Thursday, December 28, 2006

Book 102: Whispers of the Night

TITLE: Whispers of the Night
AUTHOR: Lydia Joyce
STARTED: December 25, 2006
FINISHED: December 27, 2006
PAGES: 308
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Alcyone Carter was frightened.

SUMMARY: [From] When four London seasons fail to find her a suitable match, Alcyone Carter does the unthinkable and treks across Europe to marry a foreign nobleman she's never met. But on her wedding night, she discovers her handsome, enigmatic husband is not the man he claimed to be. Rather than live a lie, she escapes his estate into the darkness. But her husband - ignited by his desire and pride - risks everything to follow her from the depths of the Romanian forests into the decadent heart of Istanbul, where they're forced to confront the sensual passion they've discovered - and the dire threat that could cost them both their lives.

REASON FOR READING: It was Beth's 2006 Great Romance Novel Trade Christmas Gift to me. (I should probably get around to reading the one she gave me for the 2005 Great Romance Novel Trade Christmas Gift.)

THOUGHTS: This book needed to be longer. Much longer. At a scant 308 pages, I felt like the author as abridging her story. Alcyone and Dumitru were fascinating characters thrown into an even more fascinating story. The character development and plot, however, were lacking simply because Joyce did not give her story enough room to grow. The lack of space means that the characters come off more flat and one-dimensional than they should, and the story moves way to first. As I was reading, I felt like the author needed to slow down and catch her breath. Every plot moment and change in storyline worked, but they came one on top of the other.

Alcyone comes across as a woman who cares only for her freedom, mathematical thoughts, and money. The way Joyce writes, however, the reader can tell that there is so much more underlying her heroine. Forced by her father to marry a man with a title, Alycone heads out to southeastern Europe to marry a baron, only to find out that she's actually married the wrong man. It is in the scene where she deduces her mistake that the reader can clearly see there is more depth to this character than Joyce is allowed space for. Alcyone has real feelings and real reactions, but their merely glossed over for the sake of space.

Dumitru has the same problem. He's a baron prince, a caring man, and a spymaster. Sadly for the story, the spymaster bit is, again, glossed over. Joyce rushes through the politics and the quagmire that is international espionage simply to fit her story into the "usual" number of pages in a romance novel. This makes Dumitru's plot oftentimes confusing and almost unnecessary. Yes, it's cool that he's a spymaster. And, yes, it gives his character and the plot more intrigue, but if you're going to confuse your readers, why would the author throw that in at all?

The answer, Joyce is trying something new.

She's thrown those two characters into scenes and locations rarely scene in the modern romance genre. Istanbul? Slovakia? The Ottoman Empire? Wha? All of this makes for spectacular scenes and descriptions but, yet again, all of this is glossed over. There are moments in depth, such as when our leads must cross the chilly Danube, but, for the most part, these scenes are hurried. Our heroes are captured and what should be a dramatic drawn out scene, takes only a few pages. Then our heroes reach Istanbul. Dumitru is cast into the dungeon for his spying ways, and Alycone is forced into an English dinner party where she must find someone to help her save it. It is the turning point of the book, and it takes up scant pages of the story.

I kept on screaming, "More!" at this book. The writing is descriptive and imaginary, with a vocabulary that actually wowed me. The plot and characters could make for a phenomenal read, but it all came too fast, and was too short. I was almost exhausted at the end of this book; so much was crammed into so little space. Had Joyce added another 200 pages or so, her story would have been smoother, her characters more vibrant, and her plot even more intriguing.

MISCELLANEOUS: This is how you do a romance cover.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): I'll let Beth read it before I put it on
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Monday, December 25, 2006

Book 101: To Rescue a Rogue

TITLE: To Rescue a Rogue
AUTHOR: Jo Beverley
STARTED: December 22, 2oo6
FINISHED: December 25, 2006
PAGES: 417
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: A London night is full of sounds, but the barefoot young woman had not let any of them halt her flight until she heard the rattle of a carriage.

SUMMARY: [From] After Darius "Dare" Debenham rescues her from a potentially ruinous late-night adventure, Mara St. Bride vows to return the favor by rescuing Dare. A year after everyone thought he had perished at Waterloo, Dare turns up in England with little memory of what had happened to him and an addiction to opium. As Dare struggles desperately to overcome his dependency, the last thing he thinks he needs is someone like sweet, stubborn Mara meddling in his life, but she is determined to bring joy and light to the man she loves. A resourceful heroine who refuses to settle for anything less than true love and a tortured hero with a scandalous past eventually earn a happily-ever-after in this quietly powerful romance.

REASON FOR READING: It fit in my carry-on.

THOUGHTS: I probably should have read the plethora of books that came before this one in the series. More than once I found myself going, "Huh?" While the book can stand on it's own, so much is brought from the previous books that it is very easy to miss the nuances. I know I certainly would have enjoyed this book more if I had read all the other books in the series first.

I enjoyed two things about this book. First, the attention to detail. Beverley does not simply gloss over the whole "Regency" period. There are certainly details written about the balls, clothes, and horses. But Beverley goes beyond that. She also write about things like books needing their pages cut to be read, jewlery store purchases, and chamber pots! She also writes about the exhibits of London that were well attended at the time. Most authors neglect these everyday aspects of Regency London and it was nice to read about them for once.

Secondly, you can actually see how Dare and Mara would work as a married couple. Too often all authors write about is the chemsitry and lust between their leads. While I failed to feel any chemistry between Dare and Mara, I could actually feel the love. Beverly has them doing little things like holding hands, and having fanciful conversations. She shoes how they could work as husband and wife without hitting the reader over the head with such details.

Aside from those two things, this book wasn't anything special; just your typical regency romance. Like I stated earlier, it probably would have been much better if I had read the other books in the series. Then again, this once story did not whet my appetite enough to look for the other books.

MISCELLANEOUS: What's with naming heroes Darius?

RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Books 99-100: Maus, A Survivor's Tale (Vols. I & II)

NUMBER: 99 and 100
TITLE: Maus, A Survivor's Tale, Vol. I: My Father Bleeds History and Maus, A Survivor's Tale, Vol. II: And Here My Troubles Began
AUTHOR: Art Spiegelman
STARTED: December 19, 2006
FINISHED: December 20, 2006
PAGES: 159 and 144 (Total; 303)
GENRE: Graphic Novels

FIRST SENTENCE: [From Vol. 1] It was summer, I remember.
[From Vol. 2] Summer vacation.

SUMMARY: [From - Vol. 1] It is the story of Vladek Speigelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father's story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity. Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek's harrowing story of survival is woven into the author's account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century's grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

[From - Vol. 1] Maus was the first half of the tale of survival of the author's parents, charting their desperate progress from prewar Poland Auschwitz. Here is the continuation, in which the father survives the camp and is at last reunited with his wife.

REASON FOR READING: These have been on my TBR list for quite some time.

THOUGHTS: This was the perfect set of books to read after finishing Night. I connected with the author and his personal struggle. Here he was, using the book has a meta-fictional and meta-autobiographical tool to help him understand his father. Throughout the book, Spiegelman himself surfaces through the text as something more than a character or storyteller. In fact, Spiegelmen breaks the story more than once to talk about writing the story, of finding the story, and coming to understand what he is doing. He becomes the reader and, in that way, the real reader connects with the heart of the story.

