December 09, 2009

Book # 59: Kindred in Death

Kindred in Death is Nora Roberts' (writing as J.D. Robb) 30th novel in the In Death series (also referred to as the Eve Dallas series).

We return to kick-ass homicide detective Eve Dallas in 2059 New York City. Eve's rare holiday weekend with her hot husband is interrupted by murder as usual. This time a fellow cop's teenager daughter has been brutally raped and murdered in her own home, and her father has requested Dallas take the case.

Eve and her team pursue the needle in a haystack by trying to find who would want to harm a cop's family, before he goes after others. She also has to squeeze in her matron-of-honor duties for Louise and Charles' impending wedding. And as has been established numerous times, Eve handles vicious murder far better than social obligations.

The later novels in this series have lacked the grit and drama of the earlier stories. The cases are getting fairly predictable, but it seems like it would be impossible for that to not happen after 30 books. However, this series continues to be a solid entertainer.

Book # 58: An Echo in the Bone

An Echo in the Bone is the seventh novel in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I’ve been reading this series since high school and it’s one of my all time favorites. It centers around World War II combat nurse Claire Randall, and her accidental journey back in time to the 1700’s and Jamie Frasier, the Scottish warrior she falls in love with there.

Outlander novels are a big commitment, with nearly all of them topping 800 pages. They’re also an extremely dense combination of historical fiction, war strategy, political intrigue, botany, and medicine. The newest one in the series takes place 33 years after the series begins, and unless you’ve read all of the previous ones- and even if you have- you could find yourself hopelessly lost.

Gabaldon spends a lot of time taking her characters on solo journeys, which can get a bit boring, to read only one person’s thoughts and observations on the landscape for such a long time. She catches up with her sprawling cast of characters and even adds some new ones in the form of an adult William Ransom (Jamie’s illegitimate son) and a Quaker brother and sister. The entire first half of the book was a bit tedious to get through, but the second half had tons of twists, action and surprises.

The book did end on a nearly absurd cliff-hanger (given the frequency of hair-raising adventures amongst this family). Which seems a bit cruel considering it takes Diana Gabaldon about four years to write the next Outlander novel.

Book #57: A Touch of Dead

Charlaine Harris' A Touch of Dead is a collection of all of her Sookie Stackhouse novellas. They have all previously appeared in other compilation collections featuring various authors.

I had previously read two of the five short stories in A Touch of Dead. Harris writes these to fit in between books in the Sookie series. So unless you've read the entire series already, the circumstances in the stories might not make as much sense.

These were mostly light entertaining fluff. There's not a whole lot of details in this collection that you couldn't live without, though they do help provide a little backstory. Like I always wondered when reading the series, when had Sookie met Claude the fairy, or found out Hadley was dead, or gave her grandfather a tie for Christmas? Now I know!

The only story that really didn't work for me was 'Dracula Night'. The whole situation just seemed too far out of character for Eric. Don't re-write my Eric, Charlaine.

Book #56: Desperate Duchesses

Eloise James' Desperate Duchesses takes place in 18th century England among the landed gentry and London's notorious "ton".

Robert St. Giles is intent on marrying the Duke of Villiers. Why? I'm not quite sure. He's rude, quite possibly gay, and has hardly noticed her. But he's the most sought after catch in England and Roberta is tired of living with her father in the country, and tired of being a laughingstock thanks to her father's horrendous poetry and scandalous liasons with showgirls.

Roberta goes to London and shows up uninvited on a distant counsin's doorstep, desperate for entré into the Duke of Villiers' social sphere. Luckily her cousin Jemma is just eccentric enough to take her on.

After that, there are sexual escapades, confusing social politics of the time and chess, chess and more chess. This novel is 400 pages and I hardly remember a thing except that those people were obsessed with their chess.

October 26, 2009

Book #55: Touch the Dark

Karen Chance's Touch the Dark was my second attempt at urban fantasy. This was also the first in a series, but I don't think I'll be continuing with this one.

Cassandra Palmer has spent half of her life as an unwilling member of the vampire royal court, and the other half of her life on the run. She is sought for her clairvoyant abilities. Beyond that, everything is extremely muddled.

The author spends pages explaining some things, and then no time at all explaining others. Her vampires are also able to feed off humans by absorbing blood (sometimes from across the room) and no biting is necessary. That was a little too much artistic license for me to swallow. It kind of completely eliminates one of the things that makes vampire legend so compelling.

The main character also seems to jump around in time to a dizzying degree and I rarely wanted to follow her.

October 12, 2009

Book #54: Dead Witch Walking

Kim Harrison's Dead Witch Walking is my first foray into urban fantasy. The Sookie Stackhouse novels would probably fit into that category if they weren't, you know, rural.

Rachel Morgan, witch and bounty hunter for the government, ends up on the run when she quits her job. She's wanted dead or alive, gets kicked out of her apartment, and has to move in with her new partners: a vampire and a pixie.

It was interesting to read something from the witch vein instead of vampires for a change. Though the book feels a bit vague on whether or not witchcraft is inherited or anyone can pick it up. The fact that charms can be purchased in stores and witches have to train in school, takes away some of the mystical aspect.

This is the first in The Hollows series and I will likely continue on in the series.

Book #53: Smash Cut

Smash Cut is Sandra Brown's newest novel, using her newest formula. Two main characters meet, become intimate ridiculously fast, and then get to know eachother and solve a mystery. (See: The Switch, Exclusive, and Play Dirty)

Criminal lawyer Derek Mitchel and gallery owner Julie Rutledge are drawn together by the murder of her lover and benefactor. Of course many things will throw a wrench in their relationship, including psychopathic stalker Creighton Wheeler.

This was fairly quick paced though I found myself irritated by Sandra Brown's ability to write flawed and complex men, but mostly bland fragile women. But what she does is exceptionally well is psychopaths. (Her villain in Unspeakable will scare the crap out of you.)

August 23, 2009

What the hell am I doing?

Currently re-reading the entire Sookie Stackhouse series because I am crazy like that, and contemplating revamping myself into rockabilly style.

