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Showing posts from December, 2009

Favorites Read in 2009

These lists are in random order since Maya and I certainly don't want to try to decide an actual ranking order! Too stressful in the middle of the holiday season. They also have nothing to do with the publication date, just what we've been reading and enjoying this year.

What are your personal favorite reads (or re-reads) in 2009?

Maya's Current 5 Favorites:

~~Ch'at to Yinilo'/Frog Brings the Rain by Patricia Hruby Powell

~~I Wish that I Had Duck Feet by Dr. Seuss (one of my childhood favorites, too)

~~Anything and everything Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor (Fancy Nancy is Maya's personal fashion icon, too)

~~Anything and everything Scooby-Doo

~~Anything and everything Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner (though I still find those hard to read aloud to her without getting tongue-twisted)

My Current 10 Favorites:

~~Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin

~~Tuscan Holiday by Holly Chamberlin

~~Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

~~Anything and everything by Lisa Marie Rice, especially h…

To Seduce a Bride by Nicole Jordan

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My favorite of Nicole Jordan's The Courtship Wars series, so far, is book three, To Seduce a Bride (2008), about Lily, the youngest of the three Loring sisters.

Lily has absolutely no desire to live within the rules of polite society, including maintaining that she'll never marry. She wants to travel, and Arabella's husband, Marcus, has given her enough of a fortune to actually pursue that goal.

But Lily meets Heath, the Marquis of Claybourne, at Arabella and Marcus' wedding, complete with a delightful interlude in the stables. Heath's determined to court her in order to see if they would be compatible as a married couple. And Lily adamantly refuses and flees, ensuring his pursuit.

Running to family friend Fanny, who makes her way as a paramour and madame, leaves an opening for Heath and Lily to engage in a challenge, judged by two older former mistresses. If Heath earns enough points, awarded by the judges for his romantic gestures, he's guaranteed the opport…

This and That

Am I the only one not planning to see the movie adaptation of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones? Already not brave enough to see the movie version of a book so wonderful and resonating, my decision cemented after reading that (a) the movie is really about the father's perspective and (b) the details of the rape and murder are glossed over because director Peter Jackson wanted to make a movie he and wife/screenwriter collaborator Fran Jackson felt comfortable having their teenage daughter watch. Huh?

Under those circumstances, I don't see how the story can be told in a manner fitting the novel.

If you see the movie The Lovely Bones, please let me know what you think, especially if you have read the book.

Anyone get a Nook yet? What do you think??

Look here to see Amazon's Editors' Picks for Top 10 Romances of 2009. You can find their overall Top 100 Editors' Picks here.

Amazon's number one selection in the romance category is Angels' Blood by Nalini Si…

To Bed a Beauty by Nicole Jordan

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Continuing with my theme of re-reading some of my favorite books, I'm looking at Nicole Jordan's Courtship Wars series, set during the Regency era, again. The series starts with the stories of three sisters (in order of publication and best read in order): To Pleasure a Lady (Arabella), To Bed a Beauty (Roslyn), and To Seduce a Bride (Lily). Book four, To Romance a Charming Rogue (Eleanor), is about the younger sister of one of the grooms. Book five, To Tame a Dangerous Lord, features Haviland (more in a moment) and releases on January 26, 2010. Tick-tock--anxiously waiting for book five!

To Bed a Beauty (2008) features Roslyn, middle child and considered the "looker" of the three Loring sisters, suffering financially and tainted by their notorious parents. Believing herself to be in love with Haviland (see that book five!!), an Earl and their neighbor, she decides to set about winning his love in return.

Having determined from her own parents' marriage and …

Dark Desires after Dusk by Kresley Cole

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With the weather outside so frightful and an extended holiday weekend, what better time for re-reading some of my favorite books? And, for some reason, I can't find a blog post about Dark Desires After Dusk (2008), book five in Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series.

Cadeon Woede is a demon with a mission--regaining the throne for his brother, Rydstrom, that he blames himself for losing 900 years ago. Slight problem--the payment to gain the sword he needs to defeat the enemy is Holly Ashwin, his fated bride and raised as a human, yet about to change into so much more. Add that to the fact that Cade has watched and wanted Holly in secret for a year, knowing she's his woman.

And Cade and the sword-maker aren't the only two interested in having Holly because she's the one fated to give birth to a child who is either the ultimate evil or the ultimate good. Everything rests in the nature of the father of the child.

As Cade supports her through her change and shows …

Merry Chirstmas!