Another aspect of the book that worked well was the use of the animals as the characters. It makes the story a microcosm of itself. We can read about the Holocaust all we want, but we never can truly understand what happened unless we lived through it, and most of us have not. In using the animals, Spiegelman is taking the abstract to humanize the abstract. We can understand cats killings mice (the Germans killing the Jews in Maus), it's natural, we've grown accustomed to that idea and image. Seeing that in drawn form, and then connecting it to the Holocaust is jarring because humans killing humans on the scale of genocide is a concept we can never truly comprehend. Spiegelman tries to make us understand, mainly because he himself is trying to understand. He wants to get his father and his worrisome, perfectionist ways. The art and illusion seem a roundabout way of making the story tangible, but it works - particularly when the very human picture of Spiegelman's father in his prison garb makes an appearance at the end of volume II. It's as if Spiegelman is saying, "This is the story of my father as a young man, and here he is."

Spiegelman is kind to no one in this book. He does not sugarcoat his "characters," nor does he try to completely rationalize their actions. He makes his father seem like a possessed man who is living only in the past. Vladek, the father, is shown in modern day doing things he did in the camps to survive. Spiegelman himself comes off as detached and selfish. He doesn't get his father, and though he tries in the book, it comes across as an obligation. He let's everyone be. It's all out there, bare, for the reader to dissect themselves.

Maus works because it's not trying to be something, it just is. The reader can clearly see the author struggle with the book, his father and their relationship, and the Holocaust. Those are all things that the reader can identify with too. The book is a struggle, reading it is a mental struggle, and Spiegelman, by placing himself at the forefront of that struggle, ensures that Maus tells a dramatic and important story of history and the struggle to come to grips with that history.

MISCELLANEOUS: This takes courage.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Back to the library
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Monday, December 18, 2006


My friend Tony was trying to help me bridge the gap between now and Thursday, when I fly home for Christmas. In doing so, he passed me along to the Unsuggester at LibraryThing. I decided to play around and found some very interesting things.

I put Vince Flynn's Consent to Kill in and the unsuggester returned 75 books. I supposedly neither own nor read the books in the list. I actually

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  4. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  5. Vanity Fair : a Novel Without a Hero by William Makepeace Thackeray
  6. The Elements of Style by William Strunk
and have read...
  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  3. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  4. The Plague by Albert Camus
  5. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  6. The Elements of Style by William Strunk
  7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  8. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
In comparison, I put in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander and I have neither read nor owned any of the 74 books it returned. As a final test, I put in Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down. Again, I neither own nor have read the 74 books listed. I'm trying figure out what this means. I am either an eclectic reader, or the whole Vince Flynn book was a fluke.

Anyone home?

It feels very odd to be in the library right now. Last week, it was insane. Finals week has a way of turning the library into a kind of intellectual night club. Not so much this week. I just went upstairs to get a cart of books from the reference room, and it was eerily silent. I mean, a library is supposed to be quiet, but this was just odd.

Over the last two weeks, I've really come to place certain faces in certain seats. People tend to grab the same place to study over and over again. I also felt quite guilty for bringing a squeaky cart into the reference room because the noise would jar people out of their bibliographic and paper writing stupors.

Today, there was nothing to worry about. There was one person in the reference room. Everyone else has gone home for the holidays.

Now we librarians get to deal with the carnage and fall out that comes at the end of the semester.

The book drops, they are scary.

The carts of books waiting to be shelved. Even scarier.

Book 98: On Truth

TITLE: On Truth
AUTHOR: Harry G, Frankfurt
STARTED: December 17, 2006
FINISHED: December 17, 2006
PAGES: 101
GENRE: Philosophy

FIRST SENTENCE: Not very long ago, I published an essay on bullshit, entitled On Bullshit (Princeton University Press, 2005).

SUMMARY: [From] Having outlined a theory of bullshit and falsehood, Harry G. Frankfurt turns to what lies beyond them: the truth, a concept not as obvious as some might expect.

Our culture's devotion to bullshit may seem much stronger than our apparently halfhearted attachment to truth. Some people (professional thinkers) won't even acknowledge "true" and "false" as meaningful categories, and even those who claim to love truth cause the rest of us to wonder whether they, too, aren't simply full of it. Practically speaking, many of us deploy the truth only when absolutely necessary, often finding alternatives to be more saleable, and yet somehow civilization seems to be muddling along. But where are we headed? Is our fast and easy way with the facts actually crippling us? Or is it "all good"? Really, what's the use of truth, anyway?

With the same leavening wit and commonsense wisdom that animates his pathbreaking work On Bullshit, Frankfurt encourages us to take another look at the truth: there may be something there that is perhaps too plain to notice but for which we have a mostly unacknowledged yet deep-seated passion. His book will have sentient beings across America asking, "The truth-why didn't I think of that?"

REASON FOR READING: Saw it on a cart I was labeling, and I had to see if the author was just as pretentious as ever.

THOUGHTS: Yup, still has pretentious as ever.

I have this sneaking suspicion that Mr. Frankfurt is just going out of his way to be an ass. There is something in his superfluous vocabulary and overwrought prose that makes me think he sees himself as better than everybody else. I could not actually get into the subject of this book because I was too busy dreaming of socking the author.

This is the second of Frankfurt's books where I've wanted to say, "Thank you, sir, for philosophically investigating a common subject to an obvious conclusion." We need truth. Truth is good. Truth keeps society going. Wow, what a profound conclusion. Honestly, I never knew that.

Sure, this could be a great book, but Mr. Frankfurt's holier-than-thou tone really just makes me want to kick him in the shins.

I get it. You're smart; you don't have to be hoity-toity about it.


KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Back to the library
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

Friday, December 15, 2006

Book 97: Night

TITLE: Night
AUTHOR: Elie Wiesel
STARTED: December 14, 2006
FINISHED: December 15, 2006
PAGES: 109
GENRE: Memoir

FIRST SENTENCE: They called him Moshe the Beadle, as though he had never had a surname in his life.

SUMMARY: [From] An autobiographical narrative in which the author describes his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, watching family and friends die, and how they led him to believe that God is dead.

REASON FOR READING: I came across it as I was working overtime in the stacks and just decided to take it home.

THOUGHTS: You can't review this book. You can talk about the prose, but you can't actually review memoirs, and this memoir specifically. How do you talk about the plot and characters of someone's life, of someone's past, of the death of someone's religion and childhood? You can't. Wiesel's book is important because it is so open. It lays bare a 15-year old boy's innermost soul.

The one part of this book you can review is the prose. It is stark. It is simple. And it is heart-wrenching. The basic prose leaves the reader feeling exposed and vulnerable. There is absolutely no hiding from Wiesel's story. And that is where my conundrum comes in. For me, this book was not so much about one man's struggle through hell; it was about the compassion of man. More explicitly, this book made me think about where human compassion fails.

It may just be me, but I found myself not really "feeling" Weisel's horrors. Last year, I read about genocide... a lot. Since I was writing about humanitarian intervention for my politics thesis and the Rwandan genocide in film for my media studies senior paper, I found myself reading mountains of articles and books on genocide throughout history. And, I think somewhere in my research, I became numb to the horrors of this travesty. The first few articles had me on the verge of tears; after I watched Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April in the same afternoon, I was depressed for 48 hours. But after that, nothing moved me any more.

That's why Night made me ask myself, "When does human compassion stop?" This book should have moved me to tears many times. It should have me gunning to rage against the genocide that is occurring in Darfur. Instead, I read it in one sitting, merely blinking through the most difficult scenes. Am I no longer a compassionate person, do I no longer care about the ravages against humanity that are ongoing as I type this, or has my brain simply shut down to save my sanity?

