Archive for the ‘Maggie AAR’ Category

Pandora’s Box: Garden of Stones

Monday, February 25th, 2013

gardenofstones This month, we’re jumping into Pandora’s Box with Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield Here’s a bit about the plot: On the surface, fourteen year old Lucy Takeda seems to have a charmed life. Her father Renjiro is the well-respected owner of a prosperous business packaging and shipping dried apricots worldwide. Her mother Miyako is revered for her breathtaking beauty and elegance. And Lucy looks just like her mother. Their home is one of the nicest in the community. Still life is not always serene. Miyako is delicate and suffers from mood swings, spending some days in her darkened room, and then others with a surplus of energy. The high energy days, though, almost always end with Miyako in tears, as Lucy’s elderly father tries to comfort her.

But with the war, the pattern of Lucy’s life is changing. For the first time, her status as a wealthy man’s daughter doesn’t prevent her from being judged by the color of skin and slant of her eyes. Teachers bypass her for class positions, and friends ignore her presence. But nothing prepares her for the changes in her life on December 7, 1941. In a little over two hours, Japanese bombers almost destroy America’s navy and air force plus kill two thousand citizens and injure over a thousand. After the attack, Americans of Japanese ancestry are viewed with suspicion and distrust. Within weeks, Lucy and her mother are ripped from their home, and sent to Manzanar War Relocation Camp, located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California’s Owens Valley. Conditions there are harsh and dismal but Lucy’s spirits are buoyed by her youthful optimism.

Maggie has talked often about War World II stories, so as soon as I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. Since Maggie is more familiar with this time period, I asked if she would like to do a Pandora’s Box together. (more…)

Pandora’s Box: Shadow Woman

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Imagine if you woke up one morning and the face in the mirror did not belong to you. How would you react to that? For Lizette Henry, the thought that all is not as it should be triggers violent headaches and bouts of vomiting. When she makes the obligatory call to tell her boss she’s ill, she gets another surprise. Her boss mentions that Lizette hasn’t been sick for the whole three years she has worked for her. Lizette thought she had worked there for five years. Slowly, she realizes that she is missing two years of memories.

Even as Lizzie becomes aware of her missing memories, she realizes she has instincts she has no business having. For example, she has the certain knowledge that her cell phone is being used to spy on her. Slowly she becomes aware of a whole host of things that seem out of place: her unnaturally quiet life style, the neighbor who pays too much attention to her, her growing sense that she is being watched wherever she goes. Small changes in her routine seem to be a trigger to have people start following her. Is she slowly going crazy? Or are people really out to get her?

For Xavier, it has been three long years of waiting to see if Lizzie ever woke up. Now she is doing so and some small part of him hopes the wake up will be complete, that she will remember him. And yet he realizes that her returning memory could actually cause a much darker outcome. For the return of her memory will mean the activation of their enemies. And that could mean the end of them both. Sound intriguing? Then follow Leigh and Maggie into Pandora’s Box to see what they thought of Shadow Woman, Linda Howard’s latest release. (more…)

Multicultural Challenge: Books With African-American Characters

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Prior to this challenge, I had read only a handful of romances starring African American characters. My favorite of those books wasn’t even technically a romance – What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage is actually a woman’s fiction book and an Oprah’s Book Club selection. So before sitting down to do this column I wanted to be sure and get some serious reading done. Here are the results.

My first read was Heart to Heart by Kayla Perrin. I absolutely loved it. Deana Hart was a singing sensation with a bestselling album to her name. Personal issues have caused a slide in her career and put a damper on her creativity. Hoping to find healing, Deana heads home to Cleveland. Circumstances lead her to Eric Bell, the brother of an old flame. Eric was always a friend, always there for Deana when she needed him and now she realizes that the sexy high school principal would be happy to be more. Given her history, she wonders if she can take a chance at love. And what about her future? Is she ready to give up her dreams of stardom and settle down in Cleveland?

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Melting Pot Challenge: Jewish Characters

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Back in 2009 I was fortunate enough to see the television movie Loving Leah. In this film, Jake, a successful cardiologist, finds out that his elder brother has died. After the funeral, Jake learns that because his brother’s wife Leah has been left without children, they need to perform a ceremony called halizah in order to nullify a levirate marriage. It’s a fairly simple process and everyone is all set to go when Jake calls it off. He realizes that Leah is all he has left of his brother and he wants to hold on to her for just a few more months before they go their separate ways. Slowly, they realize that Benjamin gave them each one final gift with his parting: each other. Theirs was a slow, sweet romance and I absolutely loved it.

I then did what I always do when I love a movie – I looked for the book. Unfortunately, this movie isn’t based on one. I turned to romance, wondering if there were any novels available that matched the general premise of the film but couldn’t find any.

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Melting Pot Challenge: Hispanic Characters

Friday, September 14th, 2012

aztec_gold My very first romance novel was Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe, an old Harlequin Presents title. It starred a naïve British girl and an arrogant Argentinian cattle rancher. She had come to Argentina for a dancing job and instead found herself facing the possibility of working at a less savory profession. He had to be married in the next three days in order to inherit some land. The two make a bargain to marry without love but at some point – well, I’m sure you know what happens from there.

