Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January Reads

I've not had time to review all of these, but I've enjoyed the majority:

1. The Snow White Bride by Claire Delacroix- Medieval, abused widow; couldn't figure out the Snow White connection

2. A Splendid Indescretion by Elizabeth Mansfield- Traditional Regency

3. Love Me Forever by Donna Fletcher- Abused widow, clan conflicts; scarred hero

4. When I Fall in Love by Lynn Kurland- Time Travel present to medieval

5. Love Came Just in Time by Lynn Kurland- Collection of four short stories, all by Kurland; enjoyed two could've passed on two.

Edited to correct:I reviewed 5 other titles this month, for a total of 10 books read.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Even Vampires Get the Blues; K. MacAlister

Written by Katie MacAlister and published by Signet Eclipse in 2006, this is a title I looked forward to reading for a long time. The previous book in the series is Sex Lies and Vampires which I read and posted my thoughts about HERE. Anime Queen loves Katie Maxwell (MacAlister's young adult alter ego) and her sense of humor and fun, but I confess I struggle with love and laughter paranormals. I mostly go for the dark and intense paranormals, so take my thoughts here with a grain of salt if you really enjoy the love and laughter romance subgenre.

Samantha Cosse is a human elf 'halfbreed' who lives in Scotland. One of her talents is finding lost objects. Moravian Dark One (has no soul) vampire Pean Scott (tribute to Sir Walter, maybe??) needs to find a lost staute in the next five days or else his mother forfeits her soul. Paen hires Samantha's new sleuthing firm to help him. From there EVGTB turns into a race against time. Can Samantha help him in time? Will Pean be able to keep her safe from those who threaten her and her cousin?

Trouble is there isn't much relationship development going on. Everything revolves around finding the statue and associated issues. Paen is supposed to be a scholar and yet he doesn't question what he was told about the statue or the truth behind the claims he must find it at all costs. To my mind scholars are inquisitive and curious- but we don't see him dig very deeply into the validity of why he must find this object.

Second issue for me was the lack of relationship development between Samantha and Paen. Many things happen to them, but I don't see much between them. Superficially most of their interaction comes between the sheets, but I really missed the emotional asapect of relationship building that, for me, is central to romances regardless of subgenre.

Thirdly, and this is tied in with number two, after a while so much happened to Samamntha that I gave up reading and skimmed. There were just one too many plot twists and I couldn't take it anymore. I'd had enough. I skimmed through the rest. Up to a certain point plot twists are good, but it's necessary for me to feel that each is important for character or relationship development- anything beyond that and I get bored or impatient or both.

Fourth- Paen's name is annoyingly similar to the word peaen which is a song or hyymn of joy and praise. It's like a pebble in your shoe or a run at the toe of your hosiery- irritating enough that you're constantly picking at your foot and not paying attention to the task at hand, ie: reading this romance.

So there you have it- a love and laughter vampire romance that didn't quite work for me. I've enjoyed Ms. MacAlister's writing before and I plan to look over her upcoming works. This might have worked better if it had been categorized in another genre.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wicked; Shannon Drake

Wicked was written by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham) and published by HQN in 2005. Click link in title to see a list of other titles published under the Drake nom de plume. To my knowledge this is the first title by Ms. Drake I’ve read. Then again, my memory is like a sieve, so who knows? This isn’t intended as a slur on Ms. Drake, simply a comment about my own shortcomings. To me Wicked is a gothic Beauty and the Beast style romance.

W is set in late 19th century Britain. Thematically it’s about trust and facing one’s past honestly, about the faces we wear in public and in private. About revenge and resolution. Quite a lot for a gothic romance. IMO.

Camille Montgomery has finally landed a job working at the British Museum in the Egyptology section. A job she and her little family desperately need to keep themselves afloat. Camille has been raised on the very outer edges of the lower middle class by a man who found sitting beside her mother’s lifeless body. Camille loves her job and her guardian with all her heart and wants nothing more than to help provide a bit of stability for them by her employment. Tristan, her guardian, feels like a failure since no man worth his salt permits a woman in his household to work outside the home.

Brian Stirling, Earl of Carlyle, is a man with a one track mind: justice for his parents, whom he believes have been murdered by those they trusted. To the world he is known simply as The Beast- a man whose face and form and personality have been irretrievably warped by the death of his parents and the ancient Egyptian curse they invoked.

The jist of the story- Camille’s guardian intrudes on Carlyle’s estate. Carlyle decides to use him as a hostage to ensure Camille’s cooperation while Carlyle plots to unveil the murderer. Meantime Carlyle and Camille fall in love. Is Carlyle what he seems? Or is he obsessed with vengeance (as opposed to justice)? Will he succeed or fail? Can Camille be kept safe in the meantime?

I enjoyed the book although I was a bit disappointed that the beast aspect was downplayed. I also feel that the emotional growth and depth I anticipated was sacrificed for the air of menace. Which was quite well done BTW. Reading Wicked felt like watching an old black and white suspense movie. You know the heroine is just asking for trouble with every move she makes, especially the candlelit trips down the secret passageway after the hero tells her to stay in her room for her own safety. Yet you know that no matter what else happens, she will be rescued in the end.

