, 2005
FINISHED: January 30, 2005
PAGES: 348
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: I have always been a solider.

SUMMARY: [From] Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) ascended to the throne of Macedon at the age of twenty. He fought his greatest battles--including the conquest of the mighty Persian Empire--before he was twenty-five and died at the age of thirty-three, still undefeated by any enemy. His reputation as a supreme warrior and leader of men is unsurpassed in the annals of history.

In the brilliantly imagined first-person voice of Alexander the Great, acclaimed novelist Steven Pressfield brings to life his epic battles, his unerring command of his forces, and the passions and ambitions that drove him. A full-blooded, multidimensional portrait, THE VIRTUES OF WAR captures Alexander's complex character. Alexander was a fearless commander who moved with such daring and speed that no army could withstand him; a driven leader whose ambitions knew no limits; and a man with boundless compassion for his troops, deep friendships with his generals, and profound respect for his enemies. Yet in the end, his noble qualities were subsumed by his insatiable lust for glory.

No one writes about battles as brilliantly as Pressfield, and in THE VIRTUES OF WAR he vividly describes the seminal conflicts of Alexander's career, revealing the tactics behind them and capturing the blood, heat, and terror of the battlefield. He follows Alexander's forces as they faced and defeated armies that far outnumbered them; delivers a thrilling frontline report from Gaugamela, the scene of Alexander's greatest victory; and, in a memorable vignette, shows the great conqueror finally halted, not by an enemy but by the refusal of his worn-out troops to march any farther.

REASON FOR READING: Ancient Historical Fiction... I heart it.

THOUGHTS: Not bad. Not great. But, not bad. The book was unevenly paced and that drove me nuts. There were pages upon pages of description of military battles. The author listed names and ranks and litanies of units and it just rattled on like an ancient Homeric epic. While it was interesting to know, these lists read so slowly that I found my eyes glazing over. The battle scenes themselves were very descriptive and authentic. The feelings and scenes the author created were addictive. However, I felt as if I was watching a documentary on military strategy. I could see the colored blocks moving across the field in my head. While Pressfield uses detailed prose I was thinking in terms of huge blocks instead of individual combatants.

While the battle litanies read slowly, there were other areas of the book read quite quickly. Pressfield uses such elegant prose and vivid imagery that some pages just flew by in an instant. The one scene that stands out in my mind was when Pressfield has Alexander describe why horses go to battle. It was amazing! I will re-read the book again just for that vignette.

The most annoying feature of the book is how it is structured. The plot itself is fine is how the plot is told that drove me nuts. Pressfield makes Alexander the narrator. That wouldn't be a problem, but Alexander is talking to the reader as if they are Itanes (his page boy). It was just so silly. Every time he talked to Itanes, I felt as if Pressfield was breaking the invisible wall that usually exists between the reader and the book. It was almost disturbing.

MISCELLANEOUS: The dust jacket of the book is quite beautiful

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep. My addiction to hardcovers strikes again
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: No Man's Mistress by Mary Balogh
RN: No clue.