For me, Night is not simply about the horrors of on man's experience of the holocaust, it makes the reader questions how much horror they can stand. It forces them to ask themselves whether they are strong enough to act against genocide. It makes the reader questions who they are, how they perceive the ultimate crime, and what, if anything, they can do about it.

MISCELLANEOUS: What was the whole debate over this book? I remember there being something, but I'm not entirely sure what it was.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Returned to the library
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Book 96: What to Wear to a Seduction

TITLE: What to Wear to a Seduction
AUTHOR: Sari Robins
STARTED: December 12, 2006
FINISHED: December 13, 2006
PAGES: 384
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Barely taking in the birds chirping in the trees, the squirrels darting about, or the sun riding on the pine scented breeze, Prescott Devane strode down the path to the orphanage's guest house, his irritation at full boil.

SUMMARY: [From] "What does one wear to a proper seduction?" Edwina groaned as she stared at her reflection in the tall gilded mirror. "And what now? I'm putting on the clothing simply to have it taken off." And why would proper Lady Edwina Ross dress to seduce "London's Perfect Lover"? Because Prescott Devane, the notorious rogue, is the only one who can help the desperate lady with her scheme to catch a blackmailing fiend. Because no one else could play the role of a love-struck fiancé so convincingly. Because a faux engagement, secrets, the threat of scandal, and the promise of untapped passion are too tantalizing to ignore. Because, if the need arises, every woman should know what to wear to a seduction.

REASON FOR READING: Anything but a Harlequin

THOUGHTS: After all the crappy Harlequins I just finished, this book should have scored a 7 easy. It didn't. "Why?" You ask. Because the two lead characters have no flaws. They're perfect. Other people may not like them for whatever reason, but the way Robins writes her characters makes them perfect people. It was kind of disgusting. They were so perfect. I want flawed heroes. I want real people. Is that too much to ask.

Edwina arranges the fake engagement with our hero, Prescott (who recently save a child from burning to death), because she wants to help a friend. Prescott can't say no to a woman in need. Our two romantics are caught up a superfluous blackmail plot. Proper seduction, wooing, and falling in love-ness ensues.

Hero properly refuses past paramour. Hero stays at the side of ailing heroine. Heroine stands up for hero. Blah blah blah.

It was all so dreadfully boring. At least the characters had a little chemistry.

MISCELLANEOUS: I can't figure out if it is anatomically possible to copy the heroine's pose on the cover.

RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Book 95: No Bride But His

TITLE: No Bride But His
AUTHOR: Carly Bishop
STARTED: December 6, 2006
FINISHED: December 11, 2006
PAGES: 249
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: CNBC Special Report, correspondent from the scene, Superior Court of King County: ....

SUMMARY: [From] Undercover agent, J.D. Thorne is getting closer to uncovering the TruthSayers operation, which is full of dirty cops and dirty city officials. After J.D. talks with an old friend who is also a local judge, an attempt is made on his life.

Detective Ann Calder left her home and the battered women's and children's shelter she created to save J.D. from certain death. Ann knows someone is trying to kill J.D., but who?

Ann took him the only place she knew she could keep him safe. He needed time to heal. Home. In Cold Springs, Montana, the religious community where she was raised.

Annie Tschetter, as she was known, had left the community when she was young and she was not exactly welcomed back when she arrived with J.D. in tow. They tried to send her away finally Ann told Timothy, her brother, that J.D was her husband and he then let her stay but she had to follow the rules.

Ann has made a promise to herself when she left the community that she would never fall in love because then you cannot be free. No matter how hard Ann tries, she can't help the feelings that she has for J.D. and has had since the last case they were on together.

When J.D. is well enough he and Ann leave because he cannot put the kind people of the community at risk to save him. They would stop at nothing or no one to get him.


THOUGHTS: I have no idea what happened in this book. There was so some sort of vigilante group that was attacking our romantic pair. They were the bad guys working for good who were still bad. It made absolutely no sense. Somehow we arrive at a religious colony. Very weird. There was a SURPRISE! baby teenager.

I honestly am so confused by the plot of this book that my brain hurts.

Also, for a couple that was supposedly hot for each other since before the book started, there was absolutely no chemistry.

MISCELLANEOUS: No more Harlequins! Yippee!!!!!

RATING: 1/10 [Don't waste your time / Awful]

Make up your mind!

That's right, less than I week after I've started it, I've decided to kill the whole "Picture Book" feature. I realized that those updates were just regular blog posts, not a real feature.

How fickle is woman. At least this one.

I will try to continue daily updates, but I make no promises.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Hello, everyone. I am the labeler. I am the bane of Meghan's existence... or at least my predecessors were. They wouldn't print, or would print awkwardly - with smears everywhere. Once she was able to fix the smears, something on the computer would break. Then, once the computer was fixed, the labeler would break again. The first three months of her job were spent fighting with the labeler.

I, on the other hand, am a much better labeler. Aside from the weird installation of my resin roll, I work quite effectively. I do not smear. I do not have evil plastic cover strip. Best of all, my labels don't need to be ironed onto the books.

Then again, I don't like to stick to certain types of binding cloth. Oh well, you can't be perfect.

Besides, if the Library of Congress uses me, I should be darn good enough for a university library.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Picture Book

My roommate, Kristy, gave me this book journal for my birthday this summer. A few months later, my father gave me the exact same journal as a "just because" gift. I use it to keep track of books I want to buy and/or check-out from the library. I also use it to know which books I have borrowed from where. Two sections of the book are already devoted to this purpose. The middle section is for keeping quotes and such. I doubt I will follow that little bit, because I have this here online journal for such purposes. Instead, I'll probably use that middle section to continue to list what books I want.

The very last part of the book is a folder section. I have an index card there listing what books I have already read, and want to own as First Edition hardcovers. I also keep a ruler back there in order to cross out the books I buy or return to their original owner. No one ever said a neat freak, book lover didn't like lists.

The book is the perfect size to fit in even my smallest purse. Thus, when I know I will be out and about (around a bookstore or a library), I make sure to have this little sucker handy. The one downside, this analog format does not necessarily translate that easily to the digital "Wants" list I have on my computer. I also made an attempt at one time to have a coding system so I knew where to pick-up the books, but I found that to be to cluttered and difficult to read. Another downside is that I can't readily alphabetize this journal, so I spend an obscene amount of time going page by page, trying to cross out a book I know is on my list.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Book 94: The Man She'll Marry

TITLE: The Man She'll Marry
AUTHOR: Ann Roth
STARTED: December 6, 2006
FINISHED: December 10, 2006
PAGES: 248
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE:Cinnamon Smith slowed her rented sedan to a crawl and peered through the windshield.

SUMMARY: [From the back of the book] After a painful breakup and the loss of her job, Cinnamon Smith feels there's only one place she can go - her best friend Fran's bed-and-breakfast in the small town of Cranberry, Oregon. The first person she meets on her arrival is Nick Mahoney, Fran's handyman. Cinnamon's attraction to Nick is immediate, and the feeling is definitely mutual.

But Cinnamon has spent years working toward a certain kind of life, a life she can't have with Nick. Spending time in Cranberry, and with him, is beginning to change all that. Then she gets a job offer that would put her career goals back on track... Which means Cinnamon has to choose between the life she's always wanted and the love that's right in front of her.

