Traveling the World in Books

bridgeofsighs Most of us have probably seen some variant of those library posters telling us that we can travel the world in books. It’s certainly true, but sometimes the experience can be more concrete than that. When I was in middle school, I spent a wonderful summer vacation in Charleston, South Carolina. By chance, I happened to bring along Sabrina by Candice F. Ransom with me. For those not familiar with the Sunfire series, this book has Revolutionary War Charleston as its setting. As I toured the city with my friend and her family, I could imagine myself back in the late 18th century with the threat of the British ever present. As we drove into the rural areas outside of town, I could imagine Frances Marion, the Swamp Fox himself, sneaking through the swamps on his missions. Reading a book set in the place I visited brought a whole new dimension to my trip and I loved it!
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Starting a New Chapter

american-university-campus My first review here at AAR was published May 17, 2007 — almost exactly four years ago. When I first started reviewing here, I was finishing up my senior year in high school. My first package of books coincided very closely with my AP tests — what a dilemma! Now, four years and 200 reviews later, is another landmark in my personal life: on Sunday, I graduated cum laude from American University with a degree in International Studies.

Saying that I have a degree in something makes it sound like I know a lot more than I feel that I do. (My roommate assures me that I do, in fact, know more about international studies than the average person – an endorsement of my school if there ever was one.) I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with myself. I am lucky enough to have plans for the next year, working with the homeless through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. But after that… who knows?
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My Contemporary Dilemma

Rear view of a couple sitting on beach Series romances with contemporary settings appear to be going strong. Harlequin releases plenty of them every month and readers (including me) eagerly snatch them up. However, single title contemporaries are a little harder to find. Anyone who reads romance sites and blogs or who spends any time at all following romance readers on Twitter has seen plenty of moaning about the dearth of single title contemporaries. I started to wonder why this is, and that in turn has made me wonder if contemporaries might not be a more narrowly defined subgenre than one might think at first glance.

At first glance, the contemporary landscape appears wide open. The choice of settings is almost endless and so too the choice of character types. After all, a book can feature cowboys in Texas, a shop owner in Paris, or archeologists in the Middle East and so long as it’s set in the here and now, we can call it contemporary. The possibilities for the imagination at this point almost boggle the mind. Then comes the plotting – and that’s where things get sticky.
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Dealbreakers and Spoilers

Note: This piece contains spoilers for Marrying Daisy Bellamy by Susan Wiggs. Be warned!

notromantic As a reviewer, avoiding spoilers in my assessment of a novel is important. Generally, the rule is that anything that is revealed on the back cover summary or within the first 100 pages of a novel is okay to share; anything past that, would be spoiling the novel. Of course, sometimes it’s the information that occurs after the first 100 pages that make or break a novel. I’ve gotten pretty good at making my allusions to such events vague enough that my criticism (or praise) is clear, but the plot development is not.
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A Few of My Favorite Things

favoritethings Not too long ago, Sandy Coleman blogged about romance cliches she would love to see die. That got me to thinking about the plotlines and features I just love in a romance. I’m sick of small-town sheriffs and I never really went for the obligatory baby-studded epilogues, but there are some recurring plot features(and at least 1 not recurring enough) that make me such a happy camper, and they are:

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More Title Madness

While I have enjoyed some of Susan Wiggs’ contemporaries, I vastly prefer her historicals, especially the wonderful Lord of the Night , which I believe will be coming out in re-release soon, though the author’s website does not give a date. When I saw that she had historicals coming out this summer, I was initially very excited even though the titles of the new books sounded dreadful. Then I dug a bit deeper and figured out that Harlequin is actually reprinting Wiggs’ Tudor Rose trilogy, but is changing the titles. Let the confusion begin!

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