Be back soon with something new.

August 04, 2009

Book #52: Black Hills

Black Hills is Nora Roberts' newest romantic suspense novel. These are typically enjoyable though after you've read all of her books, the formula can get tiresome.

Lil Chance and Cooper Sullivan have been friends since their childhood summers in South Dakota. They fall in love one summer before they go off in their separate directions, he to become a New York City cop and she to become a wildlife biologist. They meet again ten years later when Lil and her Wildlife Refuge are in danger from a deranged stalker.

Roberts follows one of her formulas (previously seen in The Reef, and River's End) where the couple fall in love very young, he breaks her heart (usually for her own good) and then they reconnect when they're both older, wiser, and more bitter. Of course they fall in love again, but he has to apologize, grovel, and win her back first.

I thought the mystery was a bit lacking in this one, once you realize who the killer is, he seems so beneath them. But I did enjoy the Deadwood setting.

July 25, 2009

Book #51: Crazy for You

Jennifer Crusie's Crazy for You shares a title with my favorite Madonna song. The Madonna song is better.

Quinn MacKenzie is a high school art teacher who's living with the town's favorite baseball coach and pretty much just coasting through life. When she and her coach boyfriend have a disagreement about a stray dog she wants to keep, it spurs Quinn to finally make some changes in her life. She moves out, buys a house, cuts her hair, and keeps the dog. She also decides to pursue her sister's ex-husband Nick.

While Quinn is making the zany changes in her life, and pursuing the ill-advised affair with her sister's ex, who has always had the hots for her, Bill the baseball coach is convinced she'll come back to him. But when she doesn't come back fast enough, he starts breaking into her house and vandalizing things so she'll realize how much she needs him, and he begins stalking her. His cluelessness might have been comical if it wasn't so goddamned scary. As a result, it cast a pall over the entire rest of the story.

Book #50: Poppy Done to Death

Poppy Done to Death is the eighth book in Charlaine Harris' Aurora Teagarden Mysteries. This series is okay, though I still don't enjoy it quite as much as Harris' supernatural Sookie series.

Per usual, quiet librarian widow Aurora Teagarden, has bodies practically dropping at her feet with alarming regularity. How she hasn't been considered a murder suspect yet is simply amazing. This time around, it's her philandering sister-in-law Poppy. Roe and Poppy weren't especially close, but she feels obligated to find out who killed Poppy, while also protecting Poppy's privacy at the same time.

In the midst of all that, she's still navigating her love affair with famous writer Robin Crusoe, an unexpected visit from her teenage brother, and another unexpected surprise.

Not sure if this is officially the last Aurora book, but it had a definite air of finality about it.

Book #49: Deadly Kisses

Deadly Kisses is the final published book in Brenda Joyce's Deadly Series. Apparently she's written one additional book in the series, but her publisher is holding it hostage due to a perceived lack of interest. Bastards.

Debutante sleuth Francesca Cahill encounters her most personal case yet when her fiance, enigmatic billionaire Calder Hart, is suspected of murdering his former mistress.

While Francesca struggles to solve the case, Calder tries to distance himself from her in an attempt to spare her reputation. Since Francesca has finally decided that she's in love with Calder, she makes this fairly difficult for him.

By the end of the book Francesca and Calder are back on track, but her parents are still insisting that they wait a year until marrying. I really would have liked to find out what that year might hold for them.

July 12, 2009

Book #48: Deadly Illusions

Deadly Illusions is the next to last installment in Brenda Joyce's unfinished Deadly Series.

Turn of the century sleuth Francesca Cahill finds herself on the trail of a slasher. A madman with a knife has attacked several women on the Lower East side of Manhattan, and the victims' proximity to Francesca's close friends, the Kennedy family, has her especially worried.

Francesca also has to contend with the jealousy of her smoldering fiance Calder Hart, as she resumes her investigative partnership with Calder's brother, police commissioner Rick Bragg.

In the later books of the series, Joyce has fleshed out the secondary characters' relationships and those have become nearly as interesting as Francesca and Calder's steamy courtship. Again, mysteries? Secondary.

Book #47: Deadly Promise

Sixth book in Brenda Joyce's Deadly Series, Deadly Promise takes place in March 1902, a mere three months after the first book in the series.

In her latest adventure, Francesca Cahill is searching for several young missing girls from a poor Irish neighborhood in New York. She and police commissioner Rick Bragg begin to suspect that the girls are being kidnapped to work in a seedy bordello.

Francesca and Rick's partnership is threatened by the recent return of Rick's estranged wife, and Francesca's announced engagement to Calder Hart. Calder, Rick's younger half brother and arch nemesis was introduced as a wealthy and reckless playboy, but has become a fascinating character, for the audience, and Francesca.

Now I can't put these books down.

July 07, 2009

Book #46: Deadly Caress

Deadly Caress is the fifth book in Brenda Joyce’s Deadly Series, and I'm so freaking hooked now.

Turn of the century sleuth Francesca Cahill is on the case after one of her closest friends art studio is vandalized, another artist has disappeared, and her brother's mistress has been murdered.

And can I just tell you how much I dislike the word "sleuth"? It's thrown about all over this series in all seriousness, and it may have been a word in use at the time. But it just makes me think of Nancy Drew mysteries and cheesiness.

So murder mystery blah blah blah. Really, the thing that is making this series better and better, (oh, and hotter) is the love triangle between Francesca, Rick Bragg, the police commissioner she's been on the verge of having an affair with, and his rich and mysterious brother Calder Hart (who is now pursuing Francesca). The mysteries? Way secondary.

June 24, 2009

Book #45: Strange Bedpersons

Strange BedPersons by Jennifer Crusie is dated chick-lit.

Tess is a bleeding heart liberal who grew up on a commune, calls her parents by her their first names, and despises everything yuppie.
Nick is a wealthy Republican lawyer, desperate to make partner at his firm. It's very Wall Street.

Can these two opposites attract? Yawn.