REASON FOR READING: Must. get. through. Harlequins.

THOUGHTS: I'm getting really sick of reading and reviewing Harlequins. They just seem so insubstantial and flat. Come the new year, I am going to gorge myself on anything but romances in general and Harlequins in particular.

Nick and Cinnamon do indeed have a great romance and story, but it just wraps up way to nicely. Complete with the little bow of "Marry me?" And the big secret of Nick's dyslexia, not much of a sticking point at all. I really wish the whole drama surrounding the pair would have been Cinnamon's desire to marry a certain kind of man - the kind of man that is the opposite of Nick. She wants wealthy, upward leaning, highly educated, MBA, yada yada yada. Instead, she gets Nick the handyman. That whole scenario was more interesting than the whole, "I have dyslexia and reading is hard."

Roth clearly has a talent for both characters and plot, I only wish she had more pages in which to express herself.

MISCELLANEOUS: Seriously, Cinnamon. Please refer to my friend Jennifer's blog. My thoughts on this are in accord with hers.

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

Saturday, December 09, 2006

When you wish...

I was over at Sarah's Books - Used & Rare, reading her post about a reading journal that recently came into her hands. She says, "There's nothing so sweetly ephemeral as ephemera such as this."

Her post reminded me of me of a wonderful artifact that used to sit in the display case of the used bookstore I worked in during High School. It was a large encyclopedia about wines of the world. The owner of the book had turned it into a masterpiece. Wine labels, review slips, and notes had been added to the book over the years. Normally, I would have palpitations over seeing a book so used. In this case, however, I was moved by the previous owner's passion. All the writing and labels added to the quality of the book instead of detracting from it.

The book was so thick with additions that it no longer closed. It burst open at to a forty degree angle. There was no way this book would fit on a bookshelf with other books. It was an entity unto itself, and, from the first moment I saw it, I wanted to own it. Unfortunately, at the time, I could not afford it.

I go home about three or four times a year, and I always check to see if this book is still there. It always was, until this Thanksgiving. I walked in, looked at the case, and it was gone. My heart plummeted more than a little.

On the bright side, the one other book I've wanted to buy from the shop - a first U.S. edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula, rebound with red leather and a black leather bat - is still there. And the price dropped by a grand.

Maybe. One day.

If I wish hard enough.

Picture Book

Whoops. A little late on this one. That's what I get for having a random Friday off.

If you're like me - clipping lots of things from magazines, newspapers, calanders, etc. - this tool could sure come in handy. Levenger would get all my money... if I could afford it. While this single-sheet cutter is not too expensive, I keep on forgetting to order it. Has anyone used it before? Thoughts?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Picture Book

I was once asked, if I could reverse one natural disaster, which one would I give the etch-a-sketch end to? After much thought, and odd looks because I did not pick the Tsunami from 2004, I decided on the earthquake that tumbled the library of Alexandria into the sea. It's almost impossible to imagine what priceless treasures of literature and history were lost on that fateful day.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Book 93: Little Girl Found

TITLE: Little Girl Found
AUTHOR: Jo Leigh
STARTED: December 3, 2006
FINISHED: December 5, 2006
PAGES: 256
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: If the SOB said the Bulls "was robbed" one more time, Jack was going to get his gun and shoot the damn television.

SUMMARY: [From the back of the book] When a child was dropped on ex-detective Jack McCabe's doorstep, he vowed to guard her with his life. She had no one to claim here - except sexy caregiver Hailey Bishop. And both vulnerable ladies needed his protection from killers tying up loose ends - killers who might be dirty cops...

Jack worried the wasn't the right man for this job - not since the accident that had stripped him of his badge, his life. But together they formed a fugitive family, working to keep one another safe... and Jack felt whole for the first time in years. Maybe he was the one who'd been found and rescued after all.

REASON FOR READING: Must. rid. self. of. Harlequins.

THOUGHTS: Author thinks, "How can I get two people together in close quarters, have the marry, and get a kid all within 250 pages? I know, I'll come up with an insane plot involving the mafia and dirty cops that is never fully fleshed out, wrapped up hastily at the end, and involves the hero having a back story about taking a bullet to the hip. And my heroine! She must be carrying and curvy. Perfect."


MISCELLANEOUS: I have now matched my "books read" from last year.

RATING: 1/10 [Don't waste your time / Awful]

Picture Book

Today's image comes from BookLust, one of my favorite blogs. Ever! I suggest that everyone hop over there and dig around the archives. Ms. Storms, the blogger, is a fantastically addictive writer and one hell of an artist as well.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Book 92: Just for Christmas

TITLE: Just for Christmas
AUTHOR: Stella Bagwell
STARTED: November 30, 2006
FINISHED: December 2, 2006
PAGES: 251
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Hope Logan glanced at her wristwatch, then out the open door of the gift shop to the main waiting area of Maitland Maternity Clinic.

SUMMARY: [From] Hope Logan wanted only two things for Christmas—her husband, Drake, and the child he refused to give her. Drake had made it plain he had no desire to be a father...and it seemed his desire for Hope had disappeared as well.

Drake Logan didn't mind taking risks—but not with his wife. Their one shot at being parents had ended in disaster. He'd almost lost Hope then...and now it looked as if he was going to lose her anyway.

Then came Stevie....When Drake's young nephew arrived for the holidays, everything changed. Suddenly they seemed like a family—and they acted like it, too! Only, Stevie couldn't stay forever. And Hope and Drake had to decide if they loved each other enough to try again...or if their happiness would be Just for Christmas.

REASON FOR READING: The better to motor threw the Harlequins...

THOUGHTS: Compared to ALL of the Harlequins I've been reading lately, this one was surprisingly good. It had a dramatic realism that was missing from the other romances. Drake and Hope actually came across as, oh my goodness, real people. It was actually quite shocking. Their relationship had all the dynamics of any real-life couple in trouble. In this book, I was not so much intrigued by the whole "romance" and "plot" of the book. Instead, I was drawn to the connection that develops between two people who, while still deeply in love, are no longer sure they can work things out anymore.

Drake is a multi-layered character who loves Hope so much that he makes bad decisions. After Hope miscarried their child, he refused to have another baby because he was too afraid of losing Hope herself. In setting this standard, he begins to lose Hope by pushing her away. Drake still loves his wife, but he is so afraid of losing her that he does not notice that he's about to lose her anyway. On another level, Drake is so set in his belief that he will be a bad parent that he does not see that he has exactly what it takes to not repeat his parents' mistakes.

Hope is so determined to have a baby that she just pushes Drake away. The best part of this book is the way Drake and Hope interact because they refuse to compromise. It's this push a pull of wills that makes the book enjoyable.

The random drama surrounding the couple actually takes away from the book. I don't care about the abandoned baby, I don't care about the random hook-ups, I know this is all set-up for the rest of the series (which I would not avoid reading), but it detracts from the relationship at hand. I wish Bagwell had focused more on the struggles of the married couple. Drake and Hope were fascinating characters, everything else was just filler.

MISCELLANEOUS: Romance grab bags from the library are fun.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: I'm stopping this little bit... because it's just plain annoying.
RN: See above. Boo to unnecessary shtuff!

On the Job #3

There is a comedy of errors occurring as we speak. A part-timer in the Stacks office was trying to put a security strip down the spine of a book. She did not follow the maxim of "Don't force it." So the metal stick she used to guide the strip got stuck. Not just stuck, stuck. Jammed in there not moving an inch stuck.

