Sunday, May 31, 2009

Four in Hand; Stephanie Laurens

I didn't realize this is the second Stephanie Laurens book I've reread for the Challenge until I'd already finished it. :( Even so, it's late & I've no time or interest in rereading something else so I've put a post it note on my calender reminding me not to pick Ms. Laurens next time! LOL The title links to Ms. Laurens page that has the original back cover blurbs. This link connects you to the page listing all of Ms. Laurens' regencies. This is truly a book out of the Wayback Machine. Four in Hand was originally published by Mills & Boon back in 1993! My copy is the 2002 version, which is the cover I've posted here, many thanks to the folks over at Fantastic Fiction. FIH is your basic traditional regency guardian ward theme romance.

Max Rotherbridge, the new Duke of Trowbridge, is rousted out of bed by his staff at the ungodly hour of nine am (!!) because a young lady awaits him in the downstairs parlor. Yes, Your Grace, an actual young lady. Miss Caroline Twinning (just like the tea), age twenty five (and unmarried, can you imagine?!) has arrived at Max's house to discuss his guardianship of herself and her three sisters. To say that Caroline was shocked & upset upon seeing Max's evident youth & savvy is to overstate matters considerably. To her immense credit, however, Caroline sees immediately that the Twinning sisters' hopes of hijinks in London under the doddering eyes of an elderly, easily befuddled male guardian are not to pass.

Poor hung over Max, after ordering an ice pack, shoos her off to her hotel & goes to see his solicitor. Which gentleman tells him that a)he can't get out of it and b) that each young woman is an heiress in her own right. Yes, all four of them are as rich as Croseus, to borrow as PG Wodehouse phrase. Max then hares off to his Aunt Augusta's house & pleads his case. Could she, would she, pretty please be the Twinning's chaperone & help him see them all safely married and off his hands as soon as possible? Of course she would. She could never let down her favorite nephew.

Like all traditional regencies, the door closes on the serious loving. All of the characters are straight out of casting. Incredible gorgeous, intelligent & wealthy young women. A crotchety elderly aunt, socially well connected and quite a shrewd judge of character to serve as chaperone. The group of male friends, all sexually experienced, wealthy rakes who really don't want to get married. Mix in one London season, lots of parties and a group of sisters who plot together?

After rereading this, I still find it a quick, light and happy read with all of the familiar casting with whom a knowledgeable reader is familiar. One of the differences is that all of the men are quite upfront with each other that they really don't want to get "leg shackled" as they so eloquently phrase it. But they do want as much slap & tickle as they can get away with. One of the guys actually proposes to one sister that she become his mistress! Max and Augusta already keep a sharp eye on the girls, so things will probably only go so far.. but still a rake can always hope, right?

As I dearly love the restrictions of the traditional regency genre & mourn is near demise Four in Hand will stay on my keeper shelves. :)

Happy Reading!

Friday, May 29, 2009

How dark is too dark?

As many of you know, generally speaking I'm primarily a romance reader. A genre well known for it's happily ever after (HEA) requirement. No matter how dark and difficult the journey gets the romance reader slogs on secure in the eventual HEA. Other genres have their own parameters: the mystery must be solved, the evil henchmen will be foiled or apprehended or killed, the quest successfully completed, etc. Lately I've been reading mysteries (police procedurals) written by international authors. I've enjoyed my little jaunt outside of my favorite reading, but my most recent read (review coming soon) has left me wondering about my preferences in tone and characterization.

Generally, police procedurals is a self explanatory type of mystery, one definition found here. A few days ago I finished a PP written by a new to me Irish writer.It was absolutely excellent & I hope to find/buy/borrow his other books via the library. However, the protagonist is a man who is willing to bend events and statements to suit his ideas about who is guilty. I found this protagonist's personality & moral compass very troubling. I don't plan to dissect this book here. I'm trying to think out loud, as it were, about my own parameters regarding protagonists in fiction.

For certain things I have strict preferences about characters & personality type. One example would be vampires in paranormal romance. I will read only those vampires (male or female) who are confident in their "vampireness", who are not looking to redeem their lost souls, who have no more regrets than the rest of us. I will not read any angst laden, guilt ridden, OMG I need my soul back vampires. The recent trend in hard assed, edgy, take no prisoners, I don't need help dammit female protags? I'm tired of these chicks, already. I need to empathize with the lead character, people. I need some kind of hook to hang my hat on.

