It was the summer of 2008 and I, a passionate reader, had my first Kindle. It was magical–a device you could just push a button and get books, as many as you could find and afford, and read to your heart’s content. I’d had the thing for a couple of weeks and was perusing the Amazon Kindle page. I can’t remember if it was free or it was the most downloaded book of the day but that day I decided to buy Karen Marie Moning’s Darkfever. At the time, I hadn’t read a romance novel for over thirty years. That book sucked me in and I still haven’t been spit out. I had a problem, however. I wanted to read more romance but had no way to figure out which ones sucked and which rocked. Thank the gods for the internet. A few clicks and, boom, I discovered AAR. For the next two years, nearly every romance I bought I found through AAR and its Power Search feature. I discovered quickly that I loved well-written romances that were, well, hot. Continue reading
As with everyone else here, I found it quite difficult to whittle my list of book loves down to 10. I could handle 50 or even 25, but 10 just seems like such a paltry number when compared with the sheer number of books and characters I truly adore. Just to keep things manageable, I kept my list to post-1970s romance, which cut out some classic favorites such as Persuasion, Venetia, my little stash of Betty Neels books, or Elswyth Thane’s wonderful Williamsburg novels. I also stuck with romance, rather than picking some of the books I’ve loved in other genres which have romantic elements, such as Julia Spencer-Fleming’s mysteries or Catherine Asaro’s science fiction. So, what did I come up with? Well, in no particular order, here they are:
To Love and To Cherish by Patricia Gaffney – The controversial emotional powerhouse that is To Have and To Hold tends to get most of the attention, but this first novel of the Wyckerley trilogy is the one that I’ve always loved the most. It’s a tender, touching love story and hero’s struggle over his love for a woman trapped in a horrible marriage is filled with such amazing tension. If you like your romances emotional and angsty, this is one not to miss. Continue reading
Although I know other reviewers and staff have had a lot of trouble deciding upon their top ten romance novels, I have to confess it was mostly easy for me. This likely has something to do with the fact that I’ll be stranded on what is essentially a desert island for the next few months—that’s right, I’m off to college. There’s not much space in a dorm, so only the crème de la crème of my romance novel collection travels with me, and since many of those books have already been mentioned, it’s actually been fairly simple to whittle my list down to just ten.
Even so, I still have some books (like Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton or Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm) which I ache to write about and recommend. The books on my list have all been read and reread dozens of times. I take scrupulous care of all my books, and if you ran your hand down the spines of everything sitting on my bookshelf, you’d find perhaps 80% are in fairly pristine condition. These ones, however, look much more worn. They’re carted around (on vacation, off to college, etc.), they’re lent out to family and friends, and they’re the books most likely to be found sitting on a coffee table waiting to be spilled on.
So, without further ado, here are, in no particular order, some of my top bunch of romance novels—the true DIKs which I’ll be carting off to college this week. Continue reading
So, like the other AAR staff who have submitted their Top Ten, I’ve been struggling to make decisions about what belongs on my personal top ten. And as I made a list of some of my favorite books, I noticed a pattern – I love clever heroines. I can put up with a lot of flak from the hero, if only I can relate in some way to the heroine. The heroines (or, in the case of #10, one of the heroes) try harder, go further, than expected of them. For many of them, they are smart and educated, but that’s not everything. They have a certain spark to them that pulls me in and makes me root for them. And in the end, I am ecstatic for them when they get their happily ever after.
There were, sadly, many, many books that got kicked off the list. I tried to put in a little bit of everything, but in the end, there was really only two criteria – how many times have I read it? And if I don’t own it, would I pay full price for it for the chance to read it again? Continue reading
Week after week after week I’ve been reading the other AAR staffers Top Ten blogs and have been hoping they wouldn’t choose some of my favorite books, but some were indeed chosen (The Windflower by Laura London; Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase; Chase the Moon by Catherine Nicholson; and The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne) so I decided to go with books that haven’t been chosen yet (I hope).
I don’t review books but instead help with behind the scenes work as well as being one of the three pollsters who calculate ballots for the Annual Poll and the Top 100 Poll which AAR runs every three years.
If I’m on a desert isle, and I can only have ten books, I want stories with excellent plots, memorable characters and that extra something that makes me feel an emotion – laughter, sadness (but not too much sadness), joy, angst, wonder – but stories that end with a happy ending. Most of these books I have read at least twice, if not more, so they have stood up to the test of time for me.
