Thursday, December 29, 2005

Book 92: The Elusive Flame

TITLE: The Elusive Flame
AUTHOR: Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
STARTED: December 22, 2005
FINISHED: December 29, 2005
PAGES: 488
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Cerynise Edlyn Kendall stood at the lofty windows of the front parlor and, through a wealth of tears, gloomily observed the people scurrying along the lane traversing Berkley Square.

SUMMARY: [From] Cerynise Kendall has been left destitute and in dire need following the death of her doting patron and protectress. A brilliant young artist tossed from her home with only the clothes on her back, Cerynise must now turn to a childhood companion for assistance - the dashing sea captain Beauregard Birmingham - and beg him to provide her with passage to the Carolinas. She seeks a new home and a new life across the waters, but all depends upon the kindness of a charming adventurer who was once the object of her youthful infatuation.

Beneath Birmingham's rugged exterior beats a heart as large and wild as the Atlantic, and Beau readily agrees to aid Cerynise — even offering her his name in marriage, albeit temporarily, to protect his longtime friend from scandal. But perilous secrets, determined enemies and tempests of the sea and soul threaten their future and safe passage even as bonds of camaraderie are miraculously reforged as bonds of desire and affection becomes passion and love.

The long-awaited sequel to one of the most cherished love stories of our time!

REASON FOR READING: It is indeed a sequel to a book I loved, so I decided to read it.

THOUGHTS: This book was not as good as the first. The characters seemed bland, as if they were card board cut-outs. The plot was the usual; there was nothing unique about it. I didn't feel any passion or chemistry between the characters and, for me, that is a key point of a romance novel.

That being said, Woodiwiss' writing is still very enjoyable. Her skill with words makes up for the lack of everything else.

MISCELLANEOUS: I just bought another Woodiwiss novel, we'll see how she fares.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: "A Problem from Hell" America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power
RN: The Othe Boelyn Girl by Philippa Gregory and Compassion Fatigue by Susan D. Moeller

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Book 91: One Night For Love

TITLE: One Night For Love
AUTHOR: Mary Balogh
STARTED: December 17, 2005
FINISHED: December 21, 2005
PAGES: 375
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Despite the early hour and the chilly weather, the yard of the White Horse Inn in Fetter Lane, London, was crowded and noisy.

SUMMARY: [From] It was a perfect morning in May...

Neville Wyatt, Earl of Kilbourne, awaited his bride at the altar - when a ragged beggar woman raced down the aisle instead. The cream of the ton saw him stare, shocked, then declare that this was his wife! One night of passion was all he remembered as he beheld Lily, the woman he'd wed, loved, and lost on the battlefield in Portugal. Now he said he'd honor his commitment to her - regardless of the gulf that lay between them.

Then Lily spoke her mind...

She said she wanted only to start a new life - wanted only a husband who truly loved her. She had to leave him to learn how to meet his world on her terms. So Lily agreed to earn her keep as his aunt's companion and study the genteel arts. Soon she was the toast of the ton, every inch a countess fit for the earl, who vowed to prove to his remarkable wife that what he felt for her was far more than desire, that what he wanted from her was much more than... One Night for Love.

REASON FOR READING: I needed something for the plane ride.

THOUGHTS: Like usual, I continue to love Mary Balogh's work. The characters were unique and so was the plot line. The fact that neither character was incredibly flawed in their view was a great support for the novel. Both Neville and Lily had an inner strength that is often missing from most romance novel characters. The chemistry between the two was not spectacular, but it was present.

The one downside, I couldn't get over the fact that it was the woman who had to changed to fit the man's world. For some reason that bothered me. The twist in the end was also relatively easy to see early in the book.

MISCELLANEOUS: I got nuthin...

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Elusive Flame by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
RN: "A Problem From Hell" America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power

Monday, December 19, 2005

Book 90: The Devil You Know

TITLE: The Devil You Know
AUTHOR: Liz Carlyle
STARTED: December 12, 2005
FINISHED: December 17, 2005
PAGES: 407
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Do you believe in universal truths?

SUMMARY: Frederica d'Avillez is sure she will never marry. She's had a disastrous London season, and now her longtime beau has thrown her over for a more eligible miss. But if Freddie can't have a husband, she's hell-bent on experiencing at least one night of unforgettable passion. Where better than in the arms of the dashing rogue Bentley "Hell-Bent" Rutledge? So what if he's a rake, scoundrel, and all-round devil?