I'm new to the police procedural subgenre. I've only read & watched a few. Watched more than read. Maigret, Kurt Wallander, Montalbano, etc. I'm thinking that the cookie cutter problem solver in a PP has some of the following: divorce, past/current addiction, tormented childhood, failed love relationships, estranged children, money problems. I expect all those. Sherlock Holmes, one of the greatest detectives in fiction, is an addict and a misogynist.

In my limited exposure, though, the underlying compulsion is a thirst for justice, a desire to solve the puzzle, a tendency to hunt down the truth- whatever. Something like that. A type of single mindedness that often excludes much else from their personal life. Until now I've not come across a PP wherein the protag turns out to be, at best, morally ambivalent regarding how he solves his puzzles at worst, a contributor to the moral malaise modern culture is said to suffer from.

Plainly said, I don't like him. He's morally repugnant. He's actually a bad guy. Deeply & truly bad, not bad with a heart of gold bad. Know what I mean? The book police guy is like Michael Chiklis' character on the tv show The Shield. A good guy in name only. In a charming way, truth be told. If you read the 'definitions' of police procedural and noir, I guess this guy moves this book firmly into the noir end of the spectrum. As I said, the book review comes later.

Uh, I guess the short version is: I dislike reading about morally ambiguous main characters. So, most people would/have/are ask(-ed, -ing), "who cares, woman?! move on already!" Somehow I feel like it's my shortcoming as a reader that I dislike negative characters. That I'm supposed to be ok with all types of character immorality. Has reading romance so long narrowed my view that much? Or ..? Maybe (probably) I'm just a simple minded reader who prefers things more clearly white and grey and less definitively black. There's enough evil and darkness IRL anyway.

I guess what it comes down to is that, in a dark toned book, regardless of genre, I need there to be some small amount of light in a primary character in order to keep me going. For example, in the Black Jewels trilogy, Saetan & his love for Jaenelle kept me going in the pitch darkness that series sometimes led me into. There are other books where I've disliked a character's morals enough that I've dropped it unfinished. What does it say about me that I've finished (barely) Madame Bovary but can't quite get up enough nerve to read Anna Karenina?

I saw this over at Let's Gab. I love these little 'who are you...' quizzes.

Your results:
You are Deanna Troi

Deanna Troi
Jean-Luc Picard
Beverly Crusher
Geordi LaForge
Will Riker
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Sulu
Mr. Scott
You are a caring and loving individual.
You understand people's emotions and
you are able to comfort and counsel them.

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character am I?" quiz...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Drive By Reviews

Lord of the Keep~ Ann Lawrence

An historical romance set in England in 1192, released by Lovespell in 1999. Retains a flavor of 'old school' romance. Young heroine becomes pregnant via a garrison soldier. Her uncle brings her to the lord's court but she refuses to name her suitor & agrees to pay the fine. Time passes. Emma & her babe are again brought to Gilles' attention, this time because they are being pursued through the woods by a pack of dogs. He finds her a position at his keep, but this is complicated by the presence of her former lover- who tries to take advantage of her. Story dragged & I skimmed most of it.

Deryni Tales~ Katherine Kurtz

This is an anthology edited by Katherine Kurtz and published by Ace in 2002. There are eight short stories plus an introduction and a story by Ms. Kurtz. All are set in her world, the Eleven Kingdoms, which is loosely based on medieval Wales. The stories take place all along the timeline of the Deryni books previously published by Ms. Kurtz. Most of these are excellent. I'm already a fan of this author & she has ably edited these fanfics. Recommmended for existing fans only, newcomers will surely be lost.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Garden Photos

Photos from my garden, all taken by Pianist.

Stargazer Lily from Mother's Day bouquet

Ninebark Diablo

Blueberry buds

Ninebark buds

Peach Iris

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dirge for Two Veterans; Walt Whitman

from Leaves of Grass (1900)

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the house tops, ghastly phantom moon;
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father;
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;
Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d;
(’Tis some mother’s large, transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rooftops of Tehran; Mahbod Seraji

I was so excited when I this came in the mail, I can't tell you! The blurb sounded wonderful. How can you resist young love and ideology and political unrest? All mixed in with the ancient Persian culture? Certainly not me. Many many years ago my parents bought me a beautiful lavishly illustrated child's book titled Persian Fairy tales. I read that book cover to cover often & my fascination for Persian culture stayed with me into adulthood. Rooftops of Tehran is a modern coming of age tale set in 1973 & 1974 Tehran, Iran.

Pasha Shahed and his best friend Ahmed are seventeen year old young men who live in the same alley in Tehran Iran in 1973 and 1974. They do many of the things buddies do: swear not to date each other's sister or any other girl the other admires, they plot together how to get the attention of the girls they admire from afar, they play crazy practical jokes on each other, they commiserate about how awful school is and they have lots of sleepovers.