We tried brute force. That failed.

We tried using another metal stick to widen the gap between the spine and the textblock. That failed.

Then my one boss broke out an heater and ironed the spine. That just worked.

Our next option was to stick the book in the freezer to see if that would dry the glue out.

New Feature!: Picture Book

Starting today, I'm going to start a new feature.... or at least try to start a new feature: Picture Book. I'll post a photo, cartoon, or whathaveyou that I find interesting. Today's picture comes from this random site after a random Google search for "Library Shelves."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Book 91: The Sheik's Secret Bride

TITLE: The Sheik's Secret Bride
AUTHOR: Susan Mallery
STARTED: November 29, 2006
FINISHED: November 30, 2006
PAGES: 251
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Oh, Mommy, look!"

SUMMARY: [From the back of the book] Single mom Liana Archer had read her share of romance novels featuring dashing, passionate sheiks. Still, she was astonished when sinfully handsome Malik Khan, Crown Prince of exotic El Bahar, hijacked her and her little girl off an airliner and into his lavish palace. Why would the sexy desert prince want a passable pretty school teacher from San Bernadino?

Dazed, breathless and mesmerized with desire, LIana quickly became Malik's royal bride. But dare she entrust her daughter - or her heart- to a man who would give them anything byt his love? Or might a caring American mother and child finally move this proud, imperious monarch and make his kingdom complete?

REASON FOR READING: Another short one on my way to 100. I am so cheating. But it's my list, so I make the rules. Muhahahaha.

THOUGHTS: I honestly could not enjoy this book because I kept on thinking of the political ramifications of everything that was going on.

1. Malik, the sheik, (god I love rhymes) steals Liana off of a plane. She's an American in a Middle Eastern country. While this book was written before Sept. 2001, I still say that would not have gone over well in the press. Even when Liana contacts the embassy later about her surprise marriage they tell her "Meh, nothing we can do sista." Somehow, I don't think that would happen.

2. Malik's people don't care that he married an American? If he's so beloved by his country, and loves his people so much, why would he up an marry a Westerner?

3. Clearly, marrying someone randomly in a desert nomadic ceremony, without their knowledge or consent is legal. Let's see that one hold up in a court of law.

4. A school teacher clearly makes the best royal ambassador for a country she's never been too.

5. And, even more clearly, the neighboring Arabic countries will readily take to a Western being a royal.

6. Malik, the sheik, wanders around with no royal bodyguards whatsoever. Clearly El Bahar is the safest country in the world and no one would want to assassinate an unguarded royal.

7. Malik, the sheik, is also a Western man in hiding. There was nothing remotely Middle Eastern about him. He's even portrayed as a cross between George Clooney and Cary Grant on the cover of the book.

I know romance novels ask the reader to suspend reality a little bit, but this was just too much.

MISCELLANEOUS: I want to go to Bahrain

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

CR: Just for Christmas by Stella Bagwell
RN: Little Girl Found by Jo Leigh

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Book 90: Love Slave

TITLE: Love Slave
AUTHOR: Mallory Rush
STARTED: November 28, 2006
FINISHED: November 29, 2006
PAGES: 221
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Time to say goodbye to your sister, Joshua."

[From the back of the book] The world believed the white slave trade was a relic of the past, but Rand Slick new better. And he had very personal reasons to infiltrate that dark business. But not even a man of his wealth and power could enter the slave baazar without help - the help of a very special woman.

Being auctioned off as a millionaire's plaything was the most dangerous assignment of private detective Rachael Tinsdale's career. But perhaps her shadowy client was the true danger. Night after night, she ached to share his secrets - and show him the joys to be found in the arms of a woman who was no man's slave.

REASON FOR READING: Trying to hit 100 and this one was short.

THOUGHTS: Note to self: Don't fall in love with man who plays crazy mind games.

I have no idea what Rachael Saw in Rand. First, his name is Rand Slick. Slick! He got to pick his own name and he picks Slick! Run away Rachael, run fast. Secondly, the first thing he does when he meets her is play a mind game with her. I'm sorry, I don't care how hot you are, if the first thing you do when we meet is pretend to be a thug, I'm gonna knee you where it counts. From there all Rand/Timmy boy (or whatever his real name is) does is play mind games with Rachael. I like you. I'll kiss you into submission. But I don't really want you. But maybe I don't. I'm not gonna tell you. Please play a white concubine for me. Woman! No, I love you. But I'm not good enough. Marry me! I played dirty to get my money. I'm saving my sister. Yada yada yada.

The writing was all over the place. While there was an overarching attempt at a broader plot, it never really came together. Really, I think the author was just trying to be kinky with the whole white slave trade thing, and it never really worked.

The book was convoluted, rushed, and just plain bad.


RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

CR: The Sheik's Secret Bride by Susan Mallery
RN: Little Girl Found by Jo Leigh

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Book 89: Come Back to Me

TITLE: Come Back to Me
AUTHOR: Josie Litton
STARTED: November 25, 2006
FINISHED: November 27, 2006
PAGES: 371
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: A rim of fire rises at the edge of the world, searing away gentle night, setting the sky aflame.

SUMMARY: [From] The most feared Viking to come out of the Northlands in a generation or more, Dragon Hakonson, brother to Lord Wolf and friend to Lord Hawk, hopes to steal a few days away by himself before entering into an arranged marriage with a Saxon bride.

But instead of tranquility, Dragon finds intrigue and passion when he has a chance encounter with a beguiling beauty disguised in boy’s garb. It is clear that the fiery-haired, fiercely willed Rycca is running away from something ... or someone.

Dragon is determined to uncover Rycca’s reasons for escape and see her safely to her destination. Yet rather than surrender herself to Dragon’s care, Rycca dares to defy him, disarm him, and even enchant him.

For Rycca has a secret gift that Dragon cannot see. Stalked by the tragic past, struggling to fulfill the promise of peace, only when it is too late does Dragon discover the truth: that the temptress who has stolen his heart is none other than the woman destined to become his reluctant bride....

REASON FOR READING: I bought the book because I want to read something involving Vikings.

THOUGHTS: More viking, less other stuff! Yea... I was looking for more metal helmets with horns, raiding, and the like. Maybe I should avoid the romance novels and start reading historical fiction - I think my expectations for a good romance are becoming WAY to high. This book was decent enough to make me curious about the other two in the series, but I still like the novel was lacking something - even though I cannot figure out exactly what.

Dragon (what sorta name is that?) and Rycca have no chemistry. Sure the lust after one another, but it does not leap off the page. This lack of chemistry means I fail to really connect to the characters. That being said, both characters are dynamic in their own ways. Rycca tries so hard to become a good mistress to Dragon's town that you can feel her pain when this go wrong. Dragon, unlike other romance novel heroes, does not automatically assume that his wife is guilty when his homestead comes up various forms of attack. I was surprised by that. Usually the husband believing the wife has wronged him is a major plot point. In this book, Dragon knew at the gut level Rycca was innocent and he set out to prove it without completely cutting her out. Dragon and Rycca's responsibility to one another is the main draw of the book. They may have been thrown together for political purposes, but they try to make it work, even when everything works against them.

MISCELLANEOUS: Seriously, more spiked helmets.

RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Love Slave by Mallory Rush
RN: The Sheik's Secret Bride by Susan Mallery

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Book 88: Light My Fire

TITLE: Light My Fire
AUTHOR: Katie MacAlister
STARTED: November 23, 2006
FINISHED: November 25, 2006
PAGES: 352
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Just leave everything to me."

