>> Monday, June 30, 2003

Hermione, if you're reading this, what's happening with your blog? I tried it yesterday and it had become "The Funny Farm", or something like that, and this morning it's just all green!!


Chance of a Lifetime, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Sunday, June 29, 2003

With Chance of a Lifetime, I've exhausted my cache of unread Jayne Ann Krentz titles.

Rachel Wilder believed that investigator Abraham Chance had made her sister the scapegoat in an embezzlement scam, and she decided to do something, she didn't know what. When she showed up unexpected at his rundown home, and he mistook her for the new housekeeper, Rachel went along with his mistake.

It didn't take Chance long to figure out that Rachel was no housekeeper. He decided that she had a secret, and he desperately wanted to know what it was, almost as much as he wanted her for himself. Rachel found herself falling passionately for this man who was supposed to be the enemy. Surely this man wasn't responsible for her sister's problem?
Nothing too spectacular here, but it did have some elements I especially liked. It was a B for me.

I really liked Chance. Luckily, the mistaken identity plot is not taken too far. He knows she's not who she says she is, and isn't angry, just wants to know everything about her because he's fast becoming more and more attracted to her and needs her to trust him. I appreciated the fact that, at first, he thinks she's running from someone and wants her to know that she's safe at Snowball's Chance, and trust him.

Rachel was likeable, too. It's pefectly reasonable that she believed her sister when she told her Chance was responsible for her problems, and I was pleasantly surprised that she almost immediately started doubting this, when she got to know Chance better.

It was interesting to see Chance deal with his family. His sister was nicely symmetrical to Rachel's sister, both whiny brats who needed to grow up and stop relying on their older siblings to deal with their problems. Having Chances mom and Mindy's new boyfriend be decent people was a nice touch, and much better than if the whole family had been a dysfunctional nightmare. Oh, and a little detail that I found funny: his sister called Chance by his last name too. Doesn't that sound weird?

As always, I had a problem with the suspense subplot. This element is what I tend to find lacking in old JAK books. They're not integral to the plot at all. On one hand, this means that the emphasis is on romance and that the suspense stays firmly in the background throughout most of the book. On the other hand, when this element of the plot does come front and center, it feels very strange, because it completely changes the tone of the book. I guess the problem is that it feels like JAK wrote a book and her editor told her "Love your story, but our line requires a suspense subplot" "Oh, ok, I'll add one then". What I mean is, it feels perfunctory, only there because it has to be and not because it's something the story needs in order to work.


>> Saturday, June 28, 2003



The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown, an anthology

>> Friday, June 27, 2003

This year I've been reading many more anthlogies than I used to. The latest was The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown.

The first story was, IMO, the weakest: ONE TRUE LOVE, by Suzanne Enoch - C+:

Lady Anne Bishop, who has been engaged since childhood to Maximilian Trent - Marquis of Halfurst. Maximilian's estates are in Yorkshire, and Anne's life is set squarely in London. Anne is taking advantage of her long-standing engagement with the fiancé she has never seen by essentially doing whatever she wants, within the confines of society. Maximilian has heard of some of her (rather mild) exploits and has come down to London to reclaim his bride. Only to find when he got there that he actually desires his bride, and wants her to choose him over the suitors she doesn't seem to be aware that she has collected. Rather than bully his way into her life, he sets out to win her love.
This one wasn't very successful in showing that our protagonists are in love. He sees her and he wants her and that's it, they're definitely getting married! Additionally, the whole setup (her otherwise sensible, loving father betrothing his daughter at birth, just because) smelled of plot contrivance. I didn't get why Maximillian was so ready to marry the woman his father had chosen for him... Enoch gives no explanation for that.

Still, I kind of liked how Maximillian realized he wanted Anne to actually want to marry him, not do so to fulfill an obligation, and how he decided to woo her. Oh, and they compromised on where to live, that adds some points.

My favourite was the second story, TWO HEARTS, by Karen Hawkins - A+

Handsome, dashing Sir Royce Pemberley has had Miss Liza Pritchard as his best friend for over 20 years. What will he do when that intrepid lady decides it's time to marry and sets her sights on someone Royce believes is entriely inappropriate?
A delightful story. In this one, I did believe that Liza and Royce were in love, and the way this came about was oh-so-romantic. I'm a sucker for friends-falling-in-love stories, and this was a particularly good one, especially because these two were very believable as friends.

It had wonderful, wonderful characters. Royce was perfectly charming, even though he really was a rake, and Liza was lovely: an original, but not stupidly so, sensible and straightforward, but a woman who actually does enjoy things like shopping for shoes. So refreshing, after all those martyrs, sacrificing themselves "for the orphans"! I especially loved that both Liza and Royce were mature characters. They were at a point where they both needed something "more", and Liza's decision to marry never feels contrived.

Something else I enjoyed was the humour. Hawkins managed to include wonderful little scraps of comedy, like the monkey, or the scene where Royce meets Liza's godmother and her nephew outside the lending library (OMG, that bit about the horse with the Italy-shaped mark, and the part about Edmund having been upset by certain sections of the library, I laughed until I cried!) And the best thing was that in spite of all the laughter and light-hearted tone, the story had its poignant, stomach-clenching moments.

All in all, a wonderful story. I wasn't terribly impressed by the two full-length stories I've read by this author, but knowing that she can write a story like Two Hearts is enough to make me keep trying her.