They gossip and laugh and sneak around, just like teenagers everywhere. The objects of their admiration are Faheemeh (Ahmed thinks she's perfect) and Zari Naderi, who is actually engaged to college junior Ramin Sobhi. Pasha can barely admit to himself that he likes her because he admires Ramin as well. And everyone knows Zari and Doctor, Ramin's nickname in the neighborhood, are absolutely perfect for each other. Pasha wouldn't dare interfere with that. Would he?

We watch as the seasons slowly turn in 1973. Ahmed and Faheemeh manage to become a couple despite her near miss arranged marriage. Pasha becomes friends with Doctor and resolves to do the honorable thing and hide his feelings for Zari. Pasha loves and admires his father, but feels pressured to strive for his father's ambitions as opposed to his own. He's only seventeen though, he still has one more year of high school to go. Surely he'll think of a way to subvert his father's wishes by the time he graduates?

However, there are rumblings of upheaval to come. The Shah's regime is oppressive, and actively spies on his populace ruthlessly suppressing and eradicating any dissension- or even attempts at independent, critical thinking. Doctor is a third year political science major at a prominent university. The trial of a notorious political dissident marks the beginnings of drastic changes for all four friends.

Mr. Seraji does a superb job submerging the reader in the daily life and culture of everyday Iranians. Pasha's interior dialogue is quite vivid and his personality captures & holds your attention right away. The novel opens innocently enough but slowly and steadily an ominous feeling creeps over the reader. Tension builds. Hope and dread build simultaneously. I highly recommend this book. I plan to keep a sharp eye out for this author's future titles.

I received a review copy of this book from Authors on the Web

Rooftops of Tehran can be bought HERE.

Summer Contest is running a summer long contest in which readers can enter to win a beach bag of summer reads.

Click here for information.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sci Fi inside the Beltway

Today's Washington Post has a really neat story on how the federal government is using science fiction authors to help bureaucrats think outside the box. Way to go!! CLICK HERE. You may need to register to read the article, but that's free.

Review coming tomorrow of Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Night Lost, Lynn Viehl

I read this a few weeks ago. Lynn Viehl's Darkyn books are always my reliable, go-to vampire novels. Fast paced & yummy with a side order of edginess. At least they are for me anyway. :) Excellent world building with an overarching plot that continues in each novel. It isn't necessary to read the series in order, though. I like some emo angst driven vampires, but once in awhile I want grown up adults who can handle their business. Ms. Viehl's Darkyns are that. Night Lost is the fourth book in the Darkyn series. Correct series order is listed HERE. The first book in the Darkyns is If Angels Burn, the fifth book is Evermore.

Nicola Jefferson is a tormented young woman, now an art thief, religious art being her specialty. In the course of looking for a particular relic that has personal meaning for her, she has freed several Darkyn. Thus making her an enemy of the Brethren of the Light, the Roman Catholic order sworn to eradicate the Darkyn. Nicola also has a particularly strong dream life, often seeing and talking with someone she calls 'the green man'. In rural France she enters a derelict church and finds Gabriel Seran imprisoned there.

Gabriel is a captured Kyn who has been abandoned by his fellow Kyn. For those readers who like to know, Gabriel's l'attrait (each Kyn has a unique scent called l'attrait) is evergreen. I love that unique Darkyn trait, somehow it makes them..I don't know..more accessible? I'm a gardener and scent gardens are a particular favorite of mine, so maybe I'm different. I don't know. Anyhow, somehow he has managed to hold on to his honor despite being locked in a church cellar and tortured by the Brethren. Gabriel too has dreams of an ethereal young woman, a woman who may be able to free him, if only she can find him.

Meantime the overarching plot continues apace. Alexandra Keller, the physician heroine from the first book, has been kidnapped and locked up in Richard Tremayne's (the Kyn leader) castle in Ireland. Alex's estranged brother John is imprisoned there as well. Michael Cyprian, Alex's lover, several of his men as well as Brethren, Gabriel and Nicola all converge in Ireland. Makes for some serious fireworks.

This book has a more sinister tone to it than the last one. I enjoyed that. Vampires should be edgy, should make you feel unsettled a little. This novel delivers that and heat. A fabulous combination! Winner. Also, probably a keeper.