SUMMARY: [From] Aisling Grey is juggling being a demon lord, a Guardian, and a wyvern's mate, even though she's keeping her distance from said wyvern, Drake, these days. But her presence is still required at a meeting of the green dragons. Since several attempts have been made on her life, Drake is sure to get protective of her. Which might not be a bad thing when war breaks out and all hell breaks loose-literally.


THOUGHTS: I think McAlister is slipping into her whiny heroine writing again. I remember Aisling being a tough, take no prisoners kind of gal. Now, I think she's mainly whiny, incompetent, and generally annoying. Seriously, why does Drake stay with her? She's more trouble than she's worth. Now she's barging into demon prince lairs, banishing them, and causing rifts between dragon septs.

I think I'm still reading this series because I want to see how much more McAlister piles onto this character: guardian, wyvern's mate, demon lord, prince of Abaddon, what next?. But, sadly, I am no longer enjoying this series like I used to.

MISCELLANEOUS: Be kind to dragons. For thou art crispy when roasted and taste good with ketchup.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): I'll hang onto it, only because it's a part of a series. But if the series goes further down hill from here, say goodbye.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Come Back to Me by Josie Litton
RN: Love Slave by Mallory Rush

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Book 87: Reflections in the Nile

TITLE: Reflections in the Nile
AUTHOR: Suzanne Frank
STARTED: November 19, 2006
FINISHED: November 23, 2006
PAGES: 528
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: There is a fissure in time - a channel through which, by certain combinations of astronomy, location, and identity, it is possible to leave the present.

SUMMARY: [From] One moment Chloe Kingsley, a Dallas artist vacationing in Egypt, is standing in an inner room of the legendary temple at Karnak; the next she is caught up in a vortex of energy and hurled through the centuries. Suddenly she finds herself clothed in a diaphanous gown, covered in someone else's blood, and called RaEmhetepet, a priestess serving the cow-headed goddess HatHor. Chloe Kingsley has entered a world as filled with mystery and dark secrets as the shadows of approaching night. The year is 1452 B.C.E. The pharaoh is a woman. Almighty Hatshepsut is fighting her nephew Thutmosis III for her throne while building a secret tomb in the eastern desert. And Chloe is bit by bit discovering the shocking truths about the extraordinary woman whose body she inhabits and the Sisterhood that claims her complete obedience.

Along with Cheftu, a brilliant young physician sent to attend her and who slowly wins her trust, she faces treachery, treason, and an upheaval destined to change the future of humankind. From plagues that plunge a nation into chaos, culminating in a night of consummate terror in which the firstborn of Egypt will die, to the flight of a group of slaves into the desert, Chloe and Cheftu will face choices of morality and courage that will determine their destinies. Their inner journey is ageless, their ultimate goal universal - the quest of the human heart to find its true domain, a love that nothing can diminish, not armies, nor death, nor the endless unraveling of fate.

REASON FOR READING: It's been on my TBR list for quite some time.

THOUGHTS: When I first started this book, it felt confused, choppy, and rather unfinished in its story and dialog. But I was also reading it while watching copious amounts of Thanksgiving week football. In the end, I could not put this book down. Either the writing evened out, or my attention span did; whatever the cause, this book really hit the spot with me in the end - kind of like my mom's tasty orange glazed carrots.

What I enjoyed most about this book was its heroine, Chloe. Instead of going all weak and "Oh my god! I traveled back in time! They have no showers or GAP stores! AHHHHHH!", she rolled with the punches. The author, however, did put a legitimate amount of yearning to go back home, eat a hamburger, and take a bubble bath into the heroine, but she was never whiny. Chloe was real. She realized that her situation was probably irreversible and decided to just go with the flow. Sure she tried to find a way home, sure she missed her sister, but she was also strong as hell. She realized that, if this was her lot in life, she should not forget to live - so when Cheftu walked into her life, she decided, "What the heck, I'm attracted to him..." She even went so far to save his life in the desert. She fought to live, but was not superhuman. She was Chloe, a modern woman in Ancient Egypt, who is a dramatic and extremely compelling character.

Cheftu becomes Chloe's healer, mentor, friend, and lover. When he looks at Chloe he sees RaEm, a priestess he had a fling with as a child. Chloe has taken on RaEm's appearance and all her memories, save for the all important emotional ones. Thus, Chloe and Cheftu have a very dynamic relationship. He knows she is not RaEm, but he can't put his finger on it... until he looks inside. Their push and pull at the beginning of the book creates tension that, even when released with their shared secret, sizzles constantly.

Throw these two fantastic characters into Exodus Egypt and, hoh boy, is it a great read. History, romance, elements of fantasy and luscious, descriptive writing combine for a whirlwind of a novel that brings the past to life. We're talking the tastes, sounds, feelings, and general Egyptness of Egypt coming to life in your hands.

It thrilled me beyond reason to find out that this book was the first in a series.


MISCELLANEOUS: Egypt! I will get to you one day.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep... and probably buy a hardcover copy at some point.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Light My Fire by Katie McAlister
RN: Come Back to Me by Josie Litton

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Book 86: Fantasy Lover

TITLE: Fantasy Lover
AUTHOR: Sherrilyn Kenyon
STARTED: November 18, 2006
FINISHED: November 19, 2006
PAGES: 307
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Possessed of supreme strength and of unrivaled courage, he was blessed by the gods, feared by mortals, and desired by all women who saw him.

SUMMARY: [From] For 2,000 years, Julian of Macedon has lived a curse of being a love-slave. When he is summoned to fulfill Grace Alexander's sexual fantasies, Grace is the first woman to see him as a man with a tormented past. Taking him out into the world, instead of keeping him in the bedroom, Grace teaches Julian to love again. But can that alone break the 2,000-year-old curse he is under?

REASON FOR READING: The plot sounded intriguing.

THOUGHTS: I read this book only a week ago, and I don't remember much. That is certainly saying something about this book's staying power. Honestly, aside from remembering that I identified with the heroine's love of books, I don't remember enough about this book to give it a proper review. That's what I get for waiting so long to type these things out.

MISCELLANEOUS: Oh New Orleans stereotypes...

RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Reflections in the Nile by J. Suzanne Frank
RN: Light My Fire by Katie McAlister

Book 85: Blaze of Glory

TITLE: Blaze of Glory
AUTHOR: Catherine Mann
STARTED: November 15, 2006
FINISHED: November18, 2006
PAGES: 378
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "I don't think we should see each other anymore once we get back to the states."

SUMMARY: [From] Air Force captain Bobby "Postal" Ruznick wouldn't consider working a job that didn't occasionally scare him to death. But nothing gets under his skin like sexy profiler Dr. Grace Marie Lanier. Not that Dr. Uptight Lanier could tolerate his risk-taking ways when they'd struck sparks off one another on assignment a year ago. Now it looks as though the two of them are stuck with each other once again.

Being paired with Bobby's Special Ops crew sends Grace Marie's calm, collected existence into a tailspin. Not only does she have an assignment of utmost importance to complete . . . but she's got little recourse except to turn for help to the one man who threatens her orderly world the most -- Bobby.

Now with one week to stabilize a situation that could destroy the lives of countless others, Bobby and Grace Marie are about to learn that to save the world, they'll have to risk their hearts.

REASON FOR READING: Military things and romance, two topics I seem to gravitate to...