Story number 3 was just barely ok: A DOZEN KISSES, by Mia Ryan - B-

Lady Caroline Starling is becoming rather desperate to be free of he mother. She has forced herself to become quiet and unseen, as otherwise Caroline knows she would say and do the oddest things. She feels a quiet desperation and loneliness. Linney is quietly pleased to have caught the attention of the Earl of Pellering, while not harbouring any deep feeling for her potential husband. Terrance Greyson, Lord Darington, was wounded three years previously. A bullet in his brain has made speech difficult for him, and he often finds himself saying things he shouldn't, or unable to phrase what it is he truly wants to say.
A potentially fascinating hero wasted on a ninny of a heroine and woefully underwritten. What a shame! I don't think I've ever read a hero quite like this one. The whole situation was full of potential, and the author didn't take full advantage. The ending, especially, was much too abrupt, and Lord Darington's problem wasn't even discussed.

The last story was almost as good as the second one: THIRTY-SIX VALENTINES, by Julia Quinn - A

Susannah Ballister was one of the most popular debs of the previous season, until the man that all thought would propose to her instead married another. Overnight she was someone to be pitied and whispered about, so she returned to the country to recover. Now in London again, Susannah is finding it difficult to smile while being the subject of gossip and enjoy her new role of wallflower.

David Mann-Formsby, Earl of Renminster is the brother of the man that let her down. Influential in society, he makes an act of kindness that serves to restore Susannah so that she can once again take part in society. In doing so, David discovers that it is more than kindness that is driving him - he wants Susannah. All wrong for his brother, he finds he is complete right for himself and he sets out to make Susannah see that. For her part, Susannah is puzzled at why David, whom she knows did not approve of her, is aiding her and resolves that it must be pity, or at least sympathy, that motivates him. Now David must make a grand gesture to show that it is not pity that drives him, but love.

Another excellent story, and one written in JQ's witty, distinctive style. Susannah was a sensible, dignified sort of heroine, never afraid to stand up for herself. She was a bit "beige", if you know what I mean, but I liked her. David, too, was a serious guy, and it was lovely to see him soften and show his sense of humour with Susannah. The storyline was one I usually like, and it was very well executed. Very romantic, funny and sweet.

I loved the gimmick of the anthology here. All the stories take place roughly at the same time, in the same place, and characters from one story show up in the others... Everyone goes to the theatre to see The Merchant of Venice performed by Edmund Keane, they all attend a skating party on the Thames, and go to the same Valentine's Day ball. The logistics must have been a nightmare!

This was lots of fun to read. I also adored the Lady Whistledown introductions to each chapter. TFOOLW was much more than just a few stories published in one volume, and this adds points. My grade for the whole thing: A


Iris, by Leigh Greenwood (Seven Brides #3)

In spite of the fact that I didn't like Fern, the second installment in Leigh Greenwood's Seven Brides series, I read # 3, Iris. I didn't like it much either: it gets a C- from me:

Monty Randolph plans to take a herd to Wyoming. He means to start a ranch for the family and one for himself so he can get out from under the irritating and watchful eye of his older brother, George. He's determined that nothing will stop him from succeeding, especially his neighbor, Iris Richmond, who wants him to take her herd to Wyoming along with his. The last thing he needs is a southern belle, steeped in flirting and vanity, on the filthy, exhausting trek over a thousand miles of dangerous, unsettled country. Her kind is strictly for looking at, not for buying. Neither does he need double the cows and double the responsibility. He already as three brothers along to worry about.

Iris Richmond has nothing left of her father's fortune but a herd of cows. And if she doesn't get them to Wyoming, rustlers are going to take that. When Monty refuses to take her along, she puts her herd on the trail ahead of him and mixes the herds together. The continual danger of stampedes, rustlers, and Indian attacks drive the couple together, forming a relationship neither welcomes nor is able to deny. Beset by a thieving foreman and a long lost brother, Monty is the only person Iris can trust. And she means to trust him whether he likes it or not.
Like in Fern, these people make no sense. I was fascinated by the setting and the info about the cattle drive, otherwise, this would have been a D. The book was worth slogging through just for Greenwood's research, but as a romance it was a failure.

The romance was stupid. Iris was stupid, feisty and stubborn and made nonsensical decisions just to further the plot. Monty would have been an interesting character, but his characterization had the same flaw.

The worst part was the end, when a sexist "feel" seemed to take over, with Iris meeting a widow named Betty and realizing she (Iris, that is) wasn't "what a woman should be" i.e. she didn't do all those housewifely things to please men. Blech!

The suspense subplot was even worse, though. It was boring and perfunctory, and I ended up skimming the last 30 pages.


FridayFive questions for today:

1. How are you planning to spend the summer [winter]?
It's winter in my case, and I won't have a vacation, so nothing special for me!

2. What was your first summer job?
I've talked about this one before: I worked as an English-language city tour guide for the passengers of cruise ships arriving at Montevideo. It was only a few days a month, and it paid pretty well, plus I had fun and got to know lots of people.

3. If you could go anywhere this summer [winter], where would you go?
My friend Monica is going to be travelling through Europe and parts of the Middle East for a month and a half (she's leaving on Saturday, so I went for dinner to her house last night and she showed me her itinerary. Wonderful!). I guess if I could, I'd go with her.

4. What was your worst vacation ever?
I don't remember any big disasters. Maybe January before last, a tiny apartment in Punta del Este with my whole family. You don't want to be in the same apartment with my mother and only one TV. She has the worst taste ever in TV programming, and she'll listen to her choices at full blast.

5. What was your best vacation ever?
Either this last February in La Floresta (very peaceful, I did nothing but sunbathe and read for 3 weeks) or 2 weeks in Europe in 1994.


At last!!! w.bloggar is working again!


Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold

>> Thursday, June 26, 2003

I've long been curious about Science Fiction, and a few people have recommended Lois McMaster Bujold. I started with the first novel in the Vorkosigan series, Shards of Honor.