Image found on Fantastic Fiction.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TBR Challenge: When He Was Wicked; Julia Quinn

When He Was Wicked is Julia Quinn's sixth book in the Bridgerton family series. This is Francesca and Michael's story. Ms. Quinn also wrote a 'second epilogue' for WHWW which readers can order from her site HERE. The first book in the Bridgerton family group is The Duke & I which is a keeper of mine. The seventh book, the one which directly follows this one is It's in His Kiss. Information for both of these is on Ms. Quinn's website, link embedded in the title above. I read this for Avid Reader's monthly TBR Challenge which is due today. This month's theme is unrequited love or friends to lovers, themes that are among my favorites in romance. WHWW is set primarily in 1824 in England and in Scotland.

Michael and John Stirling were raised together in the same household, despite being cousins they were closer than brothers. John was the heir, though, and to the heir go all of the riches. In this case that would be Francesca. John's wife. Cupid's arrows struck Michael deeply and true. Unfortunately, Michael hadn't met Francesca until two days prior to her wedding to John. Somehow Michael manages to hide his feelings from them & the Earl of Kilmartin marries Francesca Bridgerton. Michael is that unique Romanceland creation: the rake with the heart of gold. He seduces only unhappy, lonely married ladies with whom his dalliances are acceptable and sought after and who are least risky in terms of a bad outcome. Among the Ton he is known as the Merry Rake.

Francesca and John were happily married for two years. Somehow the newlyweds incorporated Michael into their lives and slowly Francesca came to see Michael as her closest friend second only to John. One fateful night Francesca and Michael go out for an evening stroll and return to Kilmartin House to find John dead in bed. Stunned and deeply in shock each say things to the other, expect things of the other, that can't be lived up to. Francesca miscarries their baby. Michael, now Earl of Kilmartin upon John's death, flees for India, not knowing how to cope with all of the losses and changes.

Four years later, Francesca has finally come out of mourning and come down to London for a season. Perhaps it's time to hunt for another husband. She's twenty six now and her biological clock is ticking. Francesca wants a baby and a husband and she knows that she's unlikely to find another man with whom she'll have a deep bond with. Unknown to her, Michael too has returned to face taking up the reins of his title. As soon as he sees her Michael knows he's still deeply in love with Francesca. But how can he cope with feeling guilty about inheriting John's title and loving and desiring Francesca too?

Michael wars with his feelings as Francesca tries to fit Michael back into the box she'd had him in while John was still alive. After four years, though, Michael is definitely not the same man. Francesca can't seem to let go of her preconceived notions about who Michael is & what's best for him. Michael, believe it or not, is nudged into action by Francesca's brother Colin. Will either of them be able to make peace with their conscience and the memory of John so they can embrace happiness again? Michael, for whatever reason, won't tell Francesca how he feels until it's almost too late. Will she hear him?

Later in the book Francesca struggles with feelings of disloyalty to John and struggles with society's expected sexual roles & sexuality of wives. She has some serious issues to struggle with, not least of which is that she's more than willing to enjoy Michael's sexual favors but doesn't want to marry him, and yet she denies (for a while anyway) that she's using him. The other problem is her possible fertility problem. Earlier in the book, I most appreciated and enjoyed Francesca talking to her mother about her mother's widowhood & what Francesca might be looking forward to. Francesca was willing to go after what she wanted, and she was confident enough to discuss it with her mother before setting out what to obtain it.

I've not read any of the Bridgerton books for several years, Penelope and Colin's book was the last one I read. This book felt fresh and new for me since I didn't remember any of the characters other than Violet (Francesca's mother). I really liked Ms. Quinn's attention to the intricacies of the emotional issues involved between two people who loved the same person, now dead. I liked her attention to Francesca's emotional and sexual conflicts. It was an excellent read & I plan to keep it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Updates Again

Ok, so I'm not dead yet. I know I've been slacking re: posting. No I didn't go on vacation (I wish!). The excitement is over now. Thank the Lord. We survived. I can breathe. Remember my name. Remember that I've 4 books backed up to read this month. That I still have three or four to review from last month. Not that I'm working on any of that right now, mind you.

Decorated mortar board
No this isn't his graduation. Photo credits at end of post.