What was interesting about this story is that at the beginning of the book, Tess and Nick had already dated and broken up, because they were two different. Second chances can be an interesting concept, but I prefer getting to experience the couple first meeting.

June 22, 2009

Book #44: The Gamble

I thought I had read all of Lavyrle Spencer's novels years ago, but I somehow missed The Gamble.

All Lavyrle Spencer novels are about families. Some are about the traditional families that are bonded together by blood, and some are about the families that come together by choice.

Agatha Downing is a lonely spinster who limps through her quiet existance, making hats for a living and crusading for temperance in her tiny 1880's Kansas town.

Scott Gandy is the charismatic former riverboat gambler who buys the saloon next to Agatha's milliner shop. Soon he is joined in town by his rag-tag and flamboyant group of bartenders, card dealers and dancing girls.

Agatha and Scott clash at first, but eventually band together to care for a 5 year-old orphan boy.

Lavyrle Spencer's romances build slowly, which always feels more realistic than the typical overly dramatic love-at-first-sight books that saturate the genre.

June 11, 2009

Book #43: Nineteen Minutes

"In nineteen minutes, you can mow the front lawn, color your hair, watch a third of a hockey game. In nineteen minutes, you can bake scones or get a tooth filled by a dentist; you can fold laundry for a family of five.... In nineteen minutes, you can stop the world, or you can just jump off it. In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge."

-from Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Piccoult

Nineteen Minutes is about a Columbine-like school shooting. Bullied outcast Peter Houghton opens fire in his New Hampshire high school killing ten people, but failing to kill himself before he's apprehended by the police.

The book is told from all different points of view: the shooter, the shooter's parents, a superior court judge, the defense attorney, and the police officer who stops Peter Houghton. The time spans from the time Peter is an infant, up to a year after his trial. The story is also told from the point of view of Josie Cormier, who's mother is the superior court judge. She was Peter's best friend in childhood, until she ditched him for the popular crowd. Josie's friends and her boyfriend were shot by Peter during the rampage.

It's an interesting story, and Piccoult does a good job making you feel empathy for the killer (who's been bullied his entire life) but also very clear that his solution was wrong. It's a very difficult read of course, and as a parent is especially scary. You always wonder about those student shooters, how their parents didn't notice them stock-piling weapons, how they could create a monster without knowing it. Of course it isn't that simple, and you can always do your very best job, and it can still not be enough. But I'd like to think as a parent, if my child were being bullied to that degree, that I would do whatever I had to do, to keep him from having to be miserable every day of his life. Whether that means going bankrupt to pay for private school, or quitting work to home school, so be it.

"What about home schooling? You know, it's not just for scary religious people anymore."
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Dead Man's Party"

June 05, 2009

Book #42: Getting Rid of Bradley

Getting Rid of Bradley is the third Jennifer Crusie book I've read, and I have to say, I like her. They're light and fun, and her characters are insanely likable.

Lucy Savage (And by the way, Lucy is a great character name. It immediately conveys 'adorable' and 'quirky'.) gets stood up at her own divorce. She finally gets the guts to get rid of her boring and controlling husband Bradley, but not until she walks in on him with another woman, in her house. Lucy is a science teacher with a great old Victorian in need of some work, and three silly dogs that she's devoted to.

Due to absurd coincidences, (hey, I don't mind, if it's done in an entertaining way) Lucy ends up defending herself from a mugger, who is actually hot cop Zack Warren, as he's trying to save her life.

Zack ends up moving in to protect her from either someone who's trying to kill her, or someone who is just trying to break into her house. Of course sparks fly, so do bullets, and cats.

My favorite thing about Jennifer Crusie books are her characters. They all come across as real people. They're not ridiculously gorgeous, though they're of course attractive to the other person. They have typical human fears and insecurities that make them feel like people you know.

June 03, 2009

Book #41: Deadly Desire

The fourth book in Brenda Joyce’s Deadly Series, Deadly Desire is a little bit more mature, faster paced, and steamier than previous installments.

Francesca gets to meet the family of the man she loves, police commissioner Rick Bragg, as well as his estranged wife. Rick is now convinced he must give up his political aspirations and get a divorce so that he might marry Francesca. And Calder Hart, Rick’s charming, rich and single brother is starting to come between Francesca and Rick even more. Francesca is fighting her attraction to him, and Calder wishes to protect Francesca from the inevitable heartbreak of being in love with a married man.

There’s also a mystery to solve, in the form of a blackmailer who’s stalking Lucy Bragg, Rick and Calder’s sister, and heroine of one of my all time favorite Brenda Joyce novels, Fires of Paradise (terrible new cover art, Lucy is a flaming redhead!).

Book #40: Deadly Affairs

Deadly Affairs is the third installment in Brenda Joyce’s Deadly Series (also known as Francesca Cahill Romance Novels). This series is steadily getting more intense, though I’m still irritated by Francesca’s naiveté.

Francesca has been hired (for her sleuthing skills) by her first paying client, Lydia Stuart, to find out if Lydia’s husband is cheating. In the course of following him, Francesca literally stumbles on a body, and before they know it, they’re on the trail of a serial killer.

Francesca is still having her intense and steamy “friendship” with police commissioner Rick Bragg, the man she loves but can’t have because he’s married to some awful woman who lives in Europe. Novels set before divorce was so fashionable and easy to obtain makes for lots of angst.

And now Francesca also has to fend off the matchmaking attempts of her disapproving socialite mother, who wishes to match her up with none other than Calder Hart, Rick’s magnetic, womanizing, wealthy brother. This love triangle is heating up nicely.

May 27, 2009

Book #39: Charlie All Night

Charlie All Night (titles again, I know, right?) by Jennifer Crusie is my second chick lit novel in a week. I was on vacation, don't judge!

Radio producer Ally has just been replaced. Her radio star ex-boyfriend has replaced her with a younger and thinner model in his bed and on his show.

Charlie has been hired to helm the 2am show and since he's not really there to deejay, he's perfectly fine with having hardly any listeners. But since Ally has been assigned as his producer, he has to work extra hard to keep her from making him a star, and to keep his hands off of her.

