When we embark on adding to one of our Special Title Listings, we are elated when there are lots of titles nominated, because, although it means spending several hours on the computer, it also means discovering fascinating new titles. Considering this, we are very glad that we got so many responses for our Unusual Professions and Met as Children Lists – 52 and 47 respectively. We are especially grateful that you volunteered so many details about the books, because that made it much easier for us to decide if a title fit the list. Thanks a lot! (more…)
Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Note from our pollsters: AAR is pleased to announce that starting on Tuesday October 1st, 2013 we will open polling for AAR Reader’s Top 100 Romance List. To get everyone ready for Top 100 poll we will post our reviewer and staff picks for their personal Top 10 Favorite Romances every Tuesday starting now until the poll opens in October.
As a way to get to know me as one of the newer reviewers as well as something fun to get us all excited for this fall’s AAR Readers Top 100 Poll, mine is the first installment in a series of AAR staff posts discussing our personal Top 10 favorite romance novels. It’s always nice to rave about your favorite reads, and I’m excited for the chance to talk up these books, hopefully inspiring you to pick up a title that you, too, might love.
When deciding what books to include on my personal Top 10 list, I used one criterion above and beyond the “must be a romance” dictate. I applied the ultimate DIK question – if I had a chest that could only hold ten books to keep me happy while stranded indefinitely on a deserted island, which ones would I choose to put in it? (more…)
Every romance needs a hero and heroine, but sometimes a secondary relationship is so striking, so interesting, that it almost steals the show. Pride and Prejudice is, of course, about Elizabeth and Darcy. But it’s about Elizabeth and Jane too. Some of the best moments and the best dialog are about them, and about their relationship and their differences. Series and stories involving siblings are a dime a dozen, but books that really nail sibling relationships are a lot rarer. We see a lot more Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (with its very surface relationships…Bless her beautiful hide!) than we see the Bennett girls.
When someone gets it right, it feels like a bonus. My recent favorite is Courtney Milan’s novella, The Governess Affair. It is of course about a governess and a former boxer turned finance man of sorts. But it’s also about sisters. Serena (the titular governess) is the bolder sister who, after she is raped by the Duke of Claremont, stations herself outside his home every day, vowing to keep her vigil until he agrees to support her child. Her sister Frederica is basically agoraphobic. Frederica can’t understand why Serena takes so many risks. Serena can’t understand how Frederica can live like she does – or how it is even living. They love each other, though they don’t understand each other. Toward the end of the story, Serena thinks:
Maybe Freddy would always think Serena strangely broken, and Serena would always cringe, thinking of her sister ensconced in her rooms, slowly turning to stone. There was no convincing each other, no understanding each other.
But when Serena had most needed it, her sister had given her a place to stay. For all that Freddy made her stomach hurt, they still shared an affection made bittersweet by all that divided them. Perhaps God gave one sisters to teach one to love the inexplicable.
I was so struck by the last line that I texted it to my own sister – something I’m pretty sure I’ve never done before. She’s an artist, with all the creativity, originality, and free-spiritedness that implies. We love each other but tend to see life differently. I’m not sure she’s ever understood, for example, why anyone would spend years writing about romance novels when one could spend years writing romance novels (though she’s stopped saying that…at least out loud). We found common ground over the Milan quote, which she liked as much as I did. It was more insight than I’d bargained for in a novella.
While I have seen authors handle easy, companionable sibling relationships well (Nora Roberts comes to mind here, but there are others), I was hard-pressed to think of books that really went below the surface, or delved into more complicated sibling relationships. Who can you think of who “gets” the sibling relationship and does it right?
Total aside about sibling differences: I could tell you every detail of the t-shirt my sister is wearing in the picture above, but I’d be very surprised if she could (remembering things from thirty years ago is more in my wheelhouse). Although you can’t see it, it has Snoopy on it – in sunglasses, throwing a frisbee. It was the last one of its kind in the BYU bookstore, and she got it in a fair-and-square coin toss. I had to settle for the much less cool one with Snoopy sleeping on his house. It’s okay – now that it’s been thirty years, I’ve decided to let my resentment go.
There are so many authors out there that one simply cannot keep up with them all, so finding a book in my TBR pile from an author I’d never read before seemed like an easy way to start this month’s TBR CHallenge.
And it was. Karen Robards has been writing romance for almost as long as I’ve been alive, but somehow I’ve never actually read one of her books. I must have gotten curious at some point because I had her 2012 thriller, Sleepwalker sitting in my stacks of TBR books. Robards’ chase across wintry Michigan has its moments, but it also frustrated me more than a little bit at times. Taken as a whole, I’d call it a pretty uneven and ultimately frustrating read, and I’d give it a C- if it were a review book.
The sleepwalker of the title is the heroine, Micayla Lange, and in the prologue, it’s pretty easy to see why she might have issues. At the age of 11, she sees her mother murdered in the streets of Detroit. Now grown, Micayla(“Mick”) is a police officer and over the holidays she is housesitting at the mansion of a family friend. (more…)
Generally, I don’t have a problem with profanity in a book. I’m not going to run shrieking away from a character who drops the f-bomb or uses cuss words when he/she is particularly agitated. I prefer my characters to be as real as possible, and a lot of real people do swear.
However, I recently read a book where, for the first time, the characters’ use of profanity actually colored my perception of those people. Both the hero and heroine employed a range of common swear words as part of their normal speech patterns, and since the writer used third-person viewpoint, the characters also thought and viewed the world using the full spectrum of profanity. I found that I didn’t really like either the hero or heroine all that much, however, I couldn’t really put my finger on why that was. Neither one had done anything particularly unpleasant, nor did they have a tendency to whine or throw self-pity parties. They treated those around them with respect. Generally, there was no real reason I should have any opinion of them at all.
