Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

TBR Challenge – Heating Up the Summer

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

shiver As summer comes to an end, I’ve been challenged to read a book with luscious love scenes. I immediately thought of Harlequin’s Blaze line, and grabbed Shiver by Jo Leigh, a 2010 release that is still available digitally. Though the story wasn’t quite as steamy as I’d expected, I still ended up with a sexy, fun read, and I’d give it a B.

My first recommendation to readers? Don’t judge this one by its cover. It’s a lot more offbeat and fun than that somewhat generic picture would suggest. After all, the hero not only owns a supposedly haunted inn; he also makes independent documentary films. The semi-reclusive comic strip writer known for her snarky humor didn’t strike me as a run of the mill character either.

Both lead characters are city folk who have no intention of leaving their usual environment, but they’ve ended up at a quaint, haunted inn in Colorado for plausible enough reasons. Sam Crider has inherited the inn where he grew up, and he’s come home temporarily to run it while trying to sell. Carrie Sawyer, on the other hand, has only come to the Crider Inn as a somewhat reluctant guest. (more…)

Fairytales in Romance

Friday, August 15th, 2014

andrew-langs-fairy-booksFirst there were vampires, then zombies, and now fairy tale adaptions seem to be the new entertainment trend. The newest film adaptation of “Sleeping Beauty,” Maleficent, scored big at the box office and has added momentum to the fairy tale fad. Studios hoping to capitalize on this are already planning live-action versions of “Cinderella” and more than one “Beauty and the Beast.” I have been a fan of fairy tale retellings since childhood and have spent my life reading and watching them so, obviously, the renewed interest in fairy tales recently has been right up my alley. Although I wasn’t crazy about Maleficent (I think it took the bite out of an otherwise fantastic villainess), I was pleased to see one of my favorite fairy tales getting revamped.

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50 Shades of Readers

Monday, July 21st, 2014

VanGogh woman reading“All sentences are not created equal,” Jenny Davidson tells us in Reading Style: A Life in Sentences. Her tale is not so much about “which books must be read than about how to read.” Her main conversational point is the “sentence, sometimes the paragraph, its structure and sensibility, its fugitive feel on the tongue.” In other words, Ms. Davidson is talking about the value of a book derived not from the book’s life lessons or even overall cohesive tale but its structure – the beauty and efficacy of its prose. (more…)

TBR Challenge – It’s RITA Time!

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

prospero Note: This year’s RITA awards will be held next week at the RWA National Conference, so the July multi-blog challenge is focusing on reading RITA nominees and winners.

My choice for the multi-blog TBR challenge was Prospero’s Daughter by Nancy Butler, a RITA award winner in 2004. I loved it – it’s a beautifully written and tender romance in which an ex-soldier helps a badly injured young woman to recapture her spirit and zest for life in the face of the neglect of her seemingly perfect family. Morgan Pearce is inveigled by a friend into visiting the friend’s father to assist him in writing his memoirs. Not long after his arrival, Morgan literally stumbles across a lonely young woman sitting in a bath chair in the gardens, seemingly abandoned. She is Miranda Runyon, a relative who lost her parents in an accident three years previously, and who was left seriously injured. Her family has basically shut her away and now ignores her existence, and Miranda, once a vital, independent young woman, has more or less given up. (more…)

Visiting Imaginary Places

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

imageI remember the first time I read Jane Eyre and entered Rochester’s house, Thornfield Hall. Coming from a middle-class family in Nebraska, the middle of the United States, I was enthralled with walking into the drawing room where Rochester lounged in his overstuffed chair with Pilot at his feet. (more…)

TBR Challenge – Back to the Classics

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

seventearsforapollo This month’s TBR challenge, reading one of the classics, had me scratching my head for a little bit. Did I want to reach for one of those books that could be considered part of the romance canon(to the degree we have one), or did I want to pick a classic trope or author? In the end, I decided on Seven Tears for Apollo. When we start talking about old school romantic suspense or gothics online, certain names tend to pop up. Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels – all have their fans. However, Phyllis Whitney is one of those names that seems to be mentioned almost as an afterthought.

I’ve read a few Phyllis Whitney novels, all historicals, and I did enjoy them. However, I had yet to read one of her contemporaries and so I gave this one a whirl. Written in 1962, it captures a world that for 21st century readers feels like a curious blend of old and new. (more…)

When Romance Mirrors Your Own Romance

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Children-dressed-up-as-bride-and-groom-252x300A few years ago, my husband gave me an anniversary card that looked something like the picture on the left. “Look!,” he wrote inside. “They found one of our wedding pictures!” It was a joke, of course. I mean, we weren’t nineBut we were both nineteen, which even in 1989 was really young. I am pretty sure people thought we were crazy, and when I look back, there may have been something to that. My mom was completely horrified. She’d married at the ripe old age of twenty-three, and in her mind, getting married meant that you immediately dropped out of college and started having babies right and left, which was not the life she pictured for her honor student daughter. It doesn’t have to mean that. In my case, it did mean that I switched universities (ending up at one that was likely better suited to me anyway), but my husband and I both graduated a year early and didn’t have children right away. With time and perspective though, I can see exactly why my mom was worried. As I went on in life and discovered others who married young, I found that I was the exception rather than the rule. Most people either got married because they were expecting, or married with the intention of both partners remaining in school only to have one drop out to support the other. It’s not that getting married very young is an impossible road, but it creates some unique obstacles that older couples don’t necessarily have to face.