This was a somewhat enjoyable beach type read (sadly, I was not actually at the beach). But I didn't find the relationship to be as complex or as enjoyable as the one in Crusie's Bet Me. But I believe Charlie All Night was originally published as a Harlequin. And yes, I'm totally judging.

Book #38: Bet Me

Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me is chick lit. As far as I can tell, that means it's a romance novel, but an extremely modern one where the heroine has a career and doesn't always want children.

Of course it started with a bet.
Min (short for Minerva) has just been dumped by her boyfriend David, who she wasn't even sure she liked very much, three weeks before her sister's wedding. Min is an actuary, and on the chubby side, so she's pretty sure she'll have to listen to her mother's recriminations when she shows up to the wedding dateless. When she overhears David the ex, make a bet that his friend Cal can't get Min into bed, Min decides maybe she can get some revenge, and a hot (if worthless) date to the wedding in one swoop.

Cal hardly ever turns away from a bet, but he's actually not sleazy enough to bet on getting a woman into bed. What he does bet on, is that he can get her to leave the bar with him. He figures he's at least that charming. But since Min is onto him, he actually won't get very far with his legendary charm.

Through a series of extremely odd coincidences, and maybe a little fate, and despite their psychotic exes, Min and Cal keep finding themselves together. Jennifer Crusie actually does a really good job of making you see why a guy like Cal might fall for a girl like Min. And he even talks her out of her perpetual dieting. (But seriously ladies, diet if you want to, but nobody and I mean nobody, wants to hear you whine about all the things you choose to deny yourself.) This was a funny and frothy good book.

May 19, 2009

The book post that never was.

"Town is fearfully dull, except for the frequent raids of the Servant Girl Annihilators, who make things lively in the dull hours of the night...."
I tried to read A Twist at the End by Steven Saylor, I did try.

The subject matter is fascinating. It's set in Austin in 1885, when the entire city was living in terror of it's very own serial killer (three years before Jack the Ripper stalked London), the Servant Girl Annihilator. I've thought for a while that time and place would be a great setting for a novel, and then I found out someone had already written it. So I was somewhat psyched to read A Twist at the End, despite the mediocre Amazon reviews.

But it is a fat book. 576 pages. Although I don't object to a long book, I object to a boring book. And only a handful of pages into the first chapter, we meet the Exposition Fairy. For the non-TV or video game addicted: the Exposition Fairy is the character that helpfully explains to the audience whatever back-story is necessary to the scene that couldn't fit into the "Previously on..." This is almost always done as awkward conversation that doesn't at all resemble conversation heard in real life. I can deal with the Exposition Fairy on television shows (though voiceovers, like on "My So-Called Life" and "Veronica Mars" make for much better exposition- in case any TV producers are reading) I object to having them appear in the first chapter of a murderously long book. It just comes off as hacky.

That's a lot of annoyance to plow through. So instead of dreading it, and avoiding it, I just quit. 576 pages people. I'd rather read Twilight for the 59th time.

I may shelve this and come back to it later. If I ever run out of vampires romances.

Book #37: Vision in White

Vision in White is the first in a series about a group of friends who run their own wedding planning business. And it's Nora Roberts' heralded return to pure romance. No sadistic murders to solve and no paranormal evil to conquer with magic. Kind of a bummer.

So Mackensie is the photographer for Vows, the wedding business she started with her three childhood best friends. She has an insanely disfunctional relationship with her manipulative mother, and is ambivalent about her historically absent father. So as a result, Mac is one of those tedious women from chick lit books who's incapable of having a healthy adult relationship with the opposite sex, because she's too afraid of getting "hurt". To quote Rayanne Graff on My So-Called Life: "Anything causes a scar. Living causes a scar. My mother has a humongous scar from having me. Does that mean that I should have never been born?"

Enter Carter, a high school English teacher who's had a crush on Mac since they were teenagers. He's far too nice, and well adjusted for her. But he wants her anyway. The usual roadblocks get in the way, but guess how it ends?

Since this is the first in a series, it's a lucky thing that Mac's best friends and business partners are entertaining and likable women (they'll be the subjects of the subsequent novals). Though it's a little hard to buy her relationship-phobia when she's able to have such long and healthy relationships with her friends.

Oh, did you hear a little girl squealing?

That was me. There's just a little Twilight sequel movie coming out in 184 days. Not that I'm counting.

Book #36: Forbidden Nights with a Vampire

Forbidden Nights with a Vampire is book seven in the Love at Stake series. And yet again, I'm thankful this was available on Kindle so no one has to see me in public reading such ridiculously titled literature.

Vanda is originally from Poland, was made a vampire during World War II, still seems to be sufferring from some form of Post Traumatic Stress, and has serious anger issues. Vanda owns a vampire strip club in Hell's Kitchen and is in trouble with her coven master for multiple verbal and violent assaults against fellow vampires. They totally had it coming though.

Phil is daytime security for the "good vamps" of New York and volunteered to be Vanda's anger management sponsor. He's also a closet Werewolf. Why he doesn't want all the vampires to know this, I have no idea.

Vanda is revealed to be far too vulnerable, especially for someone who prances around in catsuits, with purple hair, and a whip tied around her waist. Phil gets to save Vanda, which is pretty much his reason for existing. Happily ever after of course, with only one "rascal" thrown in. At this point, I'm convinced that Kerrelyn Sparks is taunting me.

Book #35: Paper Towns

Paper Towns is the third John Green novel I've read, and my favorite so far. Although yet again, I spent the entire novel worrying that he'd kill someone off.

Quentin Jacobsen is in his final semester of high school and has spent nearly his entire life being in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman. Q (as his friends call him) and Margo were friends as small children, but she long ago traded him in for the popular clique and dating jocks. Yet for Q, and maybe even the entire school, while they all live their lives in black and white, Margo lives hers in color. The school is always abuzz with some rumor (that inevitably turns out to be true) about her crazed adventures.