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"Blessed are those who give without remembering. And blessed are those who take without forgetting." ~~Bernard Meltzer

Christmas Break

I'm taking a break from blogging for my four-day Christmas weekend. I'll post again on Monday.

In the meantime, I wish for those of you who celebrate Christmas a wonderful, safe holiday weekend with your family and friends. For those of you who don't celebrate Christmas, have a fantastic weekend!

Since I love quotations and lists, I leave you with the following words of wisdom for your reading enjoyment:

"You want weapons? We're in a library. Books! Best weapons in the world! This room's the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself." ~~Doctor Who

"What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?" ~~George Eliot

"Believe me: the secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously!" ~~Friedrich Nietzsche

"All glory comes from daring to begin." ~~Eugene F. Ware

"The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself." ~~Rita Mae…

SEALed with a Promise by Mary Margaret Daughtridge

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SEALed with a Promise (2009) is the first, and likely last, book I've read by Mary Margaret Daughtridge.

Navy SEAL Caleb "Do Lord" Delaude is handsome, charming, and willing to do anything to get revenge on the man he believes is his father. Raised without a father and then losing his mother at the age of sixteen, due to not having insurance or money for the healthcare she needed, he has plenty of reasons to hate.

Plain, intelligent professor Emmie Caddington is dealing with her own abandonment issues after being left in her grandmother's care by her missionary parents. She's also the perfect "in" for Caleb with his father's crowd. And, yes, he truly thinks providing her with some physical fun and serving as her escort is a fair exchange for using her. Ugh.

Of course, Emmie isn't really plain; she's a duckling in need of swan conversion. And Caleb, well, he just needs the love of a good woman--maybe. Or will he let vengeance not only take…

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy

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I've been a huge fan of Maeve Binchy's work ever since the 1995 movie Circle of Friends, starring Minne Driver and Chris O'Donnell, caused me to "discover" her. Then I was really excited when her Tara Road became a selection of the Guaranteed Huge Sales Group--I mean, Oprah's Book Club.

Having read every book and collection of short stories from Binchy, I have to say that her latest, Heart and Soul (2009), is my absolute favorite, which is saying a lot. There is a phenomenal cast of characters, and I literally stayed awake almost all of last night to read the entire book in one sitting.

Based around a Dublin heart clinic, the characters are the patients and staff and their families of the clinic. There are too many characters to go in-depth on each of them, but, as always, Binchy's writing revolves around love (in all forms, not just romantic), choices and their consequences, family patterns and relationships, and self-discovery.

Their stories unfold in …

Savor Me Slowly by Gena Showalter

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Savor Me Slowly by Gena Showalter (2009) fulfills the promise of the Alien Huntress series with two equally strong, yet vulnerable, characters in Mishka Le'Ace and Jaxon Tremain.

Mishka, created in a lab, is part machine, part animal, and part DNA from her five creator-scientists. She also has a chip, used to track her and to control her through the threat of severe pain, that allows a sleazy Senator to use her to advance his own career and causes. (Not too hard to see that happening, is it?) The ultimate fighter, she has been forced into horrible acts over the years.

Jaxon, an Alien Investigation & Removal agent, has his own scars, physical and emotional, that cause him to repress his true self. His life revolves around his cool, calm persona as an AIR agent, yet he's really not at all cool or calm.

They meet when Mishka saves Jaxon from his imprisonment by a group of aliens seeking information from him. Luckily, Jaxon hasn't cracked, or Mishka's orders were to…

This and That

I received my e-mail rejection from the agent for my book today. Although preparing myself all along for rejection, I'm still slightly disappointed. Hope burns eternal!

He sent a very kind rejection message, though, which is what I expected. One of the reasons I chose him was because he does seem really kind, yet straight-forward, on his blog.

Anyway, now I think I need to revise before submitting to Agent Plan B since he mentioned something I already suspected--the book is too short.

Sigh.

Are you following the war between the publishers and Amazon? Did you know that Amazon actually takes a loss on the current books it sells for $9.99 for Kindle?

The publishers are scrambling (a few years late and more than a few dollars short) to adjust to the reality of e-books. They don't like the idea of Amazon having a monopoly and driving price-points, yet they don't really know what to do about the situation.

The latest plan? Have a delay, or embargo period, of a few months betwee…

Seduce the Darkness by Gena Showalter

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I wanted to like Seduce the Darkness (2009) from Gena Showalter's Alien Huntress series.