Firstly. Hubby graduated from his program. The ceremony was long despite the obvious organizational efficiency and ruthless speed the ceremony was conducted with. I noticed only 5 other male graduates in this field. Almost equally divided by race. A few ladies who wore headscarves and one wore a niquab, which made me wonder how comfortable her patients would be. *shrug* We believe in freedom of religion & expression after all. Anyhow, we went out for Chinese for an early dinner. Our favorite place to celebrate. Unfortunately they're struggling to make ends meet. We've been going there for twelve years & they've slowly scaled back a little bit here and a little bit there. I hope they make it, there's no where else close that we can have a sit down formal Chinese meal of such high quality. :(

After that it was my birthday on Friday. We took College Student out to brunch with us. Then hubby and I drove out to the Virginia arboretum near Winchester and took a long walk around some of the grounds. It's absolutely gorgeous. Click here for a virtual tour. Well worth the trip, if you're vacationing here or you're a local who likes gardening & misses the trees that used to be here before Suburbia Invaded. It's even free. Not even a charge for parking, if you can believe it. :) Blandy Farm is a lovely and peaceful place. No one else appeared to be there. Just us and the birds and the squirrels. Beautiful specimen trees and several lovely gardens. Bird condos & ponds & bridle trails. It had been far too long since we meandered around together, went on an adult day trip. No hurry, nowhere else to be, no other pressing commitments. I love the children, but raising them really drains a relationship even when the couple strives to maintain closeness and a deep connection between each other.

Saturday- Drove back down to tiny little town to drop College Student off at my parents so he can start work on Monday. He's not staying home this summer. Glad he's taking a step up, but I miss him. Took my MIL & SIL out to lunch for birthday & Mother's Day. Got updates on the uncle & other family members. Drove back home.

Sunday- Had two handbell performances at church this morning. It was really fun, although I never learned two bars of one piece despite my neighbor whispering the count in my ear! It was embarassing. I like bells though. Missed CS. He used to be in the handbell choir with us. Stood right across from me & made faces at me when he knew I was nervous. I don't read music so I'm nervous alot.

Graduation photo found on Webshots. Images of Blandy Experimental Farm found on state arboretum of Virginia Blandy Experimantal Farm Handbell image found on Bethlehem United Church of Christ.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Patrick Rothfuss News

According to Fantasy Book News & Reviews Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind has just sent a ginormous copy of his first draft of the second novel to his editor. Good news for those of you waiting for the next book.

Author image found on Waterstones. The Name of the Wind cover image found on B & N. Cover on new book found on Suduvu.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Catching Up

Visit to view and / or join an MSN group of bird fanciers around the world
This isn't me, but I think this is what it has been like around here these past few days: fun & exciting but a little overwhelming! Image found on

So it has been busy around here. And inspiration for blogging evaporated with all of the excitement.

Thursday~ Pretty typical day, but it's the busiest day of the week. Write post & try to catch up on feed reader. Run out of time to write another post for Friday. Drive hubby to work. Pick kids up from school. Drive to piano lesson. Potluck at church. Handbell choir. Hubby off early, have to pick him up earlier than expected. Drive home. Help daughter prioritize homework. Put kids to bed. Collapse.

Friday~ Make sure kids remember we won't be home when they return from school. No "accidentally" missing the bus- no one will be home to rescue them. Drive out to C'ville for entrance interview with prominent state school for potential admission next January. Nerves were strung taught for that one let me tell you. Hubby sprung that one on me Wednesday night. Good thing he surprised me with it, or else I would've cancelled it out of sheer nerves. Drive from C'ville to Lovely Sister's house outside of Richmond to pick up College Student. Drive from Lovely Sister's to MCV downtown to visit hubby's uncle, who is in acute oncology. You'd never know that from the cheerful atmosphere in his room, which resembles nothing more than an indoor picnic/family reunion. No good news on that front, I'm afraid. Drive back home. Enthusiastic welcome for College Student. Collapse again.

Saturday~ Nada. Stayed home & relaxed. Visited with College Student.

Sunday~ B'fast in bed: french toast, bacon, strawberries, homefries, coffee & juice. Newspaper. Peace & quiet. Wonderful. Called my mom. Hubby leaves for work. I decide to go clothes shopping. First time in ages & ages I've gone clothes shopping with the luxury of time to myself. No one with other pressing needs, impatient to leave or whining about how "I need $$ for ______ mom." The store was having a BOGO sale & I managed to do that rare thing: find things that were appealing, flattering and on sale! Bought some cards for hubby's graduation on Tuesday & went home. Chatted with College Student & waited for hubby to return from work.