Not a keeper, but well worth my time and money. Image found at

Monday, January 21, 2008

Goddess of the Rose; P.C. Cast

Written by P.C. Cast Goddess of the Rose was first published by Berkley in 2006. I have read two of the other books in the Goddess Summoning series and I like them all. Review of Goddess of Spring HERE. Ms.Cast's heroines are smart and capable without beating the reader or the hero with it- a trait I find lacking elsewhere.

Mikado Empousai is an ER doctor who lives and works in Tulsa Oklahoma. Her all consuming hobbies are raising roses and volunteering at the local municipal rose garden. One night after a blind date with a guy who makes snap judgements about people based on what they read (!!!), Mikki is transported to the Realm of the Rose under Hecate's domain. Let's just say she breathes new life into an all women all the time locale desperately in need of regular care.

The beast, meanwhile, has haunted Mikki's thoughts and dreams since she was in Tulsa. Exactly how she ended up in the Realm with him puzzles her at first. After Mikki gets her bearings, though, her attraction to him returns in full force. First she must save the roses, then find the love starved ladies a little companionship then maybe she'll have time for the beast.

The Beast actually has a name, and a cool one at that. Unfortunately for him he has a long history of mistreatment and neglect which affects how he reacts to Mikki. Apparently the sins of the father are visited upon the son even in the Realm of the Rose. Luckily for all- Mikki's there to save the day.

Looking beyond the superficial to the substance underneath is always insightful. Dropping a stone in a pond causes ripples- watching the ripples and how they effect changes in the pond and along the shore is fun too. Mikki is the stone dropped into the pond. Will the pond be positively or negatively effected?

Highly recommended. Keeper.

Corrected: Sept. 30, 2008 ~ As the anonymous poster below kindly pointed out, I was mistaken thinking Mikado Empousai is an ER doctor. On page twenty of the copy I used for research, Ms. Cast writes, "..executive assistant for the director of nursing services at St.John's Hospital .." (Goddess of the Rose, P.C. Cast, Berkley Publishing Group, NYC NY; ISBN 0425208915) I appreciate the chance to set the record straight.

Image found at Barnes and Noble

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Stronger Than Magic, H. Cullman

Stronger Than Magic was written by Heather Cullman and published by Topaz in 1997. I found STM on a list of fairy or fantasy related romances. I can't remember exactly which site, most likely All About Romance. A list of Ms. Cullman's work can be found HERE.

Alys Faire has been trapped in the fairy world trying to earn her way back to life within the mortal realm. Back in the day she was the proverbial "fairest of them all"- but she was also shallow, vain and manipulative and contributed to the death of the fairy king's son. As punishment she must learn her lesson and she can return to the mortal world. Alys is one hell of a slow learner, because she's been stuck with the fairies for five hundred years.

Finally she gets a turn on earth playing matchmaker for one Lucian Warre, Marquess of Thistlewood. Echoes of Alys' original misdeed echo down through time as Lucian's suffering is a direct result of Alys' previous behavior. It's payback time for little Alys. Lucian is a decorated soldier just back from the War. As such he's a little of a control freak, a little rigid and very much a difficult case for a matchmaker. At least, I would think so. Alys, however, figures this couldn't be so hard- decorated war hero, wealthy. No prob. right? The matchmaking mamas in London will be all over him.

Naturally anything involving the Faeries is more complicated than it first appears. I was pleased to see that both Lucian and Alys evolve into better people. Alys most especially. I thought Alys' sidekick Hedley Bragg was a riot. Every main character needs a buddy who deliberately messes everything up and yet also one who's there for him/her when the chips are down. This being a romance the requisite HEA is there. Stronger Than Magic will make it onto the temporary keeper shelves and I'll likely read it again before the end of the year to see of I still want to keep it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Well Favored Gentleman; C. Dodd

Originally published back in 1998 (doesn't seem like it was 10 years ago!) by Avon, AWFG was written by Christina Dodd. Lady Alanna MacLeod has been "hiding" in her ancestral village, masquerading as the witch/healer Mab. I had a few problems with the choice of this name. I always associate it with Shakespeare's fairy queen not rural witches. In two weeks she will reach her majority and inherit her family's land. If she can outwit her cousins, Ian Fairchild and his father.

However, Ian stands in her way. Fairchild is the illegitimate son of English nobility, has dirtied himself in "trade" and is now in search of a permanent place to call his own. Fairchild decides Fionnaway manor will be it. He's manipulative (to the point I nearly put it down due to what he does) and lonely and emotionally scarred but like all heroes, beneath it all lies a heart of gold.

Alanna too has her problems, but they're mostly the product of her own behavior and Fairchild's manipulations. Some of which stem from her naivete and willingness to believe Ian despite attempting to outwit his father. Alanna annoyed me because she successfully hides for a long time, but as soon as Ian shows up she succumbs to him and her former independence evaporates. I thought Alanna reminds me of a Mary Sue. Sort of. Almost, but not quite. Not enough to stop me from finishing the book.