A month before their high school graduation, Margo enlists Q for wild night to be her getaway driver while she exacts revenge against various friends and cheating boyfriends. And the next day, Margo vanishes. Q spends the next month trying to decipher all of the clues Margo seems to have left him, and plans to unravel the mystery and get the girl. Though on his quest, Q finds that he never really knew Margo at all.

As with previous John Green books, the main character's friends are hilarious and far more practical than the hero is. And the object of affection is fascinating and complex. I didn't care for Margo as much as Q does. But I do remember what it's like to be in high school and to be completely wrapped up in someone who seems to be so bold and colorful.

Edited to add: I was especially entertained by the fact that at the same age Q and his friends spend hours talking about Walt Whitman, my friends and I were trying to decipher Nirvana lyrics.

my Overrated List

1. lifestyle changes
2. Al Pacino
3. irony
4. sushi

via Shapely Prose and Overrated List

May 15, 2009

Can't. Wait.

"True Blood", June 14!

29 days! (Not that I'm counting.)

May 12, 2009

Book #34: Dead and Gone

Dead and Gone is the ninth Southern Vampire Mysteries/Sookie Stackhouse book. And you would not believe how freakin' excited I was for this book to come out.

Sookie Stackhouse, small town Louisiana barmaid and unwilling telepath, leads a pretty exciting life. The vampires have been out in the open for a while, and the other supernaturals (werewolves, shape-shifters, fairies etc) she's known about for some time are making their presence known to the rest of the world. Plus she has two super hot vampires vying for her affections.

As far as this series goes, this volume seemed pretty epic. The pace was breakneck (which is saying a lot for a Southern author) and I could barely stand to put it down to go to work and to sleep. To avoid spoilers, I won't even get into her love life, but... Yum.

There are no more Sookie Stackhouse books being published this year, and I'm struggling to deal with that. However, HBO's "True Blood" (based on the series) comes back for a second season on June 14!

May 11, 2009

Book #33: Deadly Pleasure

The second novel in the Francesca Cahill Romance Novels, (still hate that name) Deadly Pleasure, takes place only a day after the first novel ends. Which is kind of an interesting concept for a series. Most of the series I read, the subsequent novels take place weeks, and sometimes months after the previous ones. And sometimes events are referenced that took place in that time in between novels. Which always makes me wonder what my favorite characters are up to when they're not being written about.

I find myself having a hard time liking Francesca Cahill. There's nothing really bad about her. I just find her obnoxiously naive. Which is probably a perfectly accurate trait for a well-bred young lady in 1902, but is an impractical trait for a "sleuth" as Francesca brands herself.

In my opinion, Brenda Joyce's male characters tend to be more compelling than her females. So the two men Francesca finds herself caught between, New York Police Commissioner Rick Bragg and his womanizing millionaire half-brother Calder Hart are interesting enough to keep me reading.

April 30, 2009

Book #32: A Secret Rage

A Secret Rage by Charlaine Harris is one of her few stand-alone novels. (The new Sookie Stackhouse book comes out May 5!) I find myself having a harder time connecting with her characters that are not in a series.

Nickie Callahan is a former model who’s returning to her Southern roots, and leaving New York City to move in with her best friend to go back to college in Tennessee. A lot of this book is about what it’s like to come back to the South after having been away for a long time. Part of you loves to be home, to see the familiar plants and trees growing, hear the familiar accents, but part of you is appalled at how much it hasn’t changed, and how small minded the rural South can be.

Upon moving back to Tennessee, Nickie hears about the recent rape that occurred on the college campus that she’ll be attending. Before she knows it, there are more and more victims, herself included. But Nickie decides that she doesn’t just feel victimized, and scared, she also feels enraged. She joins up with one of the other victims and they start making lists of all of the men they both know (both of them convinced the attacker knew them) and they begin investigating on their own.

Nickie slowly begins to get her life back, and embarks on a new romance, but she knows she’ll never be the same person she was. The ending was realistic, but somewhat unsatisfying. I guess I don’t like too much reality intruding in my stories.

April 21, 2009

Book #31: Immortal in Death

Okay, final re-read for a while (I’ve been waiting for the second Francesca Cahill novel to arrive. Damn thing wasn’t available on Kindle). Immortal in Death is the third Nora Roberts In Death book.

Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the NYPD would rather face armed drug addicts than go shopping for a wedding dress. Lucky for her, she gets plenty of brutal killings to investigate (including having her best friend as a suspect), but still ends up having to get married.

I like how realistically gritty New York City is in 2058. Guns have been outlawed, prostitution has been legalized, but there still manages to be amazing amounts of crime. I’m also fascinated by the procedure and the detail involved in investigating homicides. It appeals to my organized nature.

To find out how Eve gets a new partner, catches a serial killer, and marries a billionaire, you’ll have to read the book.

Book #30: Glory in Death

In Glory in Death, the second novel in Nora Roberts’ In Death series (and one I’ve read a dozen times already), futuristic homicide detective Eve Dallas has to get used to being a billionaire’s girlfriend, while also hunting a serial killer. You know how it is.

Eve is wary of how serious her relationship seems to be becoming with formerly shady Irish billionaire, Roarke. Plus she’s always believed cops are a bad bet relationship-wise. She’s also hunting a serial killer who is murdering high profile women in NYC, women frequently in the media, like Eve herself.

Eve tries to use herself as bait for the serial killer, while also balancing her increasingly serious love affair. Just as Eve catches her killer, and agrees to give up her independence and live with Roarke, he decides he’s going to need more of a commitment… Dum dum da dum.

April 13, 2009

Book #29: Naked in Death

Naked in Death is a re-read, and a book I seem to read at least once a year. It's the first book in Nora Roberts' (writing as J.D. Robb) incredibly popular futuristic detective In Death series, and it's one of my all time favorites.

Eve Dallas is a homicide detective in the mid part of the 21st century. They've outlawed guns, but they can't seem to get rid of murder. Eve is an orphan who barely has any memory of her life before she was 8 years-old and found abandoned in an alley in Dallas. She's spent ten years on the New York City police force building her tough reputation.

