Sunday, April 23, 2006

Book 40: Surrender

TITLE: Surrender
AUTHOR: Pamela Clare
STARTED: April 19, 2006
FINISHED: April 21, 2006
PAGES: 355
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: If Lord William Wentworth needed proof that he had tcome to the outermost edge of civilization, he need only look out his window.

SUMMARY: [From] Clare's lush historical romance takes readers to 1750s New York, where the three MacKinnon brothers, Jacobites sworn to free Scotland from British rule, have settled in exile. Iain MacKinnon and his two brothers, powerful Highland warriors trained in native American warfare, are falsely accused of murder and forced to take up the banner of their enemy King George in the French and Indian War. While on patrol, Iain rescues a Scots woman who calls herself Annie Burns from the French and Abenaki soldiers who raided her home. Annie, who hides a tragic past of family betrayal and indentured servitude, struggles with her newfound freedom and the mixed feelings she has for her saviors-so much like the Jacobite warriors who cut down her Loyalist father and brothers in battle. As Annie's ambivalence gives way to love, Clare (Ride the Fire) explores 18th-century religious and political conflict on both a personal and international scale. While her prose sports a hint of purple, believable characters, scorching chemistry and a convincing setting make this a worthy read.

REASON FOR READING: I've been eagerly awaiting Clare's next historical for months.

THOUGHTS: I wish more authors could mesh history with romance the same way Clare does. After waiting for months for this book to come out, I was not disappointed. I have yet to find another romance author who can blend actual history with steaming romance the way Clare does. Her lush narrative, addictive writing, and high-level research make her romance novels great reads from the first page. In this book, Clare talks about the Scottish Rangers that aided the Brits during the French and Indian war. I was amazed at the amount of detail and actual historical events she was able to include in this book. If it weren't for the steaming sex scenes, I would think that this book could be passed off as a regular historical fiction.

MISCELLANEOUS: I'm still not seeing why some women are attracted to men with hair down to their waists.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): I have yet to decide.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: The Dewey Decimal System of Love by Josephine Carr
RN: Who knows.

Book 39: A Deal with the Devil

TITLE: A Deal With the Devil
AUTHOR: Liz Carlyle
STARTED: April 16, 2006
FINISHED: April 17, 2006
PAGES: 375
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Winter along the Somerset coast was said to possess a certain bleak beauty.

SUMMARY: [From] The acclaimed author of The Devil You Know pens a shimmering novel about a Scottish noblewoman on the run from her past and a powerful English lord brought to his knees by desire.

Aubrey Montford claims to be a widowed housekeeper. Desperate to keep her new post — and her secrets — she transforms desolate Castle Cardow into a profitable estate. Yet soon after her employer, Lord Walrafen, returns from long years of absence, Aubrey is suspected of murder. Sparks and tempers ignite whenever she and the smoldering earl meet, but he may be her only hope.

Walrafen returns reluctantly to the childhood home he loathes. Cardow is said to be haunted — by more than the earl's sad memories — but it was no ghost that murdered his uncle. Is the castle's beautiful chatelaine a murderess? At the very least, she's a liar — he has proof. Yet the truth of his soul is that he's drawn to her with a kind of fierce passion he's never known.


THOUGHTS: The chemistry between Aubrey and Walrafen left off the page from the first instance their characters met. There was more than one moment I found myself wondering if the room suddenly got hotter. While the sparks did indeed fly between the characters, I felt that the mystery part of the plot was overly contrived. It just did not flow as well as the characters did. I felt that the two parts of the book never meshed. The mystery was background to the romance, instead of being intertwined with it.

MISCELLANEOUS: For an author I randomly bought off of B&, she does not disappoint.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Surrendern by Pamela Clare
RN: The Dewy Decimal System of Love by Josephine Carr

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Book 38: Yesterday & Forever

TITLE: Yesterday & Forever
AUTHOR: Victoria Alexander
STARTED: April 12, 2006
FINISHED: April 15, 2006
PAGES: 365
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The swans glided silently by the daffodils, the regal bearing of the birds a complementary contrast to the sunny flowers nodding enthusiastically in the breeze.