So it’s no exaggeration to say that romances with Hispanic characters have always been a part of my reading, even if some were drawn in somewhat stereotypical fashion. For many years Harlequin was my primary source. Along with novels by Kay Thorpe there were literally dozens of others published every year by authors like Anne Mather, Kim Lawrence, and Lynne Graham. As I began reading single titles, these characters stayed with me. From older books like Judith McNaught’s Tender Triumph to newer books like Regina Jennings’ Sixty Acres and a Bride, I’ve been able to enjoy excellent novels that celebrate the diverse cultures that make up the Latin American world.
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Talking about YA and Women’s Fiction

Monday, August 27th, 2012

impossible Sometimes behind the scenes some of us at AAR like to compare notes on books we’ve read or urge our friends to read some of the books we’ve enjoyed the most. Leigh and Maggie started chatting about their shared love of YA and of women’s fiction recently and this is what they had to say about it:

Leigh:The series of blogs on diversity lately had me wondering about why I am drawn to a certain type of book. While I enjoy contemporary romances, I am also drawn to Chick Lit and Women’s Fiction. (more…)

Melting Pot Challenge: India and Indian Characters

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Haunting Jasmine When I first began reading romance, India was a popular setting for books. A lot of the books had to do with English characters of the British Raj falling in love, such as Mary Putney’s excellent Veils of Silk. Others were sweeping historical sagas detailing the occupation of India like The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. The descriptions of the lush, hot land beguiled me as a reader. I became an armchair traveler, visiting exotic temples, cool palaces filled with tinkling fountains and of course, devouring information on the Kama Sutra.

When the Regency domination of historicals began, exotic books were dropped in favor of glittering ballrooms. India became a casualty of the Napoleonic Wars. And perhaps evolving attitudes toward colonialism have made the British Raj look a little less romantic as well. (more…)

Pandora’s Box: Faithful to Laura

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

faithfullaura As always, the Pandora’s Box discussion may contain some slight spoilers of the book.

We’re back with another Pandora’s Box, this time featuring Faithful to Laura by Kathleen Fuller. This is the second book in her Middlefield Family Series, which deals with families in an Amish community in Middlefield, OH, and it’s an August 2012 release. Amish romances are a hot trend right now in the Inspirational market and keep getting press, so we thought it would be fun to try one out and get two reactions. This time around, Lynn Spencer and Maggie Boyd are stepping into the box.

The book begins with Laura Stutzman sleepwalking to the place where she had been the victim of a vicious attack. We learn that some time prior, Laura had followed Mark King, a man whom she believed she would marry, from Kentucky to Ohio, mindful of how she had enabled him to rob her family of their hard earned savings. Mark’s response to her questions of why had been a horrible barn fire that left Laura scarred not just on her face but deep within her heart. Her faith is in shambles and all she can dwell on is revenge. Her need to repay her parents for their loss leads her to accept a position at a local Amish carpentry shop.

Sawyer Thompson has lived among the Amish ever since his parents died. Now grown, he must either commit to the church and the Amish way of life or leave to live in the Yankee world. He finds himself completely uncertain as to what decision he should make. He loves working at his adoptive father’s carpentry shop, loves his adopted family and extended Amish community but feels drawn to the world in which he was born as well. He also finds himself interested in the new girl at the shop, wanting to help her heal from her recent hurts. And he finds that healing her helps him as well.

Then an unexpected visitor from Sawyer’s past comes back into his life. This guest seems strangely determined to destroy all that Sawyer has cherished the last several years, his budding relationship with Laura included. Will he and Laura be able to move beyond what yesterday holds? Or will the shadows of the past chase them into the future?
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So, Have You Read Any RITA Winners?

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

rita_award The 2012 RITA winners were officially announced on the last full evening at the RWA convention, on July 28, 2012. Many of us like to compare the winners to what we have already read and AAR reviewers are no exception.

Here are the RITA winners:

Best Paranormal Romance –Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

Best Romance Novella –I Love the Earl by Caroline Linden

Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements – First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Best Historical Romance – The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
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The Dilemma of Reviewing Books in a Series

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

book stack Three years ago I was very vocal when another reviewer here at AAR reviewed a highly anticipated book without having read the previous books, stating how can a reviewer judge a book if they don’t know the characters’ history and conflicts. I still think it is important and my preferred way of reading a book, being able to start a series with the very first book is becoming more and more difficult. While I really want to break out a little from my preferred genres of women’s fiction, contemporary, and chick lit to read more science fiction and fantasy – genres that incorporate a lot of worldbuilding – I am stymied because so many of the interesting-sounding books I find end up being mid-series books. Is it unreasonable to expect a series book to stand on its own? I feel ambivalent about that. I don’t think I should have to read an author’s whole backlist to enjoy a book, but I have also seen the amount of anticipation that certain authors build over five or six books. Is there really a right answer? I asked fellow reviewers Maggie and Pat to share their opinions as we discuss this debatable topic.
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