Eve is appointed to investigate the murder of a high class prostitute, who also happens to be the grand-daughter of a vocal, conservative senator. And the killer warns her this is only the first of six murders.

In the course of the investigation, Eve meets Roarke, a gorgeous, mysterious billionaire originally from Ireland. She finds herself immediately attracted, but she also finds her investigation constantly leading back to him.

I love this gritty and fun, yet emotionally intense suspense series. The characters are incredibly well drawn, and the setting is interesting and believable. It's a struggle to not re-read the entire series, when I meant to be reading new material.

Book #28: Sweet and Deadly

Sweet and Deadly is the first book I've read by Charlaine Harris that wasn't part of a series. And now I understand why she seems to prefer to write serials. This novel seemed spare and lacking in character development compared to her usual stories.

Catherine Linton is the social reporter in her tiny Mississippi town. Since she moved home after her parents' tragic accidental (or homicidal) deaths, she's gotten a reputation for being an eccentric loner. That reputation is not helped by her finding a dead body on her property.

Catherine uncovers many secrets in her small town, while trying to solve the murder. But I never felt like we really got to know or understand her as a person.

I really can't wait until the new Sookie Stackhouse book comes out in May.

April 06, 2009

Book #27: Secret Life of a Vampire

It's Ms. Vampire Girl to you. Book number six in the Love at Stake series by Kerrelyn Sparks, is Secret Life of a Vampire. I haven't read one from this fluffy series in over a month. So it was a nice to revisit this complete departure from reality.

Lara Boucher is a former Miss Louisiana who decides to become a police officer after a near fatal car crash leaves her with a head injury and the wish to do something important with her life. She's fresh out of the police academy and working the night shift in New York City when she meets a very strange, yet incredibly good looking guy, who tries to wipe her memory.

Jack Venezia is a 200 year-old vampire, private investigator for a supernatural security agency, and the son of the infamous lover, Casanova. Jack has always been conscious of not living up to his father's legacy, but he's a very romantic vampire at heart. As with all of Kerrelyn Sparks' vampires, he has to have a catch-phrase epithet. Jack's personal favorite is "nine circles of hell". I think I prefer it over "God's blood".

The heroine of course doesn't get a personalized catch-phrase, so she has to use the often abused (at least in this damned series), "rascal". Argh! You're killing me Kerrelyn.

April 05, 2009

Book #26: Deadly Love

Deadly Love is the first book in Brenda Joyce's Francesca Cahill Romance series. I object a little bit to the "romance label", since this is obviously a suspense novel, with just a little bit of romance (which pretty much every suspense novel has).

Francesca Cahill is a bluestocking in New York City in the early 1900's. She's lucky enough to come from an extremely wealthy family but is very concerned with the political issues of the day, such as the living conditions of the city's working poor, and the corrupt police department. At 20, Francsca's parents are anxious for her to get married, but she's more concerned with obtaining a degree from Barnard College, where she's secretly enrolled.

Francesca meets Rick Bragg, the new city police commissioner, at a fancy party at her parents' house and find herself uncharacteristically flustered by him. It's not long before a child is kidnapped and Francesca is insinuating herself into the police investigation.

The nice thing about this series is that since it centers on one person, everything doesn't have to wrap up neatly by the last page. The case is solved, but we don't know what will happen between Francesca and Rick, and whether Francesca will pursue her hairbrained scheme to become (presumably the first woman) private investigator.

March 31, 2009

Book #25: Last Scene Alive

Last Scene Alive is the seventh book in Charlaine Harris' Aurora Teagarden Mysteries.

Widow Aurora Teagarden is the only one in her tiny Georgia town that's not excited about the movie production coming to film. But that's probably since the movie is based on a bestselling book- about the serial killer that she was nearly a victim of. However, Aurora is glad to see former flame, Robin Crusoe, author of the bestselling novel.

Aurora makes some big decisions in this novel, while of course, stumbling upon bodies and helping to solve a murder. But overall it's a much more light-hearted story than the last couple of volumes in the series.

March 25, 2009

Book #24: An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green is the second of his novels that I've read. And at the risk of spoiling something for you, in the previous novel, Looking for Alaska, someone dies. And as a result, I spent the entire time reading An Abundance of Katherines cringing, worrying that someone was going to be killed off at any moment.

Luckily, when not worrying about impending doom, I was laughing my ass off.
"We fatties have a bond, dude. It's like a Secret Society. We've got all kinds of shit you don't know about. Handshakes, special fat people dances- we got these secret fugging lairs in the center of the earth and we go down there in the middle of the night when all the skinny kids are sleeping and eat cake and fried chicken and shit." -from An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Fat people lairs! Awesome. And where's my map?

Colin Singleton is a former child prodigy who's having trouble coming to terms with the fact that he's never going to be a genius. And immediately after graduating from high school, he's been dumped for the 19th time by a chick named Katherine. Dude doesn't know when to quit a losing streak.

In order to get over his breakup and work on his newest theorem, he and his best friend Hassan take off on a road trip out of Chicago and end up in nowheresville, Gutshot Tennessee. Due to an odd set of circumstances, they end up getting jobs and sticking around Gutshot for a while.

I don't know how you feel about footnotes, but if you don't care for them, you won't like this book. The book is covered in about eleventy hundred footnotes. Everything from definitions, encyclopedic descriptions, and translations of several different languages, to explaining the jokes. You remember the old saying, right? If you have to explain the joke, it's probably not funny? And then, there are the graphs, holy God, the graphs... I'm sure it's supposed to be clever and entertaining. I found them a bit twee.

But my favorite thing that John Green does is secondary characters. So far in the two novels I've read of his, I didn't care for the main character. They're teenage boys, so I'm not exactly going to identify, and man alive are they some self absorbed nerds. But the sidekicks and the love interests are great. The sidekicks are hilarious and get all the best lines. The girls are written mysteriously complex (which of course is why the boys fall madly in love with them). But I found them fascinating too, especially Lyndsey Lee Wells in An Abundance of Katherines. Someday I would love to read her story.

