Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Book 67: Secrets of a Proper Lady

TITLE: Secrets of a Proper Lady
AUTHOR: Victoria Alexander
STARTED: November 21, 2007
FINISHED: November 24, 2007
PAGES: 375
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Cursed," Daniel Sinclair said under his breath.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Lady Cordelia Bannister simply cannot marry a man she has not chosen herself, no matter what her father decrees. So, pretending to be her own companion, she decides to seek out information about her intended by meeting with his secretary—a man who soon beguiles her. But Lady Cordelia doesn't know the truth—the man can't resist is really her intended, Daniel Sinclair.

Daniel has nearly won the wager he made with three of London's most eligible bachelors. While two of his compatriots have surrendered to the shackles of marriage, he's remained free to woo any woman he chooses. Yet duty forces him to consider Lady Cordelia, so, determined to find a way to escape honor intact, he continues the masquerade he started.

Each finds the other completely irresistible, but when they uncover their mutual mistaken identities, Daniel and Cordelia must make the most important choice of all...

REASON FOR READING: I like Victoria Alexander.

THOUGHTS: Umm... yeah... I actually don't remember a darned thing about this book. Not good.

MISCELLANEOUS: Once again, I say that I need to remind myself to review the books I read much faster.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.] But only because I can't recall anything about it one way or another.

Book 66: Midsummer Magic

TITLE: Midsummer Magic
AUTHOR: Catherine Coulter
STARTED: November 19, 2007
FINISHED: November 21, 2007
PAGES: 412
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Philip Evelyn Desborough Hawksbury, Earl of Rothermere, handed his gloves and riding cloak to the marquess's butler, Shippe, glanced briefly toward the array of footmen who hovered nearby in the great entryway of Chandos Chase, and said quietly, "How does my father?"

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Good beach reading, Coulter's 1987 historical romance finds the beauteous and brainy Frances Kilbracken forced into marriage with the roguish Hawk (yes, I did say, Hawk). After fulfilling his conquest of Frances, Hawk abandons her and is smitten by a mystery woman, who actually is guess who?

REASON FOR READING: I think there was a review for it over at Smart Bitches.

THOUGHTS: Egads. It has been so long since I read this that I am only able to remember to things:

1. Well, that seems a believable to build a relationship.
2. Ah! Another superfluous plot line. Kill it! Kill it!

MISCELLANEOUS: What was so midsummer about this?

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book 65: The Spy Wore Silk

TITLE: The Spy Wore Silk
AUTHOR: Andrea Pickens
STARTED: November 17, 2007
FINISHED: November 19, 2007
PAGES: 374
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Steel clashed against steel, the blades flashing like quicksilver fire in the afternoon sun.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] They were once orphans from London's roughest slums. Now they are students of Mrs. Merlin's Academy for Select Young Ladies, learning the art of spying and seduction. Bold, beautiful, and oh-so-dangerous, they are England's ultimate secret weapons. The most skilled of Merlin's Maidens, Siena must unmask a traitor lurking among an exclusive club of book collectors. Armed with only her wits, her blades, and her sultry body, she joins the gentlemen at a country house party. But her prime suspect, disgraced ex-army officer Lord Kirtland proves as enigmatic as he is suspicious-and sinfully sensuous. Kirtland's instincts tell him the enticing "Black Dove" is hiding more than a luscious body beneath her fancy silks. Yet as he starts to plumb her secrets, a cunning adversary lays plans to destroy them both. To live, Siena must end her tantalizing dance of deception and desire-and decide whether to trust her head or her heart.

REASON FOR READING: Romance novel binge over Thanksgiving? Yes, please!

THOUGHTS: It took me re-reading the summary to actually remember what this book was about. Whoops.

Now, all I can remember are the bad things. This book feel victim to the "too many characters in too few pages." However(!), I am willing to forgive the book a little because it is setting up a series (which I am interested in following). Even then, the pace was far too fast and the plot overly contrived.

Also, even though the heroine is introduced as some kind of regency spy superhero, she has a couple TSTL moments which had me slapping my hand against my forehead. She has good chemistry with the lead male... even if I don't remember much about him. Wait! I do. I didn't like him because he was too easily swayed.

MISCELLANEOUS: What's the point of keeping a knife strapped to your thigh when you wear 16 layers of skirts and petticoats? Someone needs to explain the rational of that to me.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Book 64: A Thousand Splendid Suns

TITLE: A Thousand Splendid Suns
AUTHOR: Khaled Hosseini
STARTED:November 12, 2007
FINISHED: November 16, 2007
PAGES: 372
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.

REASON FOR READING: I enjoyed Hosseini's first novel, and my interest was even more piqued when I heard him talk at the National Book Festival a few years back.

THOUGHTS: In the tradition of his first novel, The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini has managed to craft a narrative of relationships that simply sucks the reader into the story. I can't wax poetic about Hosseini's writing style, but his method of storytelling is completely enveloping. Even if Hosseini had decided to set his story in another time or place, the relationships of the main characters would still have been powerful. In placing his story of family in the midst of revolutionary and war-torn Afghanistan, Hosseini creates an unforgettable tale.

Hosseini's skills are best scene in his characterizations. The female leads, Mariam and Laila, come alive. A Thousand Splendid Suns reads almost like a memoir it feels so real. The power struggles and created familial relationships in this novel evolve naturally, without being forced to work to the author's plot. That's what makes this book create such a personal emotional connection with the reader. It just is. There is no forcing of the story, no coercing of sympathies and empathies. A Thousand Splendid Suns is, at it's basic essence, the story of two women try to make a family and survive under some of the harshest of living conditions.

The one real downside I found with this novel was it's predictability. There were no shocking moments. The book may evolve naturally, but Hosseini seems to have the tendency to rely on plot and character conventions. I wanted to be surprised and I did not get that with this book. Even the Big Twist feel flat.

Even with those faults, it was nice to read an author who did not have a sophomore slump. This book was just as good, if not better, than The Kite Runner.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Book 63: The Uncommon Reader

TITLE: The Uncommon Reader: A Novella
AUTHOR: Alan Bennett
STARTED: November 10, 2007
FINISHED: November 12, 2007
PAGES: 120
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen’s transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word. With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, England’s best loved author revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon reader’s life.

REASON FOR READING: I heard an interview with Alan Bennett on NPR.org.

THOUGHTS: This was a remarkable little novel. The writing was witty and playful. Bennett was also able to humanize the Queen without condescending to the quarks he gave her character. I particularly enjoyed how he made the Queen into someone I think of as a true reader: they want to read all the time and all they want to talk about with people is what they read.

MISCELLANEOUS: I want a corgi.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]