First novel in the popular series that begins with the inauspicious meeting of Betan astrocartographer Cordelia Naismith and Barrayaran Captain Aral Vorkosigan during a treacherous war. As captor and prisoner on an abandoned outpost planet, the honorable captain and the resolute scientist must rely on each others' trust to survive a trek across dangerous terrain, thus sparking a relationship that shares the struggles of culture and politics between their worlds.
My first experience definitely won't be my last, this one was an A-. I loved the attention devoted to the world-building, though I think I might like even better something with less intrincate political intrigue. Even so, even I could follow this one easily, so it was pretty ok.

Of course, good, interesting universes and adventure aren't enough for me. SoH succeeded because it also had wonderful characterization. I especially liked Cordelia. She was strong and sensible and no-nonsense, but also compassionate and kind. All that, and a nice self-deprecating sense of humour.

Aral Vorkosigan was a bit more of a cipher, since we didn't get his POV, but I liked what I saw through Cordelia's eyes (and, given the discussion we had about sympathetic homosexual characters on one of AAR's message boards, where someone wondered why we never see heros or heroines that have had any kind of same-sex sexual experience in the past, I found it especially interesting that there's a hint of it in Aral's backstory. I had 0 problem with this, in case you're wondering!)


>> Tuesday, June 24, 2003

I think I'm going to start doing the "Answer 5 questions on your blog every Friday" thing. I can't decide whether to use the questions at FridayFive or Las 5 del Viernes (duly translated into English, of course). Thanks Hermione for the url!

Anyway, it's not Friday, but here are last week's questions:

1. Is your hair naturally curly, wavy, or straight? Long or short?
Wavy, with LOTS of volume. It's also very heavy, and there's a lot of it. It's short, with the front part a bit longer, "to frame my face".

2. How has your hair changed over your lifetime?
I wore it loooong (almost to my waist) until 2 years ago, when I got sick to death of spending hours untangling it and drying it. I went to the hairstylist and told the guy "Do what you want, I just want it short". He actually spent a couple of minutes just staring at all the hair, telling me how this was every stylist's dream! First thing he did, before he started "styling", was cut most of the hair whole, and give it to me. I made a falsie with it, which I sometimes wear when I want a different look. As for colours, it's now at my natural brown, but it's been blond, red and black.

3. How do your normally wear your hair?
I never do anything with it (unless I have a wedding, or some type of formal party). I only towel-dry it a bit after washing it and then let it dry naturally. I either leave it loose or wear a couple of barrettes to keep it away from my face.

4. If you could change your hair this minute, what would it look like?
I've always wanted straight, straight hair, with absolutely no waves and almost no volume. That's what I get it to look like for special occasions. I don't mind the color, I actually like my natural color best.

5. Ever had a hair disaster? What happened?
One word: perm! I was 14, and the stylist managed to convince me that she had a new product that would give me permanent ringlets. It didn't, my hair just looked frizzy and I wore a ponytail for a couple of years straight.


Breathing Room, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

>> Monday, June 23, 2003

The next book I read was Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Breathing Room.

Lorenzo (Ren) Gage is a devilishly handsome movie star, best known for his villainous roles onscreen and his playboy antics off. Isabel Favor is a tightly wound self-help guru and author of The Four Cornerstones of a Favorable Life whose own perfect life has recently come crashing down around her. Both have come to Italy to escape the endless rehashes of their latest misfortunes in the public eye, and the equally endless drone of self-criticism.

Ren and Isabel meet under what can only be described as unusual circumstances, leaving each of them thinking, thankfully, they'll never see the other again. Imagine their surprise when Isabel turns up on Ren's doorstep, her much anticipated rental villa belonging to none other than her ill-advised one-night stand. As might be anticipated, their fiery antagonism soon breeds sparks of a different kind.

Meanwhile, at the villa, all is not as it seems, and the two lovers find themselves playing amateur detectives, trying to untangle the strange behavior of the townspeople and of Ren's hired caretaker. As if things weren't complicated enough, Ren's ex-wife, Tracy, suddenly appears on the scene pregnant and with several kids in tow, ushering in a subplot centering on the nature of marriage in the real world.

I've seen this book blasted so often in message boards, that I approached it with trepidation. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was a keeper for me. My grade is an A+, and it's one of the best books I've read this year, and one my fave SEPs so far.

I haven't heard of anyone online that actually liked Isabel, but I did, very much. Yes, she was a bit irritating, with her guru-speak and her praying everywhere and her insistence on always doing the right thing, but she meant well, and I appreciated how hard she worked, faced with horrible circumstances, to stay true to her convictions. Best of all, she wasn't at all judgemental of other people.

And BTW, about the praying and the fact that she called God "She": I was ok with that, even though I'm an agnostic who's not fond of organized religion. I think the fact that she emphasized spirituality and not religion per se, and the fact that her beliefs weren't exactly mainstream was what made it all palatable to me.

Another complaint I've heard is about SEP preaching at us. I don't know, maybe she did, a bit, but I think the preaching was mostly part of Isabel's characterization. And remember, when she got too preachy, Ren was always there to bring her back to Earth. Oh, I loved Ren! Cultured, bad boy Ren, wounded but not even knowing the wound still hurt.

I just adored Isabel and Ren together, the way thy bantered and how Ren teased Isabel and how he starts feeling attracted to her "goodness" despite himself. The book shone when showing us the characters falling in love with each other, something I always enjoy. SEP made me believe they were in love and perfect for each other.

I also liked the secondary characters and their "marriage in trouble" story. The 4 kids bothered me a bit (brats, the lot of them, except maybe for poor Steffie!), but the scenes where Tracy and Harry come clean about how they really feel about each other more than made up for this.

I loved the Tuscan setting, almost a character in itself, and I even enjoyed the "mystery" subplot, which I'm not going to spoil for you. SEP's timing was perfect with it. It stayed in the background most of the first part of the book, and we had only enough hints to make me intrigued about what was going on. When it came a bit more to the forefront, near the end, it never overpowered the romance (always a danger), but created a backdrop for it.