Bride McKells is a vampire, separated from her own kind, and living among the humans and otherworlders who are at war on Earth. She's actually much more than a regular vampire, though she doesn't know that yet.

Along comes Devyn, King of the Targons and working with the AIR, Alien Investigation and Removal. And a man scarred by his father and his forced first marriage, and left to only find his solace by sleeping with every woman he happens across.

Gag.

Seriously, I'm suppposed to want Bride, who I actually liked, to be with a guy who hasn't met a woman he didn't sleep with and then abandon? A man who actually hopes to find a Rakan, the golden-skinned, honey-scented race, because he hasn't "had" one before? "Hey, I want to [insert less polite phrase for having sex] someone who is [insert a particular race/ethnicity/nationality/religion/etc.] to complet…

Believe by Victoria Alexander

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Please note that Believe by Victoria Alexander (2009 and 1998) is a re-release of a book orginally published eleven years ago. Alexander says in her author's note that the book "has now been updated and tweaked a tiny bit, but the story is the same--a story of white knights, myths, and magic."

As I've noted before, I'm not a fan of re-releases, especially since most potential buyers don't consult author's notes or copyright information before purchasing a book. That's something I've learned to do, though, because "frustrating" barely covers the feeling when buying the same book twice!

That aside, I enjoyed Alexander's story, featuring Tessa St. James, a modern woman and professor, who catches the attention of Merlin--yes, the one from the legend of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Since Tessa instructs her college students that the story of Arthur is all a myth, Merlin decides to transport her back in time to assist Galaha…

Harlequin Horizons--I Mean, Dellarte Press

[Full disclosure about being a Harlequin Ambassador, the free program that provides free books, special invitations for surveys, etc. to members. That membership in no way influences the thoughts expressed in this blog posting.]

Harlequin announced a partnership with Author Solutions last month to create a new "service" for aspiring romance authors. There are five packages, ranging in price from $599 to $1599 for "self-publishing" under the auspices of this new partnership.

A tidy chunk of change to see your work in print.

And, even more interesting, I think Harlequin was a tad surprised by the backlash from various writers' organizations, starting with the Romance Writers of America. Harlequin has gone so far as to rename the publishing branch, originally called Harlequin Horizons, Dellarte Press. Just a tad bit of distancing there, eh?

You can read the November 17th press release here. You can also explore the Dellarte Press site here.

What do you think? …

Deep Kiss of Winter, Gena Showalter Part

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Again, I assumed Gena Showalter's contribution to the Deep Kiss of Winter (2009) would be part of her fantastic Lords of the Underworld series. Honestly, my initial hope was Kresley Cole's Nix + Showalter's Torrin = paranormal romance fantasy couple.

Instead, I had a glimpse into Showalter's Alien Huntress Series, something I hadn't read before. And I never would have knowingly read something from that particular line before because the futuristic science fiction branch of romance isn't one I generally appreciate. Now I'm an Alien Huntress Series fan!

Aleah Love can literally transform herself into appearing to be anyone else. Right now, she's an AIR (Alien Investigation and Removal agent) about to be captured by Breean, a golden-skinned, you guessed it, alien commander. One who will accept Aleah as she is, assuming she can return the favor.

There's the most unusual sex scene I ever remember reading due to the particular capabilities of Breean, an…

Deep Kiss of Winter, Kresley Cole Part

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Deep Kiss of Winter (2009) contains the eighth story from Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series plus a book from Gena Showalter. I'll review the Showalter story in my next blog posting.

For now, let me share that I assumed (and we all know what assuming leads to) when I originally heard about a joint book coming from two of my absolute favorite paranormal romance authors that they planned to write a book together. Or at least put connected stories under one cover. Nope, the stories have absolutely nothing to do with each other, something that disappointed me. And, frankly, I don't think the stories justify the hardcover and the associated extra expense for purchasers.

Putting that disappointment aside, as always, I enjoyed Cole's story and characters.

Murdoch Wroth, one of the four legendary Wroth brothers (see Sebastian in No Rest for the Wicked, Conrad in Dark Needs at Night's Edge, and Nikolai in the novella you can download free here), is a vampire intere…

To Desire a Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt

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To Desire a Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt (2009) is the fourth, and final, installment in The Legend of the Four Soldiers Series--and the one I've been waiting to read because of the hero, Reynaud St. Aubyn. And, for once with a favorite hero from a series, I wasn't disappointed with this book!