THOUGHTS: This book is a lesson in how not to write.... anything, let alone romance. I'm having a hard time understanding why this author is "award-winning." This book was completely horrendous. I almost can't describe how poor the writing and plot were. I should have put this book down after the first 5-pages, but my whole "you start it, you finish it" drive kicked in.

This book does not deserve a real review because, when it comes down to it, when you make your supposedly alpha male, military man, romance hero sound like a ditsy teen girl, you've completely missed the mark.

Also, for the love of all things written, never do I want my adult heroes to say "Oh my god!" (hair twirl) as often as these two do.

MISCELLANEOUS: The cover is green because the book is radioactive.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Back to PBS, but I don't encourage anyone to take it.
RATING: 1/10 [Don't waste your time / Awful]

CR: Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon
RN: Reflections in the Nile by J. Suzanne Frank

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Book 84: Tender is the Knight

TITLE: Tender is the Knight
AUTHOR: Jackie Ivie
STARTED: November 13, 2006
FINISHED: November 15, 2006
PAGES: 350
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: There really was such a thing as one secret to many.

SUMMARY: [From the back of the book] Sweeping from the cultured salons of 19th-century London to the wild Scottish Highlands, Jackie Ivie's seductive new novel weaves the tale of a desperate lady and a ruthless laird whose only common ground is the territory of desire....

Beautiful and elegant, Elise, the Duchess of Wynd, has survived among the nobility by carefully cultivating a facade of cutting wit and heartlessness. Nothing ruffles her. And no man can break through her defenses....

A fierce Scottish warrior, Colin is the new Duke of MacGowan and - in polite circles - looked upon as no better than a barbarian. Nevertheless, he is a lord who brooks no defiance...and holds no rein on his pleasures....

Colin's very presence ties Elise's sharp-edged tongue: She is all too aware that he could be the answer to her prayers - or her worst nightmare. For Elise harbors secrets that could change the course of both their lives. But before she can reveal them, she must make the wild knight her own....


THOUGHTS: I haven't said this since I was in middle school, but "Gag me with a spoon."

This book was awful. After her first book, I thought Ivie could only go up. Boy was I wrong. Suffice it to say, this was not a good read. The plot was sloppy, and seemed to be filled with the need to cram every cliche humanly possible into one romance novel. The writing, while not horrendous, was disconnected and choppy. And, there was absolutely no chemistry or point, really, to the romance.

MISCELLANEOUS: The best part of the book was this:

Setup: Our heroine is kidnapped (obviously) and our large strapping Scot of a hero must come save her, even though he hates her (obviously). She's been taken by a rival clan of our hero (obviously), but they've thoughtfully allowed her to sleep wrapped up in her hero's plaid (obviously). Hero comes (obviously), knocks our bad guys out (obviously), and finds our heroine (again, obviously). Seeing her he states, and this is THE BEST part of the book, "Oh, good. They gift wrapped you."

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): To PBS before it's crapulousness infects the rest of my books.
RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

CR: Blaze of Glory by Catherine Mann
RN: Probably another romance novel, because Jennifer wants me to get to 100 more than I do.

Book 83: Magic Study

TITLE: Magic Study
AUTHOR: Maria V. Snyder
STARTED: November 12, 2006
FINISHED: November 13, 2006
PAGES: 392
GENRE: Fantasy

FIRST SENTENCE:"We're here," Irys said.

SUMMARY: [From] With her greatest enemy dead, and on her way to be reunited with the family she'd been stolen from long ago, Yelena should be pleased. But though she has gained her freedom, she can't help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways -- and her newfound friends and relatives don't think it's for the better.

Despite the turmoil, she's eager to start her magic training -- especially as she's been given one year to harness her power or be put to death. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia's throne for a lost prince -- and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians.

If that wasn't bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with all her new enemies.

REASON FOR READING: I absolutely loved the first book in the series, there was no way I was missing this one.

THOUGHTS: Snyder did not come close to slipping into a sophomore slump. This book did not have me reading it in one sitting (mainly because I was too darn tired), but I'm sure I would of if I had had the chance.

Yelena is back, and with it, her magical and mysterious life. Everything I loved about her in the first book was back in the second. She was strong willed, intelligent, and more than a bit fiesty. And while she may have done "stupid" things, she always went into those situations with her smarts and thought-out plans. I like a female character who doesn't simper. Magic Study also added depth to Yelena's character. She's exploring a new aspect of her live; her family, her past, and her magic are all uncovered layer by layer. Each layer stays with the character, and each change or discovery makes sense. There are no random "WTFs" as one reads. Everything has a purpose and a place, and nothing is for outright shock value, though there are certainly shocks.

Through Yelena, we come in contact with many new characters, and none of them drag the book down. Irys moves from killer to mentor with ease, but the tension between her pupil and herself always remains. Yelena's family bring a heart and another story to the series. Her parents are the comic relief in many cases, particularly when her mother scurries up a tree a time or two. They also prove a vital role into Yelena discovering her magical abilities. Her brother Lief is a dramatic plot maker, and I can't wait to find out more about him. Snyder only scratches the surface of his story, but she leaves enough bare to make my mouth water with need to read.

Valek, Ari, Janco, and a number of other characters are also back. I think I would have cried if Valek had not come back - while he does not play as huge a role as he did in the past novel, his resistance to magic proves vital once again. Throw in some new characters and you've got yourself a hell of a cast - from the baddest of the bad, to the are-they-bad-,-I-really-can't-tell, to the clearly good.

Snyder advances her characters in a way that entices the reader. Her books have so many layers of plot that it's almost difficult to follow. She unveils everything in such a way, however, that one is never lost, only intrigued. She creates more questions than she answers, but she never leaves her readers dangling with unsated need. There appears to be more to this series, both in the characters and the plot, and I can't wait to read it.

Snyder's vivid imagination and scene description are absolutely astounding. She takes the reader from the canopy of the trees, to the damp forest floors filled with creatures unknown, to the dry grassy plains, to the strength of The Citadel. The world she has created is so vivid it belongs in a travel brochure. Snyder's "Study Series" is creating a new myth and fantasy series that ranks up there with the best of them. And by the best of them, I mean J.R.R. Tolkien and Jacqueline Carey. I'm not kidding. They're that good.

MISCELLANEOUS: Snyder is creating a realm I want to visit. Namely because I like the idea of walking in the trees.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Goes back to the library, but you can be damn sure I'm buying my own one day.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Tender is the Knight by Jackie Ivie
RN: Blaze of Glory by Catherine Mann

Book 82: Hard Evidence

TITLE: Hard Evidence
AUTHOR: Pamela Clare
STARTED: November 8, 2006
FINISHED: November 11, 2006
PAGES: 337

FIRST SENTENCE: Coffee was Tessa Novak's heroin.

SUMMARY: [From] Investigative reporter Tessa Novak witnesses the murder of a teenage girl-and believes Julian Darcangelo committed the crime. But Julian is actually an undercover FBI agent on the trail of a human trafficker and killer. And now Tessa's report has brought them closer than either one of them could have imagined-and put both of their lives in danger.

REASON FOR READING: I like Pamela Clare's stuff, mainly her historicals, but I give her contemporaries a try.

THOUGHTS: What is it with me picking up cookie cutter romances as of late? I always remember Clare being adventurous in her plots and characters, this felt phoned in. The writing was flat and jerky, and I was getting annoyed at the characters "But, wait, I can't love him/her" attitude. That said, Clare does better with the cookie cutter stuff than most authors. Her plot and writing still had depth, but it lacked her normal flair.