[Incidentally, e-mail me if you can think of other titles with a mystery subplot. Not a suspense subplot, with a villain after the protagonists, but one where they have to solve a mystery, one which is important to them but isn't life or death. Something like All Night Long, for instance.]

The ending, even the epilogue... awww!! I mean this in the best of senses, and keep in mind I have a low tolerance for schmaltz.

All in all, I really do think SEP is getting better and better. I'll have to see if I like First Lady better than most people do. I'm hopefull!


Sweethearts of the Twilight Lanes, by Luanne Jones

There are some books in my TBR pile that have been there for ages. Some, I know I'll get to them eventually, but there are others that I look at and wonder what I was thinking when I bought them. Sometimes I like to just grab one of these and force myself to read it, even if it doesn't sound appealing at first.

I get mixed results with this. I did that with Forbidden Garden, for instance, and I'm glad I read it. The one I tackled this weekend, though, wasn't that good. I'm glad I'm read it too, but only because I can now add it to my Trade List instead of having it clutter my bookshelves.

The book was Sweethearts of the Twilight Lanes, by Luanne Jones

As the doyenne of Simply Southern Magazine, Tess Redding is the soul of southern hospitality -- or at least to the world around Mount Circe, Georgia. But when bad boy Flynn Garvey roars back into town, Tess's plans to leave Mount Circe are suddenly in danger of burning hotter than Atlanta after Sherman. Once upon a time the smooth-talking rebel broke her young heart, now Tess is just determined to have nothing to do with the mouth-watering, trouble-on-two-legs charmer.

But then Tess and her best pals, the Sweethearts, begin to receive anonymous blackmail notes that threaten to expose their youthful follies. Having her old exploits with Flynn revealed is the last thing Tess's sweeter-than-molasses image needs, and he is the only one who can help her. So all that's left for Tess to do is put on her best pair of pumps, march right on up to the man...and fall in love all over again.

My grade for it was a C-, and I think I've learnt my lesson. No more Southern Fiction for me, I just don't like it.

For most of the book, I just couldn't relate to the characters and their problems. Who were this people? Do people like this really exist in this world? I didn't care what happened to them, and in fact, I think I didn't even like them, Tess, with her Southern Living magazine, Wylene with her beauty pageant school and her daughters named Jolene and Brentelle, after her husband Joe Brent... Everything was a turn-off, even the way they spoke.

The book got a bit better near the end, when the Flynn - Tess relationship finally got off the ground, and when they started to put their secrets to rights, but it was too little, too late. It saved the book from being a D, but it's not enough for me to recommend it.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by JK Rowling

Thursday 19th was a holiday here in Uruguay, the anniversary of the birth of our national hero, José Artigas. I requested leave on Friday too, and I went on my own to Punta del Este for a little relaxation. It was horribly cold outside and there was nothing to do, so I just... read!

First, I reread Harry Potter #4, HP and the Goblet of Fire, to prepare for the release of #5 (I don't know when I'll be able to get it, but so far I've been resisting the temptation to read spoilers).

Well, what can I say that hasn't been said a thousand times before? It was excellent, and I liked it just as much as I did when I first read it. It's imaginative, intriguing, exciting, dark, and very definitely not just a children's book.

There were quite a few details I didn't remember well, especially about the dénouement, so I'm very glad I read it. I can't wait! (and Hermione, you can't imagine how much I envy you!!)


>> Thursday, June 19, 2003

I was terribly embarrassed the other day on my way to work. I was on the bus, sitting next to this old guy, and when he got to his stop and started to get up, he said "Excuse me, please". The interesting thing was that he said it in English!

I was a bit taken aback by this, because the guy obviously wasn't an English speaker (his accent was pretty atrocious, if I may be unkind). So why did he speak to me in English? Uh-oh, he must have noticed I was reading a book in that language (of course I was reading! What do normal people do on buses?). And I say "uh-oh" because I was reading a romance, and I'd spent most of my trip reading a sex scene. The poor man must have got an eyeful!


The Dark on the Other Side, by Barbara Michaels

>> Tuesday, June 17, 2003

During the weekend, I read The Dark on the Other Side, by Barbara Michaels

When writer Michael Collins arrives at the home of celebrity Renaissance Man and millionaire Gordon Randolph to start the man's biography, he can't help but notice that his wife Linda seems to be both hateful toward her husband and terrified of something she can't name.

As he starts doing his research into Randolph's background he finds some disturbing but enigmatic results. Then Linda, whom her husband claims is insane, runs away and keeps running, with a bizarre old witch as her only solid ally. But Linda has a counter-claim about Randolph, that implies something far darker and more horrifying than mere insanity.

This was a good read, but not one of Michaels' best. A B for me.

The supernatural plot was a bit too nebulous, basically. It was never too clear exactly what was going on. This is something that Michaels has got better at with time. Also, the final scene was a bit anticlimatic and felt too rushed.

The best thing about TDOTOS was the way Michaels paced it, gradually introducing enough clues so that the reader started realizing something was very wrong, and then what it might be. Michael's awareness of what was going on proceeded at a similar pace, and Linda's personality was revealed gradually too. At the beginning she seemed to be in a very fragile mental state, so it was great to see her show she wasn't crazy and behave like the strong woman she was.


>> Sunday, June 15, 2003

Fun chore for Sunday morning: I've been going through my bookshelves looking for books to add to my Trade List.