Then I realized that part of my distaste for these fictional people was their constant use of profanity. In my review (not yet posted), I likened the situation to having met a person for the first time and being a bit put-off when they used salty language without really knowing me or how I’d react. Or, perhaps more apt, how I feel about foul language in a public setting as opposed to keeping it to their personal world. (more…)
There are very few book series that have had me anticipating the release date of the next book with tremendous excitement. The Harry Potter books, George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Ice series, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series have all made me want to pack my bags, throw in the extra toothbrush and move in with the characters for the duration. Three years ago, another series made my list: Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries. Sookie Stackhouse had me at, “I’m a waitress.” I actually watched the first two seasons of True Blood back to back before picking up the first book in the series. Of course then my bank account took a small hit as I ordered all of the books then in print – in hardback. My husband and two daughters have been just as enthralled with Sookie and the residents of Bon Temps, Louisiana as I have, so when the 13th and final book in the series, Dead Ever After, hits the stands on May 7, we may have to draw straws to see who gets to read it first. I plan on rigging that game. (more…)
I knew Carla Kelly’s understated, beautifully written romances had reeled in a number of fans here at AAR over the years, but it looks like her latest novel – a Western this time – has almost all of us waiting eagerly. And then there’s Deanna Raybourn’s Spear of Summer Grass. I’ve noticed publishers have been putting out fewer and fewer historicals lately, but May seems to have some nice ones to choose from. And, as always, there are plenty of interesting-sounding contemporaries, category romances and other books to enjoy, too. What will you be reading?
|Title and Author||Reviewer|
|Her Hesitant Heart by Carla Kelly||Blythe, Lynn, Jean, Pat, Lee, Caz, Heather S., Maggie, Rike, Wendy, Mary, Caroline|
|A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn||Lynn, LinnieGayl, Lee, Jane, Jean, Caz|
|A Prior Engagement by Karina Bliss||Lea, Maggie, Heather S., Caroline, Lynn|
|Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris||Maggie, Mary, Lea|
|A Counterfeit Betrothal/The Notorious Rake(reissues) by Mary Balogh||Jean, Caroline, Maggie|
|Where It May Lead by Janice Kay Johnson||Heather S., Pat|
|A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams||Jane, Maggie|
|True to the Law by Jo Goodman||Mary, Jean|
|Roses in Moonlight by Lynn Kurland||Lee, Pat|
|Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik||Rike|
|Superb and Sexy(reissue) by Jill Shalvis||Caroline|
|The Inquisitor’s Wife by Jeanne Kalogridis||Caz|
|Anything But Vanilla… by Liz Fielding||Lynn|
|It Happened at the Fair by Deeanne Gist||Maggie|
|Headed for Trouble by Suzanne Brockmann||Caroline|
|The Seduction Hypothesis by Delphine Dryden||Dabney|
|Tarnished Among the Ton by Louise Allen||Rike|
|Nightbound by Lynn Viehl||Jenna|
|Thinking of You by Jill Mansell||LinnieGayl|
|Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster||Wendy|
|Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith||Caz|
|One More Kiss by Mary Blayney||Rike|
|The Beauty Within by Marguerite Kaye||Caz|
Note: There may be spoilers of some of the various books discussed in this column. I find A books easy to recognize: basically, everything has to go right. Fs are likewise relatively straightforward. But what about the B, C, and D books, in which something has gone wrong, but not everything? The book has a solid, if cliched, plot, but the writing is catastrophic: is that a C or a D? Can a great hero and interesting writing save an unlikeable heroine? And what if, God forbid, somebody kills a dog?
The AAR staff worked to define these elements, which I call dealbreakers. We generally agreed that dealbreakers (unlike pet peeves) must be big or repetitive, must be outliers from the general quality of the book, and are by definition personal and subjective. As Blythe wrote, “Something like ‘I can’t read books with violence against animals’ or ‘I simply won’t tolerate a book with adultery.’ The nature of the term implies that it’s something that drives you nuts but might not even bother someone else at all.”
The most common dealbreakers cited by AAR Reviewers fell into four categories: characters, writing, plot, and research. (more…)
I have been a loyal Amazon customer. If I am going to buy a book, new chances are Amazon will either be shipping it to me or sending it to my Kindle. I am also a member of the Goodreads community. My primary reason for being a member is simple: Their online listing of books I’ve read or want to read via shelves I can create for myself is far superior to my former methodology of keeping a list on a word document. Since I like both companies I shouldn’t feel at all threatened by the recent buyout, right? Wrong. (more…)
I’ve heard it in various forms from many different corners. “Oh, literature is just too depressing.” “The difference between literary fiction and romance? Love stories in lit fic all end uphappily.” Stick around enough message forums and blogs, or simply talk to enough readers and you’ll hear variations on that theme. Then there are the the literary fiction “guidelines” Robin Uncapher wrote for AAR back in 2007, which definitely skewer certain authors and book trends rather aptly. But is all of it really that depressing for a romance reader?
I don’t read literary fiction all the time, but I’ll go on my occasional forays beyond the familiar genre fiction shelving. True, there are beautifully written but also tragic books such as The English Patient or Bel Canto, books full of ponderous words and perhaps an amount of pretension which seems to have an inverse correlation with the amount of actual plot action, and then there’s stuff that I quite frankly think is absolute dreck(Why do they shelve Nicholas Sparks with literary works? Why, why, why?) (more…)