A few years ago I read a very interesting article (which of course I couldn’t find for the life of me when I wrote this piece) that spoke to the challenges of marrying young. It was actually written in sort of a blue state/red state context, and addressed marriage differences and why divorce rates were lower in blue states. The article phrased the dichotomy in a way that stuck with me: “Adults creating families vs. families creating adults.” Do you grow up, meet someone, and build a family together, or meet someone, build a family together, and then grow up? It’s the challenge of an early marriage in a nutshell. My husband and I are in our forties, now addressing some of the issues that a lot of people addressed in their twenties. I love my husband, and we’re still married as we approach our 25th anniversary. But would I advise my daughters (20 and 22) to make a similar choice? Probably not, and they haven’t.

Why do I bring this up? Well, partly it’s because I am at a stage where I am talking and thinking a lot about my marriage and my choices. But it’s also because the heroine of the book I’m reading is eighteen. Granted, she is eighteen in 1812, which is a lot different than being eighteen in 1988 or 2014. It takes us longer to grow up now because life is complicated in ways that it wasn’t 200 years ago. But still, she’s eighteen. The hero thinks she’s young, and she is. And because I married young, because I’ve walked down that road, I know what is ahead of her better than most. I believe that young love is real, because I’ve lived it. But I also understand the intricacies and nuances of what’s ahead. It’s a little harder for me to romanticize it.

It made me wonder whether we seek out romances that mirror our own love story, or avoid them because they are too real. On one hand, if it has worked for you, you know it can work. Linda Hurst, who used to co-write Pandora’s Box with me years ago, was a firm defender of love at first sight romances. She fell head over heels crazy in love with her husband in a moment and knew that it was real and could work outside a romance novel. I’ve also defended young love over the years because I’ve lived young love. Periodically I’ve seen someone say (on our message boards) that you can’t possibly be in love with someone you met at fifteen. Yes, I personally know otherwise. But I am not exactly sure that I seek out romances where couples face the problems I faced.

Do any of us? If your spouse is in the military and suffering from PTSD, do you enjoy military romances? Or do you think they downplay the struggles? If you’re raising step-children, do you enjoy reading about step-families in romance? Or is it all just too real? If we didn’t need desire fantasies, we probably wouldn’t read books with bizarre will stipulations, secret babies, or shapeshifting wolves.

Where do you stand? Do you like romances that remind you of your own romance? Or do you just think, “I can get that at home” and seek out something completely different?

 

 

Hachette vs. Amazon: Show Me the Money

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Blam-Pow160I am no Amazon fangirl. In April 2013 I blogged about my concerns when they took over Goodreads. On the other hand I have what is probably an unhealthy attachment to my Kindle and I visit their site several times a week vis-à-vis books. Amazon seems to be one of the few companies aware that the book world is changing and certainly acts interested in helping readers navigate that world. They not only provide new books cheap but help you get old books and books from overseas. While I may not want Amazon to take over the book world, I certainly want them to be a large part of it. (more…)

Not Your Ordinary Hero

Friday, June 6th, 2014

logan-veronica-marsI’ve spent the past few weeks watching the TV show Veronica Mars (I so love Amazon Prime.) I’d seen it when it first came out but my husband hadn’t. When the movie came out this year, I thought it would be fun to check out Veronica and her pals in Neptune again.

There are many things to love about Veronica Mars–Kristen Bell’s adorable snark, the stinging accuracy of its portrayal of class, the haunting and hip soundtrack, just to name a few. But the thing that strikes me the second time around is how unusual a hero Logan Echols (played brilliantly by Jason Dohring) is.

Logan is the son of two spectacularly screwed-up movie stars played by real life spouses Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna. Logan’s grown up with money, fame, and access. In the first half of the first season he is an unmitigated ass. And yet…

By the end of the first season, he’s a man in love, a guy who most of the time, I find myself cheering for even as I struggle to define him.

If you listen to Logan without seeing him, he sounds like an obnoxious, overly confident alpha male. And if you turn the sound off, and just watch him, his mien is that of a beta guy. His body leans away as he speaks, his facial expressions are gently mocking. He routinely holds up his hands as if to say, don’t mind me, I’m backing away. But he’s never really backing away. His laid-back schtick barely hides the rage that undergirds his character . He finds his own path, one that almost always leaves him on top of the proverbial high school heap. I find him fascinating.

The hero in romance novels who most reminds me of Logan is  Sebastian Verlaine, the hero of Patricia Gaffney’s controversial historical romance To Have and to Hold. Like Logan, Sebastian is, when the reader first encounters him, an awful person. And yet, midway through the book, he’s the hero of the piece, a man I trust. Sebastian, like Logan, is neither a villain or a hero. He’s something else entirely–a complicated man whose actions belie his admitted sins.

I’d like to encounter more such men in my reading. Who are the heroes who defy easy categorization? And do you like them? Or do you find that some sins are too grave for you as a reader to overcome?

Dabney Grinnan

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TBR Challenge: Lots to Choose From

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

midnightangel Today we’re taking a little break from the RT author interviews for May’s installment of the TBR Challenge. For this month’s adventure through the TBR pile, I went looking for a book by an author represented multiple times in my stash of books waiting to be read. I’ve read a lot of Lisa Kleypas, but I still have plenty of her books in the TBR. The Russian angle of her 1995 historical, Midnight Angel appealed to me, so I decided to give that one a whirl.

Though the heroine is Russian, most of the book is set in England as we are treated to a governess and employer romance. Early on in the book, we as readers learn Tasia’s big secret.
She is actually a Russian aristocrat in disguise who has fled the country as she has been sentenced to death for killing her betrothed. Tasia has no memory of what happened to the man or whether she may have harmed him, but she is determined to live. Conveniently, she has relatives in England who give her a new identity and find a place for her as governess to Lucas(Luke) Stokehurst, Marquess of Stokehurst. (more…)