So far I've found:

  • To the Ends of the Earth, by Elizabeth Lowell: this one was first published in 1983, and it's pretty much vintage Lowell. It feels very, very dated. I remember it had a nice grovel scene at the the end, and that's why I was keeping it. To be honest, I don't think I could bear to read the book again in order to get to the grovel scene, so into my TL it goes.
  • The Bride Fair, by Cheryl Reavis: I don't seem to be able to connect to Reavis' characters. This book was interesting, but I never cared about the characters and what was happening to them. I also remember being bothered by the brattish children.
  • A Place to Call Home, by Deborah Smith: I know many people love this one, but I didn't really like it. I kinda liked the first part, IIRC, but the second half was bo-ring! I'm not really a fan of Southern fiction (understatement of the year!)


I've a costume party tonight!!! What's the occasion, you ask? Absolutely nothing. A friend of mine just got it into her head to organise one so she just did. Now my problem is that I only remembered about the "costume" part an hour ago, so I haven't planned anything. I think I might end up wearing an old Korean thingy (is a kimono only Japanese?) my mom bought when she went there 20 years ago. I'm going to freeze my ass off, but it's either that or an old can-can dancer outfit (what was my mother thinking when she bought that???)


Wicked Angel, by Julia London

>> Saturday, June 14, 2003

For some reason, I violently disliked Julia London's Wicked Angel (excerpt). I usually finish every book, but for the second time in a couple of weeks, I decided not to finish one.

She raced across the pasture, vaulted a fence, and landed, stunned and breathless, on top of the most handsome man she had ever seen. The bemused stranger stayed to capture the fancy of the brood of orphaned children in her charge, then stole Lauren Hill's heart with a searing kiss as he left. Lauren couldn't tell him she was a widowed countess fallen on hard times. She tried to forget him--until she saw him again at a London ball. The man who haunted her dreams was a duke, out of her class...and he was pledged to another woman.

The ton is ablaze with talk of the ravishing Bavarian countess. Stunned, Alexander Christian, Duke of Sutherland, recognizes Lauren as the country girl who's captured his heart. Duty has forced him to pledge himself to another, to take his proper place in society and in Parliament. He wants one night with his blue-eyed enchantress, but will he be able to walk away from her again, or will he risk it all to be with the woman who fires his blood and makes him think of a . . . Wicked Angel.

I tried, I swear! I read some 150 pages before I chucked it, but I just couldn't go on. I'd already set it down about 50 pages before, but I had convinced myself I had to finish it, but enough! I have too many more books waiting for me. Plus, there's another trader I know wants this one, and she always trades me for books on my Wish List, so I don't feel as guilty as I'd normally feel!

What made me hate this so much? Well, again, I found a book that pushed all my hot buttons. Many of the problems I had would have been bearable alone, but the accumulation was too much. Case in point, the virgin widow. I'd rather not have to read about this character, but I've been known to like some (see, My Lady's Pleasure, or Wicked Widow). Here, it irritated me to no end.

Oh, and I hated Lauren. She's so good! Stupid kind of good, of course, the type of woman who gives up her inheritance because she doesn't deserve it, when she really does need it. And of course, she keeps sacrificing herself "for the children". Literally, at one point she's thinking about how her uncle had practically sold her into marriage the first time, and she thinks how "she had done it for Rosewood and for the children". These children, BTW, are orphans.

Look, I admire people who are kind and good, but there is a fine line between being good and being a perpetual victim and martyr, and Lauren goes way across this line. And the worst part is that all this is just bad characterization on the part of the author, she wants her readers to love Lauren, so she has to make her just perfect. It's overkill, basically.

Apart from all this, everything felt so clichéd! (Lauren's parents, of course, had died in a carriage accident. Just one example.) The only original-ish element was having the hero be engaged to someone else, and this was something I hated. To me, a guy who's engaged and still thinks nothing of pursuing another woman is the worst kind of skunk. And the operative words here are "thinks nothing", ok?

A mess. Just that, a mess.


Fern, by Leigh Greenwood (Seven Brides #2)

>> Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Continuing with Leigh Greenwood's Seven Brides Series, I read book # 2, Fern.

Fern Sproull, a young, swaggering opinionated ruffian, dressing and behaving like a cowboy, is determined Hen Randolph will hang for killing her cousin. She's equally determined that a fancy lawyer named Madison Randolph isn't going to get his brother off. Fern has spent the last eight years of her life outriding, out shooting, and out cussing every man in her path, and she's not about to let the man who murdered her cousin get off just because he's one of the Texas Randolphs. But how is she going to know what tricks Madison gets up to unless she follows him around?

Madison Randolph, the brother who abandoned his younger orphaned siblings to go to Harvard during the Civil War, has come to Abilene, Kansas to defend his brother against a murder charge. There's not much love lost between Madison and his family, but he's certain Hen isn't a murderer and he doesn't mean to let him hang. The fact that an obnoxious female who dresses like a man and acts even worse intends to stop him only encourages him to prove he's the very best at what he does. The suave, sophisticated Madison is appalled, first to discover that under all that dirt and bluster is a woman, and secondly, that he's intrigued by her. But Madison soon discovers the female isn't so obnoxious after all and that the ties of blood can never be broken.

This one was not even remotely as good as Rose. I'd give it a C at best, and I'm actually grading up because I like the author's writing style, which immediately sucks me into the story and keeps me reading even when I'm wanting to tear my hair out because of some plot point. I'm also giving the book extra points because I find the setting very interesting. It's not the stereotypical "Western" setting, full of saloons and gunfighters, and the author manages to create a vivid world in which his characters live. I also liked the main plotline: I was intrigued by Fern's cousin murder, and I liked that the mystery subplot didn't overshadow the romance.

The problem was the characters, most especially the heroine, and their motivations. Fern was "feisty", and not in a good way. She was the foot-stomping, hair-tossing, cross-dressing kind of feisty; stubborn, quick to make completely unjustified judgements, and a doormat for users like her father. In a word, I thought she was stupid. I hated her, can you tell?