Scandal trails in Bentley's wake and fair maidens usually steer well clear of him - and vice versa. But when the opportunity presents itself, Bentley can't resist Freddie's exotic beauty. When their wild, reckless passion has dire consequences, Bentley is forced to choose between honor and freedom. And Freddie soon realizes that Bentley's devil-may-care facade is just that - for she has unwittingly unleashed his dark secrets... and secret desires.

REASON FOR READING: She's a new author who had been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time.

THOUGHTS: Wow, this was a good book. The writing and multiple story levels were amazing. Carlyle had a web of intricate plots going that, instead of falling into chaos, meshed quite nicely. Her writing seemed to be more sophisticated than most other romance novels and the book benefited because of it. The two lead characters were written with such depth that it was difficult not to be drawn into their lives.

The one critique I had with this book is that Carlyle introduced characters left and right with little time left for the reader to remember the role they play. This book had so many characters that I almost had trouble keeping up with the role they played in the plot.

Overall, a great read. I'm glad that I have one more book by her waiting for me at home.

MISCELLANEOUS: Yes, I do believe in universal truths.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep, at least for now.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: One Night For Love by Mary Balogh
RN: I have no clue. I'm limited in my own reading choices because I am on winter break right now. My grandmother, however, keeps on telling me of books I should read before I go home. Most of my fun reading, however, is going to get pushed aside for books I need to get through for my thesis and Media Studies Comprehensive exams.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Book 89: A Pirate of Her Own

TITLE: A Pirate of Her Own
AUTHOR: Kinley MacGregor
STARTED: December 11, 2005
FINISHED: December 12, 2005
PAGES: 307
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: I have been told, by sources most reliable, of an incredible hero.

SUMMARY: [From] He is the Sea Wolf, a dreaded pirate who stops English navy ships and frees impressed American sailors. Few know Morgan Drake's name, and none guesses at his past. Except, that is, a nosy Savannah reporter named Serenity James. Determined to protect his secrets at any cost, Morgan sets sail for Savannah... and Serenity.

All her life, Serenity has longed for adventure. As a woman, though, she's lucky even to be tolerated in her father's newspaper office. Then she's kidnapped by the bold, sexy pirate whose story fired her imagination, and his embrace Serenity finds adventure beyond her wildest dreams.

REASON FOR READING: I seem to be in a "Pirate books written by Scottish authors" kick.

THOUGHTS: Not bad, not great. The story was old with only a few new twists. The characters were well written and multi-dimensional. They did not, however, leap off the pages. The writing was mediocre but included some descriptive detail. To me, the best part of the novel was the dialog. MacGregor can write arguments like no one else.

MISCELLANEOUS: The guy on the cover was really not attractive in the least.

RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it]

CR: The Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle
RN: One Night For Love by Mary Balogh

Book 88: Blow Me Down

TITLE: Blow Me Down
AUTHOR: Katie MacAlister
STARTED: December 8, 2005
FINISHED: December 10, 2005
PAGES: 359
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "You know what your problem is?"

SUMMARY: [From] In the Internet game of "Buckling Swashes," two die-hard enemies find themselves comrades at arms against a merciless rival, and discover that-on the virtual high seas and in real life-love can tame the most fearsome of pirates.

REASON FOR READING: I *heart* Katie MacAlister

THOUGHTS: I *did not heart* MacAlister in this lackluster work. The plot was flat and extremely unbelievable. It takes a lot to get me to say that. The characters were boring and so was the story. I just keep reading in hope that MacAlister's usual wit would shine through. While there were a few lines that made me laugh, this book, overall, was not worth the read. I was disappointed. I just wish she had written a pirate novel set in the usual pirate times. Turning it into a video game world doomed the story from the start. All the modern storylines just made me want to gag. They were useless, poorly devised, and poorly written.

MISCELLANEOUS: The pirate on the cover is so a Jack Sparrow rip-off.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): PBSing as soon as I'm home from Winter Break.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it]

CR: A Pirate of Her Own by Kinley MacGregor
RN: The Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle

Book 87: Let it Be Love

TITLE: Let It Be Love
AUTHOR: Victoria Alexander
STARTED: December 6, 2005
FINISHED: December 8, 2005
PAGES: 373
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "We are a rather grim group today," Oliver Leighton, the Earl of Norcroft, noted to no one in particular and gazed idly at the usual gathering of his closest friends in the lounge of their favorite club.