Reynaud has spent seven years in the (American) colonies as a captive of a (Native American) tribe. The survivors of his regiment returned to England without him, thinking him dead. Finally escaping and making his way to London, the book begins when he bursts into his father's home in London, ill and looking like someone who has been a slave for seven years.

Unknown to Reynaud, of course, his father died five years earlier, leaving his title and wordly possessions to pass to a distant relation. Reynaud actually bursts into a party being held by Beatrice Corning, the niece of the current Earl of Blanchard.

Since her uncle obtained the title and they moved to the home in London, Beatrice h…

This and That

I heard back from the agent on Friday, and he requested my full manuscript after reading the first thirty pages. One more tiny step forward, aka rejection avoided for a little longer. LOL. Seriously, I'm really excited, and I'll let you know when I hear from him again, good or bad news.

In the meantime, I'm done with the first three chapters of my third book. This is more of a Harlequin Presents type of book; definitely not YA like the book I submitted to the agent. Of my three books, I think this one is the best in terms of the first three chapters of all of the books. So I'm improving with practice, I think, which is definitely a goal.

Yes, this is the time of year for lists, lists, and more lists--and I love lists, whether about books and reading or something entirely different.

If you're a romance fan, like I am, check out the Romance Writers of America's 2009 RITA and Golden Heart Award Winners list if you haven't already done so. If I ever find my…

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

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Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’Tis the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

~~Emily Dickinson

This poem, along with a quote from Edith Wharton, appears at the beginning of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (2008) and, between them, completely summarize the book. Even so, O'Farrell makes the unfolding of the story worth following, however painful to read.

Iris Lockhart, a self-absorbed (my opinion here) woman living what she thinks is a life of freedom and independence (yet not even living the life she truly wants), learns that her grandmother Kitty, now suffering from Alzheimer's, isn't the only child Iris always believed. Kitty has a sister, Esme, living in an insane asylum, a place about to close. Iris is listed as the next-of-kin, and she needs to make decisions for a great-aunt she didn'…

The Covenant by Naomi Ragen

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Before even going into the details of the plot for The Covenant by Naomi Ragen (2004), I'll note the author is an American citizen, Jewish, and has lived in Israel for over thirty years. Certainly, this book would be entirely different if written by, say, a Palestinian author born and raised in the West Bank. Who Ragen is colors this story, and her depth of feeling for the subject matter is what makes the book work so well.

I've been fascinated with Israel since visiting with my mom on her dream trip in 2000, when I literally fell in love with the country. Neither Jewish nor Muslim, I have a difficult time truly understanding the cultural conflict from either side (and I don't make the mistake of thinking there are only two perspectives--there are multiple perspectives within each group), yet I empathize with both. I only wish the situation could be resolved peacefully, naive as that hope may be.

The Covenant begins with the kidnapping of Jon Margulies, an American onco…

This and That

Tick-tock. My decision not to include any more This and That postings on my blog didn't last very long, did it? Well, I missed writing them, so. . . . Since life itself, let alone a blog, is a work in progress, I'm changing my mind!! LOL

Have you seen that Amazon is running a vote on the best book covers of 2009? There are ten categories, including Arts & Comics, Nonfiction, and Classics Reimagined, and you quickly move through the short sections as you vote.

The two best parts: You might find a new book or two to consider reading (I did), and everyone who votes is entered for a chance to win the books chosen. How fun is that?

You can vote on Amazon here. And also browse their "Best of 2009" lists (customers' favorites and editorial picks) while you're there!

My local newspaper, The Lincoln Journal-Star, ran a nice front-page article and a related article with readers' reactions on the pending closing of our local bookstore, Lee Booksellers. The …

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger

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Just like the cover, Ellen Wittlinger's Hard Love (1999) is a patchwork. In addition to the usual story, there are poems, letters, and zine entries, giving a youthful, scattered feel to the book.

Told in the first person, this is the story of John, a lonely teenager dealing with the after-effects of his parents' six-year-old divorce. His two friends are Brian, someone John admits to acting like he sees grudgingly, and who also now has a girlfriend to fill his free time, and Marisol, a lesbian John actually loves and who thinks his name is Gio. Even with his friends, he hides himself.

Despite dealing with the serious issues of identity, teenage sexuality, and feeling adrift and spiritually homeless, Wittlinger manages to end the book on a hopeful, though realistic, note.

Here are a couple of sections from the "therapy" letters John writes to his parents at Marisol's urging. She expects him not to share the letters with his parents, but he does, for which I, as a …