Monday~ Younger kids go to school after Hubby pats them on the head & makes sure they have lunch money & eat b'fast. He returns to bed while everyone else sleeps in. Drive hubby to work. Buy him his graduation gift (can't tell you yet, he sometimes reads the blog). Take Anime Queen to Kinko's to print out copies of her prom pics & to have several music books spiral bound so Pianist can practice with them. Trot next door to buy a newer copy of the MLA handbook so AQ can write a major paper. Put kids to bed. Dust living room. Load dishwasher & run.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll find a few moments to write up another book review. Or read a book. Then again, The Hubby graduates tomorrow night & he might need to be kept busy so his nerves don't get the best of him before the ceremony. I'll write it all up Wednesday & post it.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Immortal Hunter; Lynsay Sands

This is book eleven in the Argeneau family series as well as a book in Ms. Sands' Rogue Hunters series. Click title above to go to Ms. Sands' page for this book. This is a contemporary set paranormal suspense. TBH, I've not read one of Ms. Sands'books in quite some time. The last title of hers I read is Tall Dark & Hungry (book four), review here. I did not purchase this one myself, it was a gift from my Hubby who knows that I like vamps. I do like vamps but generally I've not really connected deeply with Ms.Sands' characters & thus she fell by the wayside. Ms. Sands other new title so far this year is titled Devil of the Highlands & she has book twelve in the Argeneau/Rogue Hunter series coming out in September of this year.

This book made me wonder if the 'Cynster disease' has struck with Ms. Sands. For those of you unfamiliar with this, Stephanie Laurens started an historical book series with a large family named the Cynsters. Subsequently she's moved out to cousins & family friends etc. all tied in with the original Cynsters in some vague and nebulous way. Now, I'm all for an author following a tried and true reader loved path: connected series. Authors are in the market to make money & sell books after all. I simply wasn't aware that Ms. Sands had done so.

This book follows a familiar path: innocent victim(s) is/are terrorized by a group of baddies, victim rescued by a mysterious pair of men who claim to be good guys intent on helping her, but can she really trust them? The victim in this case is Dr. Danielle McGill, who along with her sister was kidnapped out of a parking lot. The supposed good guy is Decker Argeneau, a kind of vampire cop who chases down killer vampires. In Ms. Sands' world vampires don't need to feed off of live humans because hello?? blood banks. I really appreciate that Ms. Sands' vampires are forward looking & unafraid of technology.

Much of Ms.Sands' world I appreciate: the blood banks, the un-self-conscious way the vamps feed, the fact that the love interest cannot be forced to choose immortality, the strong sense of duty and responsibility to the community. There were elements in this story I didn't like: the totally unrealistic hot & heavy petting in the back of the van while another vamp drove up front at breakneck speed chasing the baddies; sex in the changing room at the mall; how willing Decker Argeneau was to lie to Danielle while justifying what he said both to her and to his boss (also his cousin) when questioned.

A mixed bag for me, but I think there's alot to recommend Ms. Sands' work for other romance lovers.

Image found on Fantastic Fiction

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Major Milestones

Kudos to my Hubby- he passed his last exam Monday morning with a 95!! It was his last exam & was crucial to obtaining his degree!! I'm so excited & proud of him. It has been a long long road to get here & has required sacrifices from us all. Graduation is next week.

On another front- Anime Queen's prom is this weekend. College Student is coming up to be her escort. She's thrilled. She has missed him so much these last two years. Her dress is lavender with an empire waist, slim fitting. A single row of rhinestones underneath her bosom. Sheer shirred fabric (same color) fastens behind her neck. It's a beautiful gown, perfect for her petite & delicate looking self. If she allows I'll post a pic of her in her gown.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Rake's Redemption; Donna Simpson

I found this at my local UBS in their dwindling traditional regency section. I love TRs & I really wish they weren't passe. It's too late for that I suppose, but I feed my fix every once in a while by hunting for some "new to me" titles at my favorite UBS. Ms. Simpson currently publishes under the name Donna Lea Simpson. I thought I had some of her longer work in my TBR, but apparently I don't. Neither have I read or kept anything of hers, so she's a new to me author. Her most recent book, released in April of this year titled Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark is set in Georgian England.

As the title implies, ARR is all about that old regency maxim 'reformed rakes make the best husbands'. LOL :) ARR is also one of my personal favorites: wounded protagonist must be nursed to health by member of opposite sex. For me these romances often work in a similar fashion to cabin romances: the protagonists are forced into close & repeated contact by the circumstances of the illness/injury etc. So the reader can watch as their feelings grow and change as each person must deal with the other, even when they'd rather not.