SUMMARY: [From] Dashing Jonathon Effington, the Marquess of Helmsley, has had more than one lady willingly fall into his arms. But he's so delicious none has ever complained at their inevitable parting. And while Jonathon's no stranger to passion of the flesh, his heart has remained untouched. Until now...

At each Christmas Ball, Jonathon selects a delectable lady to share the pleasures of the evening - after all, it's a holiday tradition! But he is shocked to discover that his choice is replaced by an enchanting stranger who surprises him with a proposal of marriage. Beautiful Fiona Fairchild is desperate - only a wedding will save her sisters and her inheritance. But Jonathon has no interest in marriage, and what starts as a shocking proposal turns into a scandalous proposition that might ruin them both...

REASON FOR READING: It seemed seasonal.

THOUGHTS: Alexander continues to amaze me with her books. I was reading this for a fluff piece to help get me through finals week. I couldn't put it down. For me romance novels, and I won't lie about this, really are not about the plot. This book, however, it was the plot that kept me reading. Alexander created an inventive story that had me flipping the pages late into the night.

Her writing, as always, was superb. The one-liners were the most witty she's ever written. The characters had such a chemistry between them that I felt it leaping off the page.

This was one of her best works.

MISCELLANEOUS: I want to own the book the wrote in the story.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Definitely a keeper.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister
RN: A Pirate of Her Own by Kinley MacGregor

Book 86: The Pirate Prince

TITLE: The Pirate Prince
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: December 3, 2005
FINISHED: December 6, 2005
PAGES: 407
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: He took a faceful of sea brine, flung the stinging salt water out of his eyes with a furious blink, and hauled back on the oars again and again with all his strength.

SUMMARY: [From] On a calm moonlit night, as the scent of jasmine and pine embraced the island of Ascension, the pirate prince Lazar di Fiori returns with lethal grace to avenge what was stolen from him: his kingdom, his birthright, his soul.

Allegra Monteverdi, the daughter of Lazar's sworn enemy, proves an uncommonly powerful adversary. She throws herself on his mercy, her courage and beauty touching his cold, unforgiving heart. He agrees to spare the lives of her family - but only if Allegra sails away with him as his captive. For his quest for vengeance still burns fiercely, and he will settle for nothing less than Allegra's body and soul.

Alone at sea with this dark, intriguing man, moving between seduction and fear, Allegra gazes into eyes as deep and mysterious as the night and sees who this pirate really is. Lazar - the prince of her childhood dreams. Though he was rumored to be murdered years ago, she always believed someday he would return. But it will take more than her love for this pirate prince to bring peace to her beloved home. For Lazar must face the demons of his shattered past - if he is to forge the destiny that is theirs to claim.

REASON FOR READING: It was new and there.

THOUGHTS: As much as I love Foley's books, this one was surprisingly good. I did not go in expecting much and came out loving this book. The characters were fascinating and so were the back stories Foley created for them. Her writing was above par once again. The only downside to this book was that things felt rushed.

MISCELLANEOUS: I must now read the rest of the books in the series.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): I plan on keeping it for the time being.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Let It Be Love by Victoria Alexander
RN: Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister

Monday, December 05, 2005

Book 85: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

TITLE: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
STARTED: November 30, 2005
FINISHED: December 3, 2005
PAGES: 234
GENRE: Graphic Novel

FIRST SENTENCE: Wake up, sir.

SUMMARY: [From] A wizard attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. Fearful for his safety, the wizard kept him imprisoned in a glass bottle for decades. After his escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On the way, Morpheus encounters Lucifer and demons from Hell, the Justice League, and John Constantine, the Hellblazer. This book also includes the story "The Sound of Her Wings" which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl, Death.

REASON FOR READING: I came across it while and work in the library and just decided to check it out. Some nagging voice in the back of my head *coughPetecough* told me I had to read it.

THOUGHTS: I'm not in love with the art, but the story is fantastic. This is my first experience with Gaiman (all my friends love him) and it was quite the enjoyable. The plot line was extremely interesting. I particularly like the world Gaiman created. The final chapter about Death was the most addictive. I want to know more about her.

I will clearly continue reading this series and shall endeavor to try a Gaiman novel at some point.