As always in the end love triumphs over all- with a little help from Scottish legend. Not a keeper but I enjoyed it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Chili Cookoff Rematch

Every January our church sponsors a chili cookoff to raise money for various programs. Last year my recipe won. Last year's post HERE. It's in the Sunday section. Recipe HERE. The rematch is Sunday night. I will cook this recipe again, with a minor adjustment or two. Let the best chili win!

Image found on

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Food for Thought

Found HERE. Short bio HERE. Fabulous poem that says a lot. Is this you? Or could this become your child?

by Elizabeth Alexander

I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot. I
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.

To think, in childhood I missed only
one day of school per year. I went
to ballet class four days a week
at four-forty-five and on
Saturdays, beginning always
with plie, ending with curtsy.
To think, I knew only industry,
the industry of my race
and of immigrants, the radio
tuned always to the station
that said, Line up your summer
job months in advance. Work hard
and do not shame your family,
who worked hard to give you what you have.
There is no sin but sloth. Burn
to a wick and keep moving.

I avoided sleep for years,
up at night replaying
evening news stories about
nearby jailbreaks, fat people
who ate fried chicken and woke up
dead. In sleep I am looking
for poems in the shape of open
V's of birds flying in formation,
or open arms saying, I forgive you, all.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Reading Vs Blogging

Like everyone pressed for time lately I've had to choose between blogging or reading. Reading has won, hands down. I've read two full size historicals and one traditional Regency. I'm two thirds done with a contemporary mythology based romance. I need to write my thoughts up about those. I need to list my personal and blog/reading resolutions for 2008. I thought I oughta post a family update.


I had to go out of town Sunday (my employer is under the impression I was ill, so please don't tell on me). Anime Queen's birthday is Wednesday. My work schedule changed again. I'm due to start a computer class next week. I suppose I oughta clean the house (Hubby's done his fair share & more lately). I want to try out my new clothes washer.

I'll be back soon to try and catch up on my neglected blog.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Old Bessie retires

The Husband swears this is the cheapskate sales coup of the year, bar none. Since it's only January 4th I'm not so sure but it's likely he's right. This whole episode would never have happened except for my intense dislike of bugs inside my house. Outside- no problem. In the house? The stuff of nightmares. A series of bad incidents while I was pregnant with Pianist cemented the bug-Bookwormom relationship into one of a very tense detente as long as the bugs remain where they belong. Outside.

So there we were. In the kitchen listening to BBC Outlook on the radio & preparing to make dinner. Lift up the glass cutting board. Discover three, not one or two, but THREE bugs under there. Picnicing on leftover Thomas' English Muffin crumbs from this morning's breakfast. Screech a little and dance around the kitchen with the cutting board (likely the closest I'll ever get to a formal ballroom, lol). Discover we're all out of bug killing spray. And yes I know that pesticide in the kitchen is not such a good idea. TOO BAD. The only good bug is a dead one. After a few moments to calm myself I announce to the family that after dinner I'll be driving up to Lowe's in search of a new bug killing arsenal. Husband decides to keep me company, probably to try and convince me I really don't need one of every type of pesticide in the place.

Once we're in Lowe's we pick up a couple of things on our list. I bend down to look at some mildewcide spray cleaners (our bathroom is a pit of dampness no matter what I've tried) on the bottom shelf of the cleaning aisle. Straighten up to discover Husband has disappeared. In 5 seconds flat. Into the vast ocean of empty space that is Lowe's at 9:15 pm. I wander for a moment and then discover him in the appliance area. Luckily for us no salesmen in sight. Today is the first day of their clearance sale. There are quite a few scratch and dent and repaired appliances marked for quick sale.

Now- as my immediate familty knows I've been in desperate need of a new clothes washer for a year now. However, with Graduate starting college and increased car insurance and whatnot we've patched and prayed over our old machine all year. It's only thirteen. Poor old Whirlpool- it's moved a bunch of times and seen us through three kids and two dogs. Old Bessie deserves a rest, but like loyal servants everywhere *Eye roll* she can be coaxed into limping along until the Mistress fianlly has mercy and allows her a well deserved rest.

Husband is standing beside a brand new refused special order clothes washer marked at $50. Yes children. 33.95 Euros; 25.27 Pounds Sterling; 49.65 Canadian Dollars. To buy a new bottom of the line clothes washer. Simply because the original customer refused purchase. There are no bells or whistles (or many choices at all for that matter) but it's new to us and will allow us to get by until I've squirreled away enough to buy the washer I really want. Poor old Bessie Whirlpool can now retire with dignity knowing she held on as long as any self respecting clothes washer could.

Tomorrow our newest family member will come home and take pride of place in the kitchen beside Baxter Whirlpool, Bessie's partner. Who seems fine if a bit banged up. He'll look lonely and forlorn and old beside his new partner. Hopefully they'll settle in together nicely and rub along well until Baxter can join Bessie in retirement.