Phaedra Gillian is an older, spinster daughter living in quiet isolation with her elderly father, a retired clergyman. One morning Phaedra, clad only in her wrapper & nightie, discovers (alerted by her maid) Lawrence Jamison, Earl of Hardcastle, beaten near unto death in the road not far from the Gillians' cottage. As 'Mr. Lawrence' slowly recovers, nosy neighbors reveal that the handsome man stuck abed upstairs is actually Hard Hearted Hardcastle himself! In the flesh. Devious seducer that he is. You know, while he's stuck in bed hoping he doesn't have kidney damage. LOL :)

As Hardcastle recovers, he and Phaedra's father play chess and have philosophical conversations in the evenings. The old clergyman spoon feeds Hardcastle newfangled thoughts about the role of love and women and fatherhood and what it really means to be an adult on your own terms. This is what I really really appreciated about this book- Hardcastle changes on his own with a push or two from Rev. Gillian. Yes, he lusts after Phaedra, but primarily the accident causes Hardcastle to be reflective in a place where a mature man can give him guidance.

An excellent little read, well worth your time if you order one or find it in a UBS near you.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Hope's Folly; Linnea Sinclair

This is the first title I've read by Ms. Sinclair & I think I'm in love! LOL :) Just kidding. I think. IMO science fiction romance is a difficult balance. As a reader I find that some SFRs are heavy one way or the other but not quite both. I suppose that's the trouble with hybrid genres- it must take a book or two to balance the two? Then again, from what little I know this could also be categorized as space opera. Anyhow, Ms. Sinclair has certainly gained a new fan. Hope's Folly is her March 2009 release from Bantam. It's the third in her Dock Five series. The first one being Gabriel's Ghost. Link to Ms. Sinclair's books page is in the title above.

In Hope's Folly we have your basic edge of your seat, life and death space war mixed in with liberal helpings of a May-December romance. You're familiar with the drill: giant galactic empire is faced with a small band of fierce rebels who struggle against long odds. Sprinkle liberally with treachery and mutiny and faceless bureaucracy and good old fashioned lust & you have a fabulous recipe for yummy reading.

Admiral Philip Guthrie is defecting to the rebels. He's in his late forties & has lingering medical issues, but he's determined to give the rebels the benefit of his years of spacefaring experience. Rya Bennton is in her late twenties & is the general equivalent of NIS (Naval Investigative Services- Navy security, more than police but not FBI either & way more than the tv show, btw). They last met when Rya was a girl. She has always loved Philip in a hero worshiping type of way, but now that they've met she falls in love with the man she sees, as opposed to the fairy tale she'd built in her head. Philip is now divorced & has trouble allowing himself to act on his feelings for Rya because they're in the middle of running for their lives and she's his mentor's daughter, although he's definitely realized that Rya's not a little girl any longer.

I inadvertently started the Dock Five series with this title. I didn't realize it at the time, but I didn't feel lost or overwhelmed- so you can dive right in with this one if you're so inclined. If you're anything like me, you'll rush out & buy a few more of Ms. Sinclair's titles. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

April Synopsis

Below are listed the titles I've read this month, in no particular order. Titles that have been reviewed are hyperlinked to the review. Those reviews that have yet to come are so listed. It has been an excellent reading month!

Edited 1 June 2009~ All titles are now reviewed & hyperlinked>

1.Lord of the Keep; Ann Lawrence

2. Dark Need; Lynn Viehl

3. Hope's Folly; Linnea Sinclair

4. A Rake's Redemption; Donna Simpson

5. Immortal Hunter; Lynsay Sands

6. Deryni Tales; ed. by Katherine Kurtz

7. Certain Jeopardy; Struecker & Gansky

8. Melusine~ Sarah Monette

9. Night Lost; Lynn Viehl

10. The War of the Flowers~ Tad Williams

Friday, May 01, 2009

Certain Jeopardy; Struecker & Gansky

Certain Jeopardy is a military thriller written by Cpt. Jeff Struecker and Alton Gansky and will be published by B & H Publishing this month. I received an ARC of this book for the purposes of this review & where cited, the page numbers refer to the ARC I was given. There are some spoilers at the end this review, and I apologize ahead of time for that. I had serious issues with certain sections of the book. In order to address my concerns I decided that revealing some of the plot points was necessary. I want to say upfront that despite my concerns and issues with some of the plot problems I very much enjoyed this book. It's absolutely an edge of your seat, stay up late & finish no matter how early you have to get up.

Military thriller is a genre I don't read very much, although I often enjoy them when I do read them- particularly when they are well done. I will say up front that my personal history colors my views about this genre: my husband served in the combat arms branch of the US military back in the days before cell phones & internet service, never mind satellite cell & internet. I have found it impossible to read military thrillers or military romances without my "real world" experiences coloring my impressions. Certain Jeopardy can be divided into two POVs: the homefront and theater actions. The wives and the guys, if you will.