Book #23: A Dangerous Love

The ninth book in Brenda Joyce's de Warenne Dynasty, A Dangerous Love moves on to the now grown de Warenne children. And based on the ridiculous description (and that's saying a lot, considering...) of the final book in the de Warenne series, I think this one will be my last.

Ariella de Warenne is the illegitimate, educated, and privileged daughter of a pirate (Cliff from A Lady at Last), and a jewess harem concubine. Yes.

Viscount Emilian St. Xavier is the illegitimate son of an English nobleman and a Romanian gypsy.

They're oh so exotic. She's so very eccentric. And he has serious anger issues. They fight, they have an ill-advised affair, he uses her for revenge, they both face bigotry directed at gypsies. Will these two crazy kids end up together? Guess.

March 15, 2009

Book #22: A Fool and His Honey

The sixth book in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, A Fool and His Honey continues on in a progressively depressing series. I've continued with all of the Charlaine Harris novels simply because I've loved the Southern Vampire Mysteries so much. But the other series aren't striking the same chord in me.

Part time librarian, and unintentional mystery solver, Aurora "Roe", and her wealthy older husband Martin receive quite a surprise when his newly married niece shows up on their doorstep with a baby, but without her husband in tow. And within a few hours, the niece promptly disappears as well, leaving her baby behind. Roe has always been a bit sad about her inability to conceive but with a baby foisted suddenly on her inexperienced self, she's not exactly thrilled.

Once a dead body shows up on their property, and with nothing quite adding up, Roe and Martin head back to Martin's hometown in Ohio to see if they can get to the bottom of the missing niece, the abandoned baby, and the dead body.

Danger and suspense follow Roe per usual, but by the end of the book, there's one unexpected tragedy too many. I'm not sure if I feel like continuing on in this series.

Book #21: Promises in Death

Promises in Death is the 29th book in Nora Roberts' In Death series. Seriously, 29th. The earliest ones in the series are my favorites, the ones I've re-read the most. The last few in the series have felt a bit lackluster, but this addition is more true to form.

Eve Dallas, heroine of the In Death series, is a New York City homicide cop in the year 2059. In the future, we have off planet penal colonies, cars with air lift options, and auto-chefs (a sort of microwave that can pretty much whip up gourmet meals), but we still have good old-fashioned murder.

Eve tries not to let her cases get too personal, though they inevitably do, especially when they involve cases of abuse like the kind she experienced in childhood. But this time, the case hits too close to home when the victim has been dating one of her closest friends. She didn't know the victim well, but promises to find justice, even if it means investigating other cops.

This is one of my favorites series because of how completely Eve kicks ass. She's definitely one of the toughest literary characters around. But as a result, she's completely out of her element with the girlie stuff. In this book, Eve faces down the killer with more courage than she does the bridal shower she's agreed to host.

March 09, 2009

Book #20: The Time Traveler's Wife

I might be the last person on Earth to read Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. This was a thoroughly engrossing novel about one couple's love affair that spans decades, and ages.

Clare is six years-old when Henry first visits her in the field near her parents' home. He is in his 40's. Henry visits her throughout her life as she ages. Sometimes Henry is in his 40's. Sometimes he's older, and sometimes younger.

Henry DeTamble is a libarian and unwilling time traveler. He frequently has very little warning and absolutely no control when he disappears from his life and ends up somewhere else in time, naked. Often he visits his wife Clare, as she's growing up. Sometimes he visits his family, even reliving his mother's gruesome death. And sometimes he visits himself, at different times in his life.

I found it a little hard to follow where the characters are supposed to be at in their lives, when Henry jumps around in time. But it's possible that's just because I'm very bad at math. The most haunting part of this book for me, was how lonely it is to be the wife who's left behind, never knowing when or if your husband will join you again in your present.

Book #19: The Perfect Bride

The Perfect Bride is the 8th book in Brenda Joyce's deWarenne Dynasty. It features Rex deWarrenne, the last of the deWarenne siblings. The other deWarennes were featured in the previous novels in the series.

Rex de Warenne lost a leg in the Napoleonic wars and has been pretty much drunk in isolated Cornwall ever since. Well, he's managed to find time to have scandalous affairs with house maids.

Lady Blanche Harrington is the perfect daughter and the perfect hostess. She's successfully avoided marriage until age 28. But now that her father has died, she needs a husband to run her vast estate. Oh, she's also sufferring from a delayed form of post traumatic stress disorder due to witnessing her mother's murder when she was a small child. Except they didn't have PTSD in the 1800's, so she thinks she's going insane.

People in romance novels sure do have to suffer a lot to get their happily ever after.

February 27, 2009

Book #18: Forgiving

LaVyrle's Spencer's Forgiving is a re-read. Some books I've read at least a dozen times. I think I've only read Forgiving once before, and it was a long time ago, before the HBO show "Deadwood". Forgiving is set in 1876 Deadwood, when it was still a rough Western territory, not a U.S. state. And I was curious to see how the Deadwood of the book compared to my beloved cancelled show.

Sarah Merritt is a newspaper publisher, like her father. She's come to Deadwood, Dakota Territory, to start a newspaper and to find her sister, who ran away from home five years before. She's plain, brave, and extremely bookish. Being one of very few single women (not counting prostitutes) in town, she's unexpectedly popular with the men. She immediately butts heads with town marshal Noah Campbell. And she finds her sister (one of the aforementioned prostitutes) not the least bit glad to see her.

Noah Campbell came west with his family, but chose to live in town while they carve out a living farming in the Spearfish region. He keeps the drunks in line and is an occasional patron of the badlands (you could call it a red light district), but doesn't see anything wrong with that. He has a pretty strong moral compass, and after initially throwing Sarah in jail, and being the subject of one of her scathing editorials, he eventually comes to appreciate her bravery and willingness to help organize the community.

I liked the slow pace of this novel. It felt more realistic than the instant sizzling attraction of so many others romances. Sarah and Noah's relationship develops slowly but solidly. The subplot with Sarah's sister Addie is also a rewarding piece of the story.