Though Madison was much better (at least he was usually a reasonable guy), half the time, I hadn't the slightest idea of why these people were behaving in a certain way. That was my main problem; they did things with no rhyme or reason. In Rose, even if I didn't like some of the characters' issues and motivations, at least I more or less knew where they were coming from and it made sense!

The book completely disintegrated near the end, with Fern starting with the "I'm not worthy, boo-hoo!" routine, a painfully clichéd misunderstanding immediately after, and Fern showing, yet again, that she was TSTL in the final action scene.

I certainly hope the series doesn't continue in this vein!


A Dash of Temptation, by Jo Leigh

>> Tuesday, June 10, 2003

This weekend I read A Dash of Temptation, by Jo Leigh, a Harlequin Blaze.

Tess Norton knows that Dash Black is way out of her league. She just looks after his houseplants, for heaven's sake. But she can't resist a sizzling fling with the sexy media king before she settles for Mr. Ordinary someday.

Dash has never experienced a woman like Tess in his life. Hot…sweet…sinful, she occupies his bed — and his mind — day after day. She's a welcome distraction in theNew York frenzy that he calls home. For Tess, he knows he's just a man to do. Not a man to marry. But sometimes sex and romance can get all mixed up when you least expect it.…

I like Leigh's voice and style. She feels modern, and her heroines are more real and modern than most. This was something I liked in this book, though I had a couple of problems with it. A B-.

What I liked:
- Likeable, modern characters: a genuinely nice hero and a heroine who was pretty strong and driven
- Characters who had interesting occupations (Tess, for instance, owned a plant-care business)
- Very hot love scenes
- The whole book had a romantic, Cinderellaish feel
- Character-driven romance, the best kind. No villain to kidnap the heroine here.

What I didn't like:
- A heroine who at times felt much too star-struck by the hero... which meant a relationship that felt a bit unequal (the flip side of the Cinderella thing I mentioned
- Name dropping. An awful lot of it. The hero had dated (and slept with) Julia (Roberts, of course) and Sandy (Bullock, who did you think), and the author went on (and on!) about the famous characters at the parties Dash and Tess attended.
- The kind-of villain was out of Central Casting: the Rich Bitch, who badmouthed Tess to a potential investor, because.... just because.
- The rush to marriage. These two had a future, but I didn't really think they were at the getting married stage just yet. Why, oh why do romance novels have to finish in marriage?


The Gentleman Thief, by Deborah Simmons

Next, I reread The Gentleman Thief, by Deborah Simmons. I adored this book when I first read it last year, so I lent it to my friend. She hated it. Really, really hated it. Hated Georgiana, hated the plot, everything. I decided to reread this, then, to see if I felt any differently about it.

Why her family had elected to spend an entire season in boring Bath, Georgiana Bellewether couldn't fathom. Nothing to stimulate her inquisitive mind ever happened here -until the night Lady Culpepper's emeralds were stolen! Now, if only she could keep her mind on the case and her hands off the enigmatic man in black - the beguiling Lord Ashdowne...!

As the newly made, ever-responsible Marquis of Ashdowne, Johnathon Saxton bemoaned the lack of excitement now marking his days. But when quixotic, exotic Georgiana Bellewether literally stumbled into his arms, he knew he'd caught himself an armful. The woman was a disaster in the making!

Well, I still loved it. An A. It was one of the funniest books I've ever read, and one of the most refreshing.

Georgiana was an excellent character. She reminded me a bit of Phoebe, from SEP's It Had to be You, in that they were both brilliant women who looked like ditzy sexbombs. Georgiana, however, actually was a bit ditzy. Ditzy and brilliant, I didn't think someone could write that successfully.

The main focus of the book was Georgiana and Ashdowne's relationship, which was a riot. I loved the way Ashdowne started realizing that she wasn't exactly what she seemed. I LOLed at his horror when he noticed her thought processes were beginning to make sense to him. ;-)

This was a very sensual book. There actually was only one real sex scene, and it wasn't too graphic, but Simmons succeeded in creating beautiful sensual tension. And that scene in the Baths, whew!! *fanning myself*

I remember I was a bit doubtful about buying this book at first because of the thief angle. Thief protagonists are usually a turn-off for me. Maybe I'm a bit rigid, but stealing because you need the excitement, even if it's from "nasty people who can afford it", is wrong, IMHO. Yeah, I know, it's fiction, but I usually can't get over this. Stealing because of desperation, or for revenge, or for a million other reasons, I can accept easily. But frivolous, irresponsible reasons make me want to shake that particular character. I can't figure out why it wasn't a real problem here. Maybe because it was only part of Ashdowne's past? Because we never actually saw him stealing? Because Georgiana didn't condone it? Probably a mix of the three.


Search the Shadows, by Barbara Michaels

>> Monday, June 09, 2003

I can't believe I haven't posted in so many days. I've read a bunch of books since that last post, so I'll try to be brief (yeah, right!). First of all, Search the Shadows, by Barbara Michaels

When twenty-two-year-old Haskell Malone accidentally discovers damning proof that the dead was hero whose name she bears is not her father, she is shattered. The revelation only confirms the dark fear that has haunted her since childhood. In fact, what little she knows about her birth and her mother's subsequent death, is a fragile web of evasions and lies.

Determined to expose the truth at any cost, Haskell takes a job at Chicago's famed Oriental Institute in the city where her mother once lived and loved. But as she searched the shadows of the past, she finds that the truth can sometimes be deadly.

A good one, a B+ for me. As I posted a little while ago, I tend to group Michaels' books into several categories. This particular one would be straight suspense, with nary a sign of the supernatural. I like the creepy ghost stories best of all, but this is still Barbara Michaels after all, so it was still an excellent read.