Part of me really does not want to write a review because I was disappointed. Clare has never fallen flat, and this is flat for her. The plot, surrounding a sex trafficking ring, had SO much potential, but Clare stayed out of the gray areas that make books good. She even had Julian, her hero, saying such trite lines as, "I like to get the bad guys." And while she does have him "doing bad" to "do good," and gives him a dark history, it's not interesting enough to make him a compelling character. I refuse to believe that someone who was raised on the wrong side of the tracks in the back alleys of Mexico could just change over night. Puh-lease. After seeing his friends die, and girls being tortured, he should have been a haunted character. Instead, Julian just comes off as a high an mighty no-it-all.

Tessa is not just better. I'm tired of heroines who are supposedly smart but do incredibly stupid things. I don't care if you're an award-winning investigative reporter, you just don't go down dark alleys in gang territories dressed as a from a H&M catalog. That's just asking for trouble. Personally, when Tessa is kidnapped, I thought she deserved it. When someone says "Don't open that door for anyone but me," you don't then open the door for a personal of questionable allegiance. Trust the guy girl, trust the gut.

And then there was the chemistry, or lack there off. Past books by Clare have made me melt into a puddle of goo, or at least blush furiously. This one. Nope. There was a hot kiss in a closet and another in a staircase, but that was it. Everything else was your overly mushy "He loves me because he touches me just so" crap.

Throw in your stereotypical cast of girlfriends, traitors, bad guys, and hard-headed bosses, and you've got your pre-scripted romance novel.

Clare you're better than this. You still write better than many an author, but I was extremely "blahed."

MISCELLANEOUS: What is he doing to her lip?

RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder
RN: Tender is the Knight by Jackie Ivie

Friday, November 10, 2006

Book 81: The Untamed Heiress

TITLE: The Untamed Heiress
AUTHOR: Julia Justiss
STARTED: November 6, 2006
FINISHED: November 8, 2008
PAGES: 379
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The shrieking wind whipped her tangled black hair into her eyes as the sea crashed and foamed onto the rocks behind her.

SUMMARY: [From] Imprisoned as a child by her spiteful father, Helena Lambarth vowed upon his death to never again live under a man's rule. But to honor her mother's last wish, she journeys to London to enter society - and finds herself a reluctant houseguest of the dashing Lord Darnell.

Adam, Lord Darnell, has little time to oversee the bedraggled hoyden he's agreed to sponsor. Saddled with his father's debts, he knows his one hope is to win the hand of wealthy Priscilla Standish. If only she weren't so ordinary compared to the unconventional Helena - and if only his waiflike ward hadn't suddenly transformed into a bewitching young woman...

The desire they spark in each other is undeniable. But can the love they try to resist conquer Helena's demons and free them both?

REASON FOR READING: I bought her first book because the character was holding a sword on the cover. I actually liked it, so I thought I would give this one a try.

THOUGHTS: This book was so good, until it went all cookie cutter romance at the end. Justiss did a remarkable job of throwing her two leads into positions that I've rarely seen in romance novels. Helena, though repressed as a child both physically and socially, has triumphed out of captivity. She's got money, spirit, brains, and the hots for an almost broke lord. Said Lord Darnell engages himself to a wealthy heiress he knew in childhood. Now he wants to put his hands all over the new addition to his home. But he can't, cause he's engaged, and watching his frustration is eminently entertaining.

Helena and Darnell do the whole "I want to but I can't dance" and it makes for a steamy read. Meanwhile there is back story about her mother and father who wasn't her father and now her real father is alive but somehow there is a totally different man involved. It's all confusing but, luckily, does not detract from the romance building between the characters in the book. To be honest, that whole plot about her mom's love life was totally unnecessary, but it did draw out the steamy attraction between Darnell and Helena.

Sadly, the book takes a turn for the mediocre at the end. It simply slips into the tried and true romance novel ending: heroine runs away in despair, hero finally relinquishes whatever was holding him back in the firs place, runs to find heroine, only to find her gone, yada yada yada. It absolutely killed the book.

So steamy = good. Cookie cutter = *throat cutting motion here*.

MISCELLANEOUS: No sword on the cover, but at least the author listened to the character description.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Beth can read it, and then it's going to
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare
RN: Most likely another romance novel, though the new Vince Flynn is taunting me from my bookcase.

Book 80: The Panther & The Pyramid

TITLE: The Panther & The Pyramid
AUTHOR: Bonnie Vanak
STARTED: November 1, 2006
FINISHED: November 2, 2006
PAGES: 337
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The red hair haunted him, as it always did, in his deepest nightmares.

SUMMARY: [From] Graham Tristan has been tormented too long. He is physically strong: during his childhood exile, he rode with the Khamsin - Egyptian Warriors of the Wind. He has learned their code, is called The Panther. Now he has returned to his rightful place as the Duke of Caldwell. And there is a new face - that of a woman - that haunts his dreams.

Hair the color of blood. Eyes the color of emeralds. The memory threatens to consume him. In his dreams, this woman threatens all he seeks to protect, all he thinks to hide. She is more perilous even than the ancient treasure that draws him back to Egypt. This woman will uncover his heart.

REASON FOR READING: Vanak is all about the Egypt, just like me.

THOUGHTS: Oh Bonnie, why don't you write faster? While this was not Vanak's greatest novel, it still was a decent read. I started this book after midnight, as is often my habit. I told myself that I would read until the first kiss. Well, surprise surprise, that came within the first chapter. After that, it was all downhill - not the book, rather my ability to stop reading. Vanak has a natural ability to keep her stories flowing, and her characters likable. Thus, it is often impossible to stop reading.

Graham was an extremely flawed character, who had an inner strength. What made him different from most romance novel heroes is that he flipped these attributes in himself. Outwardly, he was all buff, warrior, male. Internally he was a scared little boy. While many romance novels try to pull this off - they generally fail in the manner of one of Meghan's paper airplanes. That is to say, the crash and burn almost immediately. Vanak keeps Graham afloat because she's allowed the character to live by his rules. Horrible things happened to him and, instead of letting that completely dominate his life, he balances those instances against the greater story. There is no tunnel vision in The Panther & The Pyramid, there is a broader story that encompasses all the minor incidents.

Additionally, Jillian's character seems almost anachronistic. I often expected her to say "I think *this.* What of it, biotch?" She's no holds bar - but only when she lets herself be. Her upfront personality is buried by her father's domineering and controlling attitude. She wants to break free, but fails to do so until she reaches the "AUGH!" point of her life.

The reason the chemistry between these two characters is so spicy is because they both are repressing an attribute in their personality that is shared in the other character. Graham is repressing his vulnerability, while Jillian holds her "F*ck You"ness in check. It is when the two characters begin to bring these attributes out in one another that makes the book a delectable read.

The plot is your typical one of revenge and discovery, but it happens in Egypt, which is why I like it. Seriously, setting a book in Egypt is almost a guaranteed way to get me to buy it. Reading this around election day, however, made me think about the plot a bit differently, particularly following the Mark Foley scandal. Because of this I found myself scoffing at certain scenes where I probably would not have scoffed before.

MISCELLANEOUS: If I found a man in reality who shared the passionate eyes of the man on the cover of the book, I just might drool. I can't get enough of this cover!

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Untamed Heiress by Julia Justiss
RN: Hard Evidence by Pamela Clare