MISCELLANEOUS: Thank goodness Pete has the rest of the books in the series because the library does not.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Back to the stacks it goes.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley
RN: Probably another romance novel.

Book 84: Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order

TITLE: Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order
AUTHOR: Mark Crispin Miller
STARTED: November 24, 2005
FINISHED: Decemeber 3, 2005
PAGES: 343
GENRE: Political Science

FIRST SENTENCE: On Independence Day of 2001, back when it was still permissible - indeed, obligatory - to mock the President's substandard English, Bush visited the Jefferson Memorial, ostensibly to venerate the Father of American Democray.

SUMMARY: [From] Read an American newspaper or catch the news on U.S. television and you might get the impression that America's current leadership is "mainstream:" perhaps a bit more conservative and in its foreign policy more belligerent than its predecessors but still a federal authority that functions well within America's political traditions. But as Mark Crispin Miller argues here with great clarity and effect, we are in fact living in a state that would appall the Founding Fathers: a state that is neither democratic nor republican, and no more "conservative" than it is liberal. He exposes the Bush Republicans' unprecedented lawlessness, their bullying religiosity, their reckless militarism, their apocalyptic views of the economy and the planet, their emotional dependence on sheer hatefulness, and, above all, their long campaign against American democracy. Abraham Lincoln once observed that if the United States should ever be subverted, it would be conquered from within. That, Miller argues, is what will finally happen here, unless Americans - left, right, and center - become aware of this regime's intentions and work together to reclaim the nation for republican democracy.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in MDIA 530: The Rhetoric of Propaganda.

THOUGHTS: While I agree with most of Miller's arguments (I consider myself an insanely liberal democrat), I take great issue with his methods. Miller sets out to explain to his readers how the whole of the American public is being duped by one man's administration. Unfortunately, he takes one too many harsh digs at the President and his administration. He crosses from critic to harasser and basically nullifies his entire argument. The second half of the book consists almost entirely of bashing Bush. While I don't support most of the President's policies and plans, I would never deem to take as many below the belt pot shots as this man does.

There were many parts of the book where I thought Miller made a great point about the Bush administration's use of media and political manipulation but then proceeded to cross the line into personal attack rhetoric. If Miller was attempting to convince anyone he failed utterly. I support most of his points, but I was disgusted with the way he wrote this book.

This book would be a phenomenal read and argument, but it was too much of a partisan attack for me. The writing and factual content were amazing. The digs killed it.

MISCELLANEOUS: I still can't believe this book was assigned at my school.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Selling back to the bookstore.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
RN: The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley

Book 83: Not Quite a Gentleman

TITLE: Not Quite A Gentleman
AUTHOR: Jacquie D'Alessandro
STARTED: November 27, 2005
FINISHED: November 29, 2005
PAGES: 374
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Nathan Oliver gripped the worn leather cache of stolen jewels to his chest and leaned back against the rough bark of the towering elm to catch his breath.

SUMMARY: [From] Three years ago, Lady Victoria Wexhall was humiliated when Nathan Oliver waltzed brazenly out of her life after favoring her with one glorious kiss... her very first!

Now, when her father insists she pay a visit to Nathan's family estate in Cornwall, the pampered Society beauty devises a plan to drive the heartless rake mad with desire, then drop him cold. Because the man is a cad - and he will rue the day he trifled with her affections!

But Victoria's plan isn't the only plot that's afoot. Nathan's sworn duty to the Crown has immersed him in a perilous intrigue, and he is certain this infuriatingly tempting lady is somehow involved. Using his winning charm and sensuous allure, Nathan intends to discover the lady's secrets.

And the dashing rogue is bound and determined to prove that, while not quite a gentleman, he is every bit a lover!

REASON FOR READING: I'm not quite a lady...

THOUGHTS: I shall definitely try this author again. The story was interesting and the writing was both addictive and well done. D'Alessandro did a great job of creating multifaceted characters without making them overly dramatic. Some of the scenes she paints were just plain wonderful; she has a talent for descriptive language. My main complaint, the supporting characters did not hold up as well to the main characters and that made some of the plot points weak.

MISCELLANEOUS: Her name his hard to type.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keeping for possible use in a paper next semester.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Cruel and Unusual by Mark Crispin Miller
RN: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Book 82: A Christmas Carol

TITLE: A Christmas Carol
AUTHOR: Charles Dickens
STARTED: November 9, 2005
FINISHED: November 28, 2005
GENRE: Literature

FIRST SENTENCE: Marley was dead: to begin with.