As in every one of the author's books, the atmosphere was incredible. The huge, creepy mansion, the strange characters, the young heroine... very gothic. I also found the mystery very engaging. The best part was the heroine. The book was written in 1st person POV, which only succeeds if the narrator is interesting. Haskell was.

I just love Michaels' voice, whether she's writing under that name or as Elizabeth Peters. Her sense of humour shines through, and it's a kind of humour I find beautifully effective. It's never forced, it just springs naturally from the situations described.


Lady of Desire, by Gaelen Foley

>> Thursday, June 05, 2003

Earlier this week I read Lady of Desire, by Gaelen Foley, book # 4 in the Knight Miscellany series. My favourite in that series so far is Lord of Fire, and LOD hasn't supplanted it in my preferences. It was a B-, while LOF was an A-.

Impetuous Lady Jacinda Knight is the daughter of a scandalous woman--and Society predicts she'll follow in her mother's footsteps. Then one night, in flight from an arranged and loveless marriage, Jacinda finds herself alone on a dangerous street face-to-face with Billy Blade, the notorious leader of a band of thieves. His stolen kisses awaken in her a longing for a man she can never possess.

A handsome outlaw running from a secret past, Billy Blade has never met a woman like Jacinda--her fiery innocence and blossoming sensuality set his rebel's heart ablaze. Having turned his back on the privilege and power of his tyrannical father's house years before, he vows to return to reclaim his title, Earl of Rackford--to win the love of the ravishing beauty who has stolen his heart.

I enjoyed LOD. Analysing it, I can think of quite a few flaws and things that bugged the hell out of me, but the fact remains that, on the whole, it left a positive impression.

Jacinda was 18 and she behaved 18. We should get this fact out of the way right now: she wasn't fully mature at all, and had a long way to go. Thing is, I'm not opposed to reading about young heroines per se, the problem is that they are so often paired with heros much older and more mature than them. When this happens, 99% of the times the relationship ends up not being among equals, and feels almost like daddy-little girl. Creepy stuff.

Here, however, Jacinda and Billy were equals. Billy was just a big boy. He had been forced to behave grown up in a rush when he started living on the streets of London at age 13, but inside, I didn't feel he was that much more mature than Jacinda.

Their relationship was very fun to read about. They genuinely liked each other and enjoyed each other's company. Plus, Foley created such great sensual tension that I almost didn't realize that Jacinda and Billy didn't really consumate their relationship until near the end of the book. And that's something that could have been better. They only have sex when everything in their relationship's already settled, so it was frankly a little boring to read.

The problems and flaws I mentioned before were several. First of all, the disgusting ending. Spoiler ahead: His father was a Monster, and I didn't buy his repentance at all. And actually, he doesn't even really repent, just gives a lame excuse: "my daddy used to beat me up, so I knew what I was doing to you was nothing you couldn't bear, since I bore it myself". I'm sorry, but I hated that Billy forgave him, and I really didn't see the need for that dramatic overwrought deathbed scene.

Another problem was seeing Jacinda's brothers, who I'd enjoyed as heroes in their respective books, behaving like dominating pricks. I'm sure overprotective brothers are considered oh-so-cute by some people, but I couldn't like their behaviour. To me, it didn't imply that they cared for their sister, but that they didn't respect her.


>> Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Turns out the Uruguayan NT plays a friendly against South Korea next Sunday, so Nacional won't be playing this weekend. Which means I'll be spending the weekend in Punta del Este and won't be here for Operación Triunfo comments chat :-(

Hmm, maybe I could borrow my uncle's laptop and take it with me? I can't very well tell him what I really want it for, but I'm sure I can come up with a good excuse before Friday!


Accidental Roommate, by Charlotte Maclay

I'm very careful when choosing category books to read. Picky, picky, picky. I only buy them when they come highly recommended by someone I trust. Years ago, I used to go down to the newstand and buy loads of Harlequins (Spanish translations), just from reading the back cover blurbs. I managed to read such stinkers that way! I've only kept 4 or 5 books from that part of my reading life.

I thought it might be a good idea to give a category a chance at random, just to see if I managed to hit a winner. So, I grabbed my friend's list of books and just stabbed at it, then asked her to loan me that one.

I'm sad to say I did not hit a winner. In fact, I tossed it at page 30.

The book was Accidental Roommate, by Charlotte Maclay, and it managed to find all my hot buttons and punch them for all it was worth.

Hannah Jansen lives with her father and helps him run the local hardware store in her excruciatingly small town. And at 28, Hannah is sick to death of being wholesome and dependable. A break in the big city is just what she needs. When her hotel mixes up her reservations and puts her in the same room as rancher Holt Janson, Hannah considers her options. Now fate has given her an honest-to-goodness sex symbol for a roommate!
Ok, so I start the book... uh-huh, a 28 year old virgin. Lovely. Wonder if she'll have a real reason to be a virgin at that age. Maybe she wants to save it for her husband? Maybe she's religious? Even though I don't feel that way, at least it will be plausible! Nope, doesn't seem like it. She lives in a small town and, even though she's quite attractive, she never had an opportunity to have sex. Right, ok. Strike # 1 against the book.

So she's at her hotel room and when she comes out of the bathroom she finds a man in the room. Short tussle (in which the author doesn't make her look like too much of an idiot, good for her!) and they explain. H. Jansen and H. Janson. I guess it's possible that the hotel concierges would make such a mistake and give them the same room.

Downstairs it is, to ask the concierge to fix the mistake. Oh, no! The hotel is full! The whole town is full! Conventions, you know. There's no way Holt will be able to get another room, so what could be more natural than that they share a room? Okay, okay, okay! Here's where you lost me. Holt, darling, can't you stay at a motel? A 2-star hotel? I refuse to believe a whole huge city could be full. Such a contrived situation, "only in romance novels", right? Strike # 2.

