Friday, May 30, 2008

Five-Day Forecast: Excellent Reading Weather

I have no idea what the weather is going to be. But I hit Borders' 5-for-4 sale a few days ago, the library came through with some of my holds yesterday, and Lover Enshrined goes on sale Tuesday. I may not surface for awhile.

From Borders:
Meljean Brook's Demon trilogy, which I am 2/3 through and loving;
Loretta Chase's newest release
a random new-to-me author who's name and title is escaping me

From the Library:
A Kresley Cole triple-threat and Paradise by Judith McNaught.

Waiting for me Tuesday:
Lover Enshrined by JR Ward
Nightkeepers by Jessica Anderson

If you don't see me for a few days, you could slide a pizza & some diet coke through the door. Maybe check to make sure my kids haven't gone all Lord of the Flies. I'll be busy.
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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Review: Crazy Sweet, by Tara Janzen

So, Shannon and I are having a disagreement in "Recommendations" comments about Ms. Janzen. Thumbs up from Shannon. Thumbs down from me.

Rather than get the comments all strung out, I thought I'd do a quick mini-review here.

I read this one a while ago, maybe last summer. I nabbed it from the UBS, the way I often try new authors. The premise is that the heroine, once a mild-mannered secretary or something, has been turned into an assassin extroadinaire --code name Red Dog-- by a combination of experimental drugs administered by the UberBadGuy in a previous book, and then "special" training by the Good Guys.

Glancing through the comments on Amazon, it looks like even Janzen fans didn't like this one. Red Dog isn't much of a likeable character, and I felt like the plot built us up for a big ending that didn't deliver. Can't say much more than that without spoiling it.

The secondary romance isn't secondary enough. It's distracting and at times you have to wonder who the heck this story is about. And what happened to the nun, anyway?

I think I'm not the MOST discriminating romance reader out there. If I'm entertained, I'll put up with a lot of mediocrity. But after reading Crazy Sweet, I've made it a point to avoid Janzen since.

I might've liked it better if I had read the series in order; this one just doesn't seem to hold up on its own.

OK, Shannon, should I give Janzen another chance? Maybe starting at the beginning of a series? Anyone else want to chime in for yay or for nay?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Recommendations

Blog-hopping has given me a lot of ideas for new authors. Sadly, there seems to be some kind of bizarre electro-neuro-magnetic effect on my brain when I enter a bookstore, and the names of said authors are pulled right out of my head and into the shoplifter-detector-thingies, where they turn into stray electrons and bounce around causing the alarms to go off for random things like having pennies in your purse or your cell phone set to "silent."

That's the theory, anyway.

If I may direct your attention to the upper right hand corner of the blog, you will notice a new list: authors I haven't yet read but I'm interested in checking out. This is my attempt to mitigate the bookstore-door effect.

As you can see by the brevity of the list, as soon as I started writing the list down, the names fell out again. So much for the bookstore-door theory. I don't even need the door.

Help me fill this in. Am I neglecting your faves? Make your case. Leave a recc in comments, I'll take a look at the author's stuff, and if it looks like something I want to try, I'll add to the list.

Please do your part to help eradicate this tragic disorder.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Gentle Rain -- Review

I loved this book. As you already know, I'm already a Deborah Smith fan, but I think it's safe to say, she just keeps getting better. When I open one of her books, I rather expect a dark streak. But in AGR, there really isn't one, except perhaps for a blackly humorous scene involving mermaids and an alligator. This book is a straightforward romance, a case of seemingly opposites attracting. The operative word, I think, is "tender." Achingly so. Smith deftly plays your heartstrings to maximum effect without ever crossing the line into saccharine.

Are you the kind of reader who likes to read the last page first? I'm not-- and I strongly disapprove! I suppose that just by mentioning it I'm creating an irresistible temptation, but I really recommend you try to wait. It's rare that I can point to a single half page in a book and say, "There. Right there is the very BEST part of this book," but I can in this one. It strikes a perfect, joyful, funny note, and the effect will be much better for you if you don't spoiler yourself.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spymaster's Lady -- Review

This book is jaw-droppingly good.

You should read it as soon as possible. You should buy, not borrow, because you're going to want to re-read it. Probably as soon as you turn the last page. Whatever 1-through-n scale you use to rate books, this is an n+1. It goes to eleven.

If Sydney Bristow were dropped into 18th century Napoleonic France, she'd be Annique Villiers... or at least, her best friend. Fans of contemporary urban fantasy/romance will instantly recognize Annique's ass-kicking, never-say-die, I've-been-in-tighter-spots-than-this style. In fact, this is probably a great gateway book for you if you think you don't like historical romances--the historical period is almost irrelevant. Other than the political situation, there are virtually no historical details in this book-- and you don't miss them. In a very real way, this is a timeless story of power, ethics, loyalty, and what happens when you drop love into the mix. Annique, Grey, and the supporting cast are characters that live larger than life-- they are prominent players on the world chessboard and it's not surprising that when love takes them, it takes them in a big way.