SUMMARY: [From] A miser learns the true meaning of Christmas when three ghostly visitors review his past and foretell his future.

REASON FOR READING: Twas assigned in my ENG 205: The Literature of Fantasy class.

THOUGHTS: I've done a staged reading of this book so many times that it was nice to just sit down and read it. I love this classic tale. It's the only Dickens I've actually been able to make it through thus far. Dickens may be overly word (in my opinion) but I can't get enough of this story. I may have to make it a tradition to read it every holiday season.

MISCELLANEOUS: I love the movie version with the Disney characters.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Selling back to the bookstore. I want my own copy but I want a nice copy.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Not Quite a Gentleman by Jacquie D'Alessandro
RN: Cruel and Unusual by Mark Crispin Miller

Book 81: The Reluctant Bride

TITLE: The Reluctant Bride
AUTHOR: Leigh Greenwood
STARTED: November 23, 2005
FINISHED: November 27, 2005
PAGES: 373
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Tanzy Gallant watched with relief and awe as the towering mountains drew near.

SUMMARY: [From] Can a mail order bride find love with her future husband, even if he seems to be a dangerous rogue?

REASON FOR READING: I was in the mood for some fluffy mcfluffsalot.

THOUGHTS: Now, I'm not saying men can't write romance novels... I'm just saying that this man can't write romance novels. The characters were flat, the plot was dull, and the writing lacked depth. I thought something was off after the first fifty pages, it took me flipping to the author's page to realize why. I was surprised to see a man's picture on the back flap. Perhaps it's just this author, but part of me felt weird reading a romance novel written by a guy. I don't know why, but I felt as if my father had walked in on me reading something I shouldn't.

I've read a lot of romance novels and, to me, this one just felt sterile. It was too difficult to feel the characters emotions. It was like the Greenwood took an okay plot and then tried his damnedest to remove any sense of depth and emotion.

MISCELLANEOUS: Part of me wants to find another romance novel written by a man just to contrast and compare. Perhaps I shall make that my next bookstore mission.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): On to PBS it goes.
RATING: 3/10 [Poor, lost interest]

CR: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
RN: Not Quite A Gentleman by Jacquie D'Alessandro

Book 80: The Duke

TITLE: The Duke
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: November 20, 2005
FINISHED: November 23, 2005
PAGES: 400
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Many years ago, as a curly-headed youth on grand tour, he had fallen madly in love with beauty and so had stopped in Florence to take drafting lessons from a bonafide Italian master.

SUMMARY: [From] Driven to uncover the truth about the mysterious death of his ladylove, the Duke of Hawkscliffe will go to any lengths to unmask a murderer. Even if it means jeopardizing his reputation by engaging in a scandalous affair with London's most provocative courtesan - the desirable but aloof Belinda Hamilton.

Bel has used her intelligence and wit to charm the city's titled gentlemen, while struggling to put the pieces of her life back together. She needs a protector, so she accepts Hawk's invitation to become his mistress in name only. He asks nothing of her body, but seeks her help in snaring the same man who shattered her virtue. Together they tempt the unforgiving wrath of society - until their risky charade turns into a dangerous attraction, and Bel must make a devastating decision that could ruin her last chance at love.

REASON FOR READING: I *heart* this series.

THOUGHTS: I should have read the series in order. This book, while a decent read, paled in comparison to the other books in the series, namely Lord of Fire and Lord of Ice. The plot was inventive and the characters were fine, but it just seemed lackluster. Not Foley's best work, but still enjoyable. Some of the scenes *coughlibrarycough* will stick with me merely because they were written quite well. Foley has a knack for writing emotions.

MISCELLANEOUS: Such an inventive title...

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): On to the PBS it goes.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Reluctant Bride by Leigh Greenwood
RN: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Book Spree

So.... I decided to hit Borders before meeting my friends for a movie earlier this evening. Bad idea. I went on a bit of a spree. I haven't been to a bookstore in so long that I guess I felt that I had to make up for lost time.

I bought:

Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister
Let It Be Love by Victoria Alexander
The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh
The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley
Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss
Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
Casanova in Bolzano by Sandor Marai
Courtesan by Dora Levy Mossanen

I actually finished my current read earlier today so now all my new purchases are screaming out at me to read them next. I don't know which book will be the lucky winner.