SUMMARY: [From] A contemporary artist finds herself swept back to Regency England and into the arms of a sexy earl, but with time fighting against them, only the strength of their love can keep them together.

REASON FOR READING: I like this author.

THOUGHTS: Yick. This is the worst Alexander I've read. The characters were dull, flat, and simply unbelievable. The plot was overly contrived and canned. And, to top it all off, the writing was blase. Alexander can, and has, done much better.

MISCELLANEOUS: Who carries a calculator around with them anyway?

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, lost interest]

CR: A Deal with the Devil by Liz Carlyle
RN: No clue, I'll be too busy with the last of of papers to really care.

Book 37: Adcult USA: The Triumph of Advertising in American Culture

TITLE: Adcult USA: The Triumph of Advertising in American Culture
AUTHOR: James B. Twitchell
STARTED: March 30, 2006
FINISHED: April 14, 2006
PAGES: 279
GENRE: Media Studies

FIRST SENTENCE: I have always loved advertising.

SUMMARY: [From A spirited exploration of the culture created when advertising becomes not just a central institution, but the central institution.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in MDIA 524: The Rhetoric of Advertising

THOUGHTS: Finally, a book that describes how pervasive advertising is in modern American culture. Twitchell takes a well known subject and topic and finally lays it all on the line. It was nice to see someone just state how controlling advertising is in American culture. The scariest thought, however, is that Twitchell seems to defend Adcult in his writing. I don't think I'm very comfortable with advertising controlling my life.

MISCELLANEOUS: I bet you $20 you can name three advertising lines and not the capitals of Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Norway.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Selling back at the end of the semester
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Yesterday & Forever by Victoria Alexander
RN: A Deal with the Devil by Liz Carlyle

Book 36: Beauty and the Spy

TITLE: Beauty and the Spy
AUTHOR: Julie Anne Long
STARTED: April 11, 2006
FINISHED: April 12, 2006
PAGES: 377
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Years later, Anna would remember how big the moon had been that night, swollen and slung low like a pregnant woman on the brink of birth.

SUMMARY: [From] SHOCKING! London's belle of the ball, Susannah Makepeace, is the last person who should suddenly be stuck in the sleepy village of Barnstable. In town, she would never have seen a man swimming naked in a pond. And she certainly would have resisted the urge to draw every single bit of him in astonishing detail! SIZZLING! Very few people know that Viscount Kit Whitelaw is the best spy in His Majesty's secret service. But his high-flying life has finally banished him from London. Not to worry - if Susannah's erotic sketches are any indication of her nature, she'll be a delicious stand-in for the thrill of espionage. SCANDALOUS! When odd accidents follow in Susannah's wake, Kit's spy senses start tingling. For what better mystery is there for England's greatest spy than the secrets of the delectable puzzle that is Susannah?

REASON FOR READING: I saw the cover on a blog, and just had to have it.

THOUGHTS: Impressive... sort of. The idea behind the book is amazing, and I was glad to hear this is the start of a trilogy. On the whole the story was interesting, the characters enjoyable, and the writing fun. Aside from that, there was nothing special about this book. The one real upside, Sussanah wasn't a twit. She used her skill in art just like anyone else was. As opposed to other romance novels, it wasn't her saving grace that "freed" her from her world. It was just a skill and hobby she enjoyed. Also, I like how she just jumped the Kit.

MISCELLANEOUS: For some reason, I am drawn to romance novels with corsets on the cover.

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

CR: Adcult USA by James B. Twitchell
RN: Yesterday & Forever by Victoria Alexander

Book 35: Memoirs of a Geisha

TITLE: Memoirs of a Geisha
AUTHOR: Arthur Golden
STARTED: April 2, 2006
FINISHED: April 10, 2006
PAGES: 434
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: One evening in the spring of 1936, when I was a boy of fourteen, my father took me to a dance performance in Kyoto.

SUMMARY: [From] Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. Sayuri's story begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. Through her eyes, we see the decadent heart of Gion - the geisha district of Kyoto - with its marvelous teahouses and theaters, narrow back alleys, ornate temples, and artists' streets. And we witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup and hair; competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it. But as World War II erupts and the geisha houses are forced to close, Sayuri, with little money and even less food, must reinvent herself all over again to find a rare kind of freedom on her own terms.

REASON FOR READING: I saw the movie and have been wanting to read the book for awhile.

THOUGHTS: Honestly, I liked the movie better. That is not the say that the book was bad. In fact, just the opposite; the book was very good, I just thought it lacked the characterization of the movie. I know that's the reverse of the normal structure, but I honestly thought the characters in the book fell flat every now I then. I had trouble believing their actions and emotions, but I think that comes when a male author is writing from a female perspective.

That being said, the book was still enjoyable. The lifestyle of a geisha is simply stunning. Reading about the way their daily lives operate is just fascinating. Golden did a fantastic job of creating drama and conflict for his characters, I just wish the characters had lived up to the situations.

The strongest part of this book is Golden's writing; it's lyrical and beautiful. I could easily picture the scenes Golden was depicting. The visuals he was able to create in my mind saved this book from being just a mediocre read.

MISCELLANEOUS: I still don't like the age gap between Sayuri and the Chairman. It just creeps me out.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep (at least for now)
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

CR: Beauty and the Spy by Julie Anne Long
RN: Adcult USA by James B. Twitchell

Book 34: Lady of the Knight

TITLE: Lady of the Knight
AUTHOR: Jackie Ivie
STARTED: March 26, 2006
FINISHED: March 29, 2006
PAGES: 383
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The screams faded by midday, leaving the groans of the dying.

SUMMARY: [From the back of the book] When her family is destroyed by clan Fitz-Hugh, Morganna KilCreggar vows revenge. Tall and lean, she disguises herself as a lad - and hones her skills with deadly weapons.

A man who brazenly takes what he wants, Alexander Fitzhugh makes the boy "Morgan" his squire. The striking and brutally strong warrior never imagines what his servant is hiding. Yet FitzHugh cannot deny that he is strangely drawn to the lad in his charge, and he intends to find out why.

With each day that passes, the bold knight peels away more of Morgan's defenses, until he finally reveals her most precious secret. Suddenly vulnerable to an unbidden desire, Morgan strays from her purpose... to Zander's bed, where she discovers sensual pleasures she never imagined. Now, in the battle between vengeance and passion, the more powerful will emerge victorious, bringing together two hearts, two clans, two souls...

REASON FOR READING: I read it about it online somewhere and was intrigued.

THOUGHTS: This book is the first romance novel I've read all year that I actually want to keep. Ivie picked a touchy subject, homosexuality in the medieval era, and plays with it perfectly. Ivie writes the scenes in a way that are incredibly believable for the time and for the characters. It's this plot that makes the book so addictive.

The emotions she puts into her two main characters are nothing short of phenomenal. I could not put this book down because I wanted to know how each character would react. The nuances between Zander and Morganna are so strong that it becomes hard not to wrestle with their struggle.

What makes the book even better are the unexpected twists and turns. Too many romance novels are predictable. In this book, I never knew what was going to happen.

One scene that stuck with me is when Zander describes when he knew Morganna (Spoiler) was pregnant. The way this vignette plays out is incredibly touching. I had planned on keeping the book before reading this scene, but the writing here sealed the deal.

A fantastic romantic read.

MISCELLANEOUS: Mmmm... swords.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
RN: Beauty and the Spy by Julie Anne Long

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

If I were a writer...

You Should Be a Romance Novelist

You see the world as it should be, and this goes double for all matters of the heart.
You can find the romance in any situation, and you would make a talented romance story writer...
And while you may be a traditional romantic, you're just as likely to be drawn to quirky or dark love stories.
As long as it deals with infatuation, heartbreak, and soulmates - you could write it.

As if this is any surprise.