February 25, 2009

In Praise of Nike (from a New Balance girl)

In the early '90's, back when I used to hang poems and pictures and magazine clippings on my bedroom door, two of my very favorite items were Nike ads. I know what you're thinking. And even back then, I remember being disappointed that two of the quotes that I looked at every day and memorized over time because they spoke to me so strongly, came from something as lame as a Nike ad.

A women is often measured by the things she cannot control. She is measured by the way her body curves or doesn't curve, by where she is flat or straight or round. She is measured by 36-24-36 and inches and ages and numbers, by all the outside things that don't ever add up to who she is on the inside. And so if a women is to be measured, let her be measured by the things she can control; by who she is and who she is trying to become. Because as every women knows, measurements are only statistics & statistics lie.

I've always wondered who wrote these ads. Did they really believe the things that they said? And did they ever go on to do something more important than shilling for Nike? But if not, for their sake, I hope they sold a ton of shoes.

All your life you are told the things you cannot do. All your life they will say you're not good enough or strong enough or talented enough; they will say you're the wrong height or the wrong weight or the wrong type to play this or be this or achieve this. THEY WILL TELL YOU NO, a thousand times no, until all the no's become meaningless. All your life they will tell you no, quite firmly and very quickly. AND YOU WILL TELL THEM YES.

February 22, 2009

Book #17: All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire

All I Want for Christmas is a Vampire is the fifth book in the Love at Stake series. And as much as I enjoy this frothy escapist series, they're killing me with those titles. Seriously, even posting about them is a little mortifying. Oh, and the cover art? Could someone who's at least read the books choose the covers? (Hint: the heroine is actually a blonde.)

Toni Davis takes a job as daytime security for a coven of New York vampires in hopes of finding proof of their existence in order to spring her best friend from the loony bin. Yeah, it's not a very well thought out plan. And despite barely surviving a vicious vampire attack, Toni finds herself becoming attached to the vampires she guards.

Ian MacPhie is yet another 500 year-old vampire (there seems to be an endless supply for this series). Ian was turned into a vampire when he was 15, and in the previous novel, he took an experimental drug in order to age him (don't ask) so that he'd be old enough to find his true love. Despite having an amazingly popular online dating profile (oh yes), Ian finds himself only interested in his forbidden security guard.

Though I'm still enjoying this series for the most part, it would be nice to see a little variation in the next installment, due out at the end of March.

2009 Oscar Picks (at 12:12pm)

It's impossible to not second-guess your Oscar picks. While I feel pretty confident with the idea that the Academy will go with Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, in part because of the cinematic-like ressurection of Mickey Rourke's career, we can't discount the universal belief that dour and humorless Sean Penn is a great actor. Conventional wisdom says Danny Boyle will win Best Director for Slumdog Millionaire. This year is all about Slumdog Millionaire. However, sometimes the Academy knows a film is going to be honored already (Slumdog will be winning Best Picture) so they use the Best Director category to honor another good film, which is why I think Frost/Nixon and the universally beloved Ron Howard, might have a shot (as well as Benjamin Button in the cinematography category). Viola Davis (for Best Supporting Actress) is my dark horse , and I totally called it before I saw Ebert had too.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Viola Davis, Doubt

Best animated feature film of the year

Achievement in cinematography
Slumdog Millionaire

Achievement in costume design
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Achievement in directing

Best documentary feature
Trouble the Water

Adapted screenplay

Original screenplay

Best motion picture of the year
Slumdog Millionaire

February 15, 2009

Book #16: A Lady at Last

The seventh book in Brenda Joyce's de Warenne Dynasty, A Lady at Last takes place in the West Indies and England in the early part of the 19th century.

Amanda Carre is a pirate's daughter who's spent her life running around her island home like a savage, dressed in boy's breeches. She can't read or write and has no wish to be a lady. But when her father is hanged and the richest man on the island agrees to take her to London to meet her long lost mother, she has to learn to live among the privileged if she wants a future.

Cliff de Warenne is the youngest son of the Earl of Adare and has made his own fortune as a merchant and privateer. He feels a connection to Amanda due to their mutual love of the sea and freedom, and he vows to secure a future for her in England. He passes her off as his ward, but of course he spends the entire novel lusting after her.

The one thing I did appreciate about this story was how the two main characters became fond of eachother right away and had no problem admitting it. I get tired of the books where the couple pretends to hate eachother half the time. However, Amanda realizes she's in love with Cliff long before he realizes he loves her. Men in romance novels tend to be slow.

February 12, 2009

Happy Valentine's!

It's not here yet. But when it does come, there should be chocolates.

February 09, 2009

Book #15: The Undead Next Door

The fourth book in the Love at Stake series, Kerrelyn Sparks' The Undead Next Door doesn't stray far from the established format. Human and vampire meet and fall in love. Danger, suspense, humor and explicit you-know-what usually complete the package. Hello, it's a romance novel.

Heather is a single mother with an adorable four year-old daughter, and a redneck jackass ex-husband. She also has a live-in nanny (who we're supposed to think is charmingly amusing and eccentric). Although throughout the course of the story, Heather, who is a teacher, is conveniently on summer break and therefore doesn't have to worry about working. Heather is also a size 12 and is repeatedly and maddeningly referred to as fat. No, she doesn't fit into couture. But who does?

Jean-Luc is a 500 year-old vampire and world famous fashion designer. We're supposed to believe that Jean-Luc decides to open a high fashion boutique in a tiny little Texas town in order to go into seclusion, because he's become too famous and the press have started to wonder why he never ages. I had a very hard time suspending my disbelief that Parisian high fashion would land in small town hill country for any reason.

For once in this series, the heroine catches on fast. Heather realizes almost right away that there's something off about Jean-Luc and actually comes to the conclusion that he is immortal. Although, even though she was able to make that mental leap, she actually had a hard time also realizing that he was a vampire. Because there are so many non-vampire immortals running around somewhere?

I've mostly enjoyed this mind candy series, however the next time one of the female characters calls someone a "rascal", I'm going to fling myself off of a building. I don't even think grandmothers say "rascal" anymore.