Strike # 3: Holt's a cowboy. He wears cowboy boots. He wears a Stetson. He thinks of Hannah in horsey terms "She's such a high-strung filly" and stuff like that. Sorry, but yuck! And yes, I know, this is just a personal problem I have, not a real, objective problem with the book. Still, it's one of my hot buttons.

Strike # 4 comes right before I almost throw the book into the trash (before I remember I have to return it), and it's when Holt asks Hannah to stay out of the room from 10 to 12 PM the next day, because he wants some time with the lady he fucks whenever he's in town. Jerk.

That's it for me, thank you very much. I think I'll keep my current system and only pick and choose among categories. No more blind buys (or loans!)


Rose, by Leigh Greenwood (Seven Brides #1)

>> Monday, June 02, 2003

I don't read Westerns, but I was intrigued by certain comments about Leigh Greenwood's Seven Brides Series. Since it turns out a friend has the entire series, I borrowed the first entry, Rose, out of curiosity.

George Randolph, the oldest brother and patriarch of the family, needs someone to wash, cook, and clean for the brothers on their Texas ranch. Rose Thornton accepts that job. She arrives at the homestead to find six men ranging in ages from six to twenty-four years old. The house looks like it hasn't been cleaned in years, the clothes practically stand up and beg to be washed, and everything in the kitchen is black with soot and grease. She soon discovers she's in the midst of a truly dysfunctional family. The brothers don't seem to like anybody, and that includes each other. They don't much like Rose, either. Once they learn her father was an officer in the Union Army, they vote to send her back to town.

George Randolph was an officer in the Confederate army. He feels responsible for his family, but wants to rejoin the army, the only time when his life was ordered and predictable. Rose sets out to convince George that he's not only a father figure to his brothers, he really wants a family of his own. With her. At the same time seeks ways to repair the fragile bonds that hold this family together.

I liked it, it was a B. I did find some problems, but it wasn't that I was dissatisfied with what made it a Western, just that certain things in the story didn't completely work for me. I'll very definitely read the rest of the series, since I really liked the characters (call me snobbish, but on the whole, I don't like to read about uneducated characters), the feel of the book and the type of story (i.e. not a lot of emphasis on gunfights) and the author's voice.

I was surprised to see how fast I was sucked into the story. It was very definitely not fast-paced and a big part of the book is Rose doing housework, plus, her getting settled at the ranch, the development of the brothers' relationship between themselves and with Rose, George's plans for the ranch. Pretty mundane stuff, boring, almost, and yet, I wasn't bored for a second.

Nice writing style or just me being weird and enjoying reading about housework? Reading about it, I said! I detest it in real life, but, for some strange reason, I love reading about heroines completely transforming a place from pigstyle to palace. And Rose is so incredibly capable! She knows how to do everything, and doesn't make those idiotic blunders some authors have their heroines make in order to make them "adorable". The author doesn't seem to feel that an educated heroine has to be incapable of hard work, and I love it.

I loved all that, most especially the family dynamics, and how Rose managed to help them actually become a family. Nothing easy about it, they had to work for it, and even by the end of the book, there were still problems, though they were well on their way to actually becoming the family George wanted to have.

Problems? Sure. The love story wasn't really too compelling. I was more interested in the family relationships than in George & Rose... in fact, when they get married and are coming back to the ranch, I was more anxious to read about how the brothers reacted to the news than about their wedding night. That says it all, I think.

Also, I just didn't "get" George's issues. Why on Earth is he so convinced he's going to be like his father? "Oh, I can't marry Rose because something in my nature will make me make her unhappy! I will feel compelled to stray, no matter how much I want her now!" Idiot. That sounds like an excuse for doing whatever he wants to do, without feeling guilty (because he just can't help it!, and I found it exasperating.


I'm in a VERY good mood. Nacional completely outplayed Peñarol yesterday!

The stadium was completely full... 65.000 people. We had to get there about 2 hours early to get a good place. Luckily, there was a "preliminar" game between the youth teams of Nacional and Peñarol, which ended Nacional 5 - Peñarol 0, so we weren't too bored ;-)

When the teams entered the pitch it was really incredible, especially because every Nacional fan had brought a roll of toilet paper to throw when the Peñarol players entered (simbolizing that they were so scared they were crapping in their pants, or something like that). It must have been thought up by TP makers!

The first 25 minutes were all Nacional. Abreu scored on the 18th minutes (inspiring chants of "los clavó, el Loco los clavó!") with a beautiful header and then 3 minutes later he started a counter-attack, running the entire pitch with the ball and giving it to Peralta, who dribbled past a couple of Peñarol defenders and scored again.

On minute 26, penalty for Peñarol. Bengoechea took it, and it was record vs record. Nacional keeper Munua was trying for the record of the most minutes without receiving goals, and if Bengoechea scored, he would have the record of the Peñarol player who scored the most goals against Nacional. He scored :-( It seems we fans were really looking forward to Munua getting a new record, since someone the mood after that was more appropriate for a team that was receiving a thrashing than for one ahead by one goal.

For the rest of the first half, Nacional looked a bit depressed, and Munua had to save a couple of Peñarol attempts. They looked better in the second half, dominating the game and scoring (Abreu again!) on the 30th minute. The remaining 15 minutes were just celebration.

With this game, both Abreu and Peralta have scored in every Clásico they've played. This was probably "el Loco"'s last match in Nacional this season, since the AUF is very likely to suspend his abilitation next week, and he said goodbye to a standing ovation from over 30.000 fans.

There are only 3 games left and Nacional is 9 points ahead of Peñarol, who are # 2 in the standings. Just one more point and we're the Champions. Now I'm wondering if I should go to Punta del Este next weekend, as I was planning or just stay here, go to the stadium and (hopefully) celebrate the championship and then Sunday night play "comments chat" with Hermione and Guada.


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