The pacing and complex character development makes the plotting feel intricate and exciting... but in actuality, the basic plot is a very simple -- not to say easy-- moral dilemma. I don't think I've ever read anything so good that consisted so much of the heroine mostly thinking about how to do the right thing-- and about what exactly that thing is.

It's the voicing and the characters that make it a must-read and have Bourne's fans clamoring for more. Within Annique's point of view, the diction and thought processes are thoroughly French, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. A snip:

context: she regains consciousness after being knocked off a horse

It was entirely typical she should have a view of stubby pine trees to look at for her last minutes of life. Typical she should be stretched flat in soggy, cold mud. She tried to compose her mind to a nobility suitable for such a serious moment. What she thought upon, however, was her stupidity in trusting Henri's horse and how uncomfortable she was and how hungry her belly felt and how radiant were those tiny drips that quivered down the needles of the pines... the drips that slid along the pine needles and fell one by one onto her face.

She waited. Minutes passed. Nothing happened, except that she became more wet.

It came to her that she was not going to die. Or at least, not just immediately.


Another favorite snip, full of Annique's wry and fatalistic personality:

Context: she tried and failed to escape

She could feel savage satisfaction coursing through his body. He was positively gleeful to trap her like this. She became very afraid of him.

An hour ago, she had set her hand against his heart and wanted nothing more than to stay beside him. She would now do exactly that. The universe had been treating her with great sarcasm lately.


I'm an instant fan. I am clamoring for more. In particular, I can't wait to get more of the delicious Adrian (a secondary character who travels with Grey and Annique) and hopefully a few glimpses of how Annique and Grey are adjusting to their happily-ever-after.... Sadly I guess I will have to keep waiting; the next book is not about Adrian. Neither is the one after that. Bourne's blogpost on upcoming releases.

Ah well. Something to look forward to.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Long Overdue

It doesn't take long to get addicted to blogging -- reading, writing, and perhaps the most fun, following link to link from one interesting place to another to another to another, in the classic Give A Mouse a Cookie style. You can find yourself in some pretty amazing places in this manner if you have some time to kill.

Several people have been kind enough to place links to Alpha Heroes on their blogs, and it's past time that I returned the favor, and maybe pay a couple of them forward. I've already posted the links in the sidebar, and here's a little more info on each one:

Ciaralira: possibly the best alignment with mine. Ciara & I both read a lot of everything. Bonus: you get to check out her photos from her recent Ireland trip. <drool>

Literary Escapism: dive deep into the world of paranormal and urban fantasy romance. Jackie knows her stuff.

Paperback Writer: Lynn Viehl's blog. I'm not going to list the blogs of all the authors I follow -- I can't read them all anyway, but this one is different. Viehl blogs about writing, about books she loves, about blogging, and about e-publishing. It's fun and fresh and if you like her books, she offers some nice freebies on a regular basis.

Reader, I Married Him: brand new and promising, an academic take on the social themes and attitudes reflected in genre romance. I absolutely loved her first substantive post on masculinity and chivalry (and any fan of the Flight of the Conchords is alright by me).

Teach Me Tonight: I have to admit, this one is sort of on probation with me. I discovered it in late February and loved what I saw, but lately it's been less interesting to me. The recent post (April 27) promising to discuss genre & sexuality devolved so deeply into academic babble that eventually it didn't even seem like English to me. I'm also a little disappointed to discover the dialog in comments to be pretty cliquish. Still, there've been some great posts in the past so I'm hoping it's just a down phase that they'll come back out of. This is kind of a stressed out time of year for academic types, I guess.
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The Biggies: I'm not linking these in the sidebar because I think everyone knows about them, but just in case you don't, check out:

Dear Author
Beyond Her Book - Barbara Vey at Publisher's Weekly
Romancing the Blog
Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
All About Romance (And yes, I kind of stole the idea for my header graphic from here. My photo is one that *I* actually took though, and I'm pretty proud of it. )
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When I'm not reading, working or wrangling my kids, a lot of the time I'm crafting. I'm big into scrapbooks, quilting, and cross-stitch. Between that and my artist husband, there are a number of art-craft blogs that I follow:

Mechronomicon Creepy, scary digital art. Yeah, I married the guy.

Daz Cox's Art Blog Darren is a re-connected high school friend, the crush that never was. He's got some amazing stuff up here.

Hoola Tallulah Hoola is living a life I fantasize about -- she moved her family to rural France and spends her time raising veggies & small livestock and making adorable crafty things. I'm sure I wouldn't last a week in her place, but it looks and sounds completely idyllic.

Doodleblog: an amazing, amazing quilter.
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Then there are folks that are just plain interesting to read, whatever they choose to write about:

The Dog's Pajamas O'Donovan reeled me in with this blog last year when she promised a post per day. That pledge ended at New Years', so now all us poor addicts limp along, waiting for her pearls. She is also a co-blogger here at Alpha Heroes upon occasion. (My Lynn Viehl addiction is totally her fault).

Half an Acre A friend's musings about life as a grad student.

Poor Richard's Daughter Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant. Hard to describe but well worth the read.

Last but not least, if you are in the Chicago or central Illinois area and love jazz vocals, check out Stephanie.

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