A small squad of Army special forces enlisted soldiers gets tasked to deploy on a mission to Venezuela for some intelligence gathering. As is typical for these things, there is no prior warning & the soldiers are not allowed to tell their families any basic information any family (military or civilian) might like to have: what, where, when, how long, etc. After the squad arrives and sets up, the situation rapidly becomes more dangerous for a variety of reasons. As I have no direct combat experience, I can't vouch for how realistic these sections might be. Having spent quite a significant amount of time with combat soldiers, IMO the rhythm and tone of their interactions is familiar.

It was nice to read an action thriller that's set amid current political issues in a pair of countries I've not seen used as a backdrop for covert military action in a book. The premise is well thought out: the US squad arrives in Venezuela to do their surveillance and the Venezuelans, coincidentally, have 'hotted' things up a bit by kidnapping a nuclear scientist and holding his family hostage. It was fun, I enjoyed this part.

The authors were careful to show just how hard it is for the service member and the spouse left behind to cope with everyday events. Regardless of which spouse is staying home, it's always hard to shoulder both roles when a spouse is deployed. Doubly so when the service member is totally out of contact. Life goes on in all of its messy, overscheduled, drama laden ways no matter how tired or stressed the partner is. I appreciated that about this novel- the life of a spouse left behind is not a bed of roses. Then again- when your service member is literally out of touch? Whining, berating the spouse for the career s/he chose, complaining about anything the service member can't help you with right then? Pointless & stressful for the soldier who is deployed far far away & can't do a damn thing to actually help you. Do both of you a favor & call someone else & bitch.

The conflict between what a soldier may be called to do & what he may believe is morally right is also well done. One of the squad members struggles with what needs to be done in terms of getting the task accomplished successfully & the fact that he's no longer as sure as he once was that the ends justify the means. Too, the depiction of faith as the bulwark that sustains and eases the day to day crises and problems of the spouses and families left behind during all too frequent deployments was wonderful. In my personal experience faith was critical in sustaining families during deployments.

It's two of the wives' parts I have issues with. Specifically with the storyline of the pregnant wife. Every combat unit we were with, the squad and platoon leaders wives understood that they were to contact the top of the phone tree if there were any problems. Anything. Anytime. Problem number one: the squad leader's wife, Stacy, has no idea why this other woman is calling her since they don't actually know each other. Hello?? You're the squad leader's wife. It's part of the territory. Poor Lucy called the top of the phone tree for help- just as she was supposed to. Doesn't matter if Stacy knows her or not. Stacy should have known that once the men deployed she would be the point of contact for the squad wives. Problem two: once the seriousness of the problem with Lucy was known, the squad leader's wife would have contacted the chain of command for help, as well as the American Red Cross. This never happens. She contacts the chaplain- which is fine as far as it goes. But that's not all that would have happened. Neither of these are minor things for me. These are important flaws in the wives' part of the story. The wives' story, the home front story should get as much accuracy as the action sections.

The other problem I have with this aspect of the story is that Lucy is said to be twelve weeks from her due date. (p. 107) A normal pregnancy is forty weeks. This puts Lucy at twenty eight weeks pregnant. No matter what medical problem is happening with the mother or her pregnancy, a twenty eight week gestation- a 28 week baby- has an almost guaranteed survival rate if the child is delivered alive. Mr. Struecker and Mr. Gansky write that Lucy and her baby have such a problem that the physicians want to abort the pregnancy. (p. 171) No physician, no obstetrician, would abort a living child to save the mother in the instance of the medical problem described, at the gestation this character was said to be. Deliver the baby, absolutely. Put the baby in NICU, put the mom in ICU, absolutely. Abort a living child when the pregnancy jeopardizes the mother's life??! Absolutely not. A baby delivered at that gestation is likely to live. Obstetricians would want the best outcome for both the mother and the child- would want both to live. There is nothing implied to be wrong with the baby, so..if there's a NICU, then they could deliver the child & save both of them. Right? No NICU? Then they would have been transported to a facility where there was one. How do I know all this? My loving & devoted ex combat arms soldier husband became an Army OB/GYN nurse.

My only other negative reaction to Certain Jeopardy is the death of the nonbeliever. The only squad member who actively criticizes Christian faith dies. I thought his death was an unnecessary swipe at those readers who might be unchurched. A thinly veiled commentary, if you will. IMO this character's conversion after his experiences would've had much more impact- positive impact at that.

Despite the problems I had with this book I enjoyed it very much. The depiction of home life and theater action was superb. An excellent book, well worth reading, especially if you're interested in a true to life glimpse of what military life is like for the combat branches.

This title is available in paperback from as well as in ebook form for the Kindle.