I suppose I could gush even more so about each book but I’ve learned over the years to downplay my enthusiasm for a book when trying to suggest someone read it. Too much high praise raises expectations. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a movie review where the critic says “the audience was standing and cheering at the end.” Uh huh. NEVER have been at a movie theater when that happened. Continue reading
Happy New Year! Now that 2012 has started, everything just feels so fresh and new. I have a new page-a-day calendar, I’m getting used to writing a new date, and somehow after the fun of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, the world just seems shiny and new for my first day back online. So, of course 2012 means starting with all-new books, right?
Not so fast. There are certainly more than a few books I’m looking forward to reading this year. I recently read a book by Nadia Lee that I enjoyed, and I’m hoping the next installment in the series will be out in 2012. Laura Lee Guhrke and Kaki Warner have new books out in January that I want, and Delilah Marvelle is starting a series in 19th century New York that sounds more than a little bit intriguing. Janice Kay Johnson has at least one new series title coming out this year that I know of, I’m finding word of three new books in the works for Carla Kelly, and I really want to read the book Judith James has planned for this year. Many other autobuys of mine in subgenres from romantic suspense to paranormal to historical also have books coming out this year, and I’m sure many other debuts and new-to-me authors will catch my eye.
In the past, I’ve talked about the plethora of series books out there and how I sometimes wish for standalones, and Leigh blogged about her own series ambivalence. However, instead of answering questions or completely relieving a pet peeve, thinking about interrelated series books begs one big question. What is the magic number for a series? How many books does one need in order to fully develop a series, get closure on the various plotlines and yet not start annoying readers?
Obviously, if it’s not a good, well-written series, one book is probably one too many. Even the good series can go on too long, though. Continue reading
Long before the Internet with authors’ webpages, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, I knew quite a bit about the authors whose books I read. I knew the names of their best friends, husbands, and children. I was able to surmise when they divorce, and when they remarried. I could tell when their children got married, the birth of grandchildren, and the death of a loved one. I knew their interests and hobbies from the environment to rescuing pets, knitting or four wheeling. And many times I knew of the struggle to get published, or family disapproval of their chosen genre. I discovered all this from just opening the book and reading the dedication page.
Do you ever hit those points in your reading where you just don’t know where to start? Usually, at this time of the year, I’m brimming over with reading ideas and books that I cannot wait to dive into. I’ve actually read some VERY good books this year (One Was a Soldier, The Bride Finder, Unveiled and a few more), but for some reason I feel like I’m hitting a wall. I have plenty of books in my TBR, but I just can’t decide where to start.
I would distinguish this from a regular reading slump because my problem isn’t that I just can’t find anything that grabs me. My dilemma is more about being spoiled for choice. I’ve got books on my Kindle that sound fantastic, I’ve been getting fun-sounding review books and my print TBR hasn’t exactly shrunk all that much. I look at my books and feel myself being pulled into way too many directions. I always have a review book to read, but it’s what to read on the side that gets me.
Update: Due to a miscommunication, the wrong prize was originally listed for this giveaway. One winner will receive an (early) signed final copy of Just Like Heaven. This is the same book that you would find in stores; however, it will be autographed by Julia Quinn and you will probably receive it before the on sale date. Julia Quinn and AAR apologize for the error.
Was there ever any doubt that the Smythe-Smith girls, those lamentably untalented victims of their mother’s ambitions who cropped up so often (and so memorably) in Julia Quinn books, were going to get their own HEAs?
On May 31st the author begins a new series with Just Like Heaven. And, to commemorate the occasion, we’ve got a brief interview with the talented Ms. Quinn and, courtesy of the lovely author herself, a signed book to give away to one lucky reader. To enter all you need to do is comment to this post by 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, May 12th. The usual caveats apply: This giveaway is designed to get an early copy of the book into the hands of a reader who otherwise wouldn’t have access, so, if you review for another Web site or blog, please don’t enter. Unfortunately, due to high postage costs, this giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada. You may comment multiple times (and we hope you do!) but you will be entered only once.
Julia, I see that the Smythe-Smith girls at last get their stories! I’ve always had the feeling that at least a few of those poor young women knew how awful they were at the annual Smythe-Smith musicales where JQ heroes and heroines were tortured in previous books. Please tell us a bit about the story and about your new quartet of stories.
Honoria Smythe-Smith is a terrible violinist, and she knows it, but her family means so much to her that she manages to grin through all of the family performances. In fact, she’s the one who corrals her reluctant cousins and insists that they practice: