Thursday, November 30, 2006

Book 90: Love Slave

NUMBER: 90
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."

SUMMARY:
[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.

MISCELLANEOUS: Riiiiiight.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): PBSing
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

NUMBER: 89
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 barnesandnoble.com] 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.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): PBS
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

NUMBER: 88
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 barnesnandnoble.com] 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.

REASON FOR READING: In a series

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

NUMBER: 87
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 barnesandnoble.com] 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.

Yippee!

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

NUMBER: 86
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 barnesandnoble.com] 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...

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): PBSing it.
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

NUMBER: 85
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 barnesandnoble.com] 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

NUMBER: 84
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....

A LADY OF ICE
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 MAN OF ICE
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....

A PROMISE OF PASSION
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....

REASON FOR READING: I LOVED her debut book.

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

NUMBER: 83
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 barnesandnoble.com] 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

NUMBER: 82
TITLE: Hard Evidence
AUTHOR: Pamela Clare
STARTED: November 8, 2006
FINISHED: November 11, 2006
PAGES: 337
GENRE:Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Coffee was Tessa Novak's heroin.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] 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?

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): PBSing
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

NUMBER: 81
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 barnesandnoble.com] 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 PBS.com
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

NUMBER: 80
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 barnesandnoble.com] 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!

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): PBS.com
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

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

Book 79: Dracula

NUMBER: 79
TITLE: Dracula
AUTHOR: Bram Stoker
STARTED: October 22, 2006
FINISHED: October 31, 2006
PAGES: 427
GENRE: Literature

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the Prologue, "Dracula's Guest"] When we started for our drive the sun was shining brightly on Munich, and the air was full of the joyousness of early summer.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Count Dracula has inspired countless movies, books, and plays. But few, if any, have been fully faithful to Bram Stoker's original, best-selling novel of mystery and horror, love and death, sin and redemption. Dracula chronicles the vampire's journey from Transylvania to the nighttime streets of London. There, he searches for the blood of strong men and beautiful women while his enemies plot to rid the world of his frightful power.

Today's critics see Dracula as a virtual textbook on Victorian repression of the erotic and fear of female sexuality. In it, Stoker created a new word for terror, a new myth to feed our nightmares, and a character who will outlive us all.

REASON FOR READING: I wanted something fitting for the days leading up to Halloween.

THOUGHTS: Streaky. Very streaky. There were long stretches of this book where I was bored to tears, but those stretches were capped with moments of intense, readable material. Unfortunately, these few scenes (like the one where we finally see Dracula at work) are not enough to make the book supremely enjoyable.

Stoker's use of journal entries, letters, and news clippings as the storytelling apparatus of the book was an imaginative way to make the reader feel a part of the story. This structure, however, was also the book's downfall. While these letters and journal pieces allow the reader into the various characters' heads, it also leads to the inevitable recaps of "This person said this, and then we did this. Then so-and-so showed up." Everything seems to have happened already. It's like hearing a story in real life, it's nice, but not as exciting as being in medias res. For me, this book was too slow. It was too narrated. I wanted to be shown, not told what was happening.

To be honest, I thought that this book was about Dracula, not about the people who interacted with Dracula. In that, I was very disappointed. I think I was expecting more "Vampire" and less "Who is this lanky dude running around, and why is poor Miss Lucy always pale and lethargic?" Goodness me!

I was frustrated with the characters on multiple times because they just seemed so stupid. Here they were, logical, educated characters, tracking down a mystery, and none of them seemed to come up with the idea that maybe letting Miss Lucy sleep alone night after night was a bad idea. I guess this is where all the ideas of Dracula being about repressed sexual Victorian angst comes in. Even looking for allusions to the inappropriate, I was disappointed. Frankly, I probably was expecting more blood.

After all, it was Halloween when I finished.

MISCELLANEOUS: Oh Edward Gorey, how did your art become so famous?

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

CR: The Panther & The Pyramid by Bonnie Vanak
RN: The Untamed Heiress by Julia Justiss

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why do I do this to myself?

Well I was stupid. Last night, I decided (again) that starting a romance novel at midnight was a great idea. Like always, I told myself I would read for an hour and then go to bed. I need to learn to stop kidding myself.

I read until 3a.m.

Normally, such an action once a week or so would not harm me. Not so this week. Being quite the political nerd, I will be up until God knows when watching the returns tonight. I want to see if any of my predictions hold true.