Soft Focus, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Thursday, July 31, 2003

My final reread of the weekend was Soft Focus, by Jayne Ann Krentz

Elizabeth Cabot is all business. She knows how to maximize her investments and cut her losses--in both her career and her personal life. So when she discovers that Jack Fairfax has deceived her, she's determined to end their relationship. Putting a stop to their budding romance is easy. But breaking up their business deal will be more difficult. Despite all her efforts, she has no luck disentangling herself from Jack's client company, Excalibur. But the situation becomes even more strained when a new obstacle emerges: a lethal act of sabotage that could put both of them out of business for good.

Elizabeth is no fool. If she can help Jack save Excalibur, she'll recoup her substantial investment plus millions in profit. Putting her emotions aside, she insists on helping him search for the scientist who's disappeared with a valuable new crystal that could revolutionize the high-tech industry. She'll go in, solve the problem--and get out.

The trail leads Elizabeth and Jack to a fringe film festival, but their goal is as elusive as the shadowy black-and-white images from classic noir films. Life starts to imitate art, and double-dealing seems to be the name of the game. For these business adversaries turned reluctant partners, keeping an eye on each other--and the lid on a sizzling attraction--seems the only insurance against further treachery. But with millions at stake, trust can turn to betrayal in the blink of an eye.
Yes, this was not up to JAK's old standards (i.e. not as good as such favourites as Family Man, or Trust Me, for instance), but it was quite good compared to other offerings in the market. A B+.

I liked that there was a lot of emphasis on Jack and Elizabeth's relationship, and that the suspense subplot, though interesting, didn't take over the story. And the relationship itself was very well done. I especially liked the fact that it was Jack who obsessed about it, and kept wanting to have "the talk" with Elizabeth. The man seemed more worried about this than about recovering Soft Focus. I would have liked maybe a bit more detail in the love scenes, but the relationship part was satisfying enough, as was the "family" part.

I very much enjoyed the setting. I don't know much about film noir, but what I saw here was intriguing and the contrast between the high-tech aspects and the old movies was well done.

What wasn't so good was the suspense subplot, which was a bit too convoluted, with too many players involved.

Still, every JAK works well as a comfort read.


I've finally got my greedy hands on a copy of Gone Too Far, and now I've a dilemma. I want to read it ASAP, but I know once I start it I won't want to stop. I should wait til Saturday morning to start it, but I don't know if I'll be able to resist!


Lady Be Good, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

>> Wednesday, July 30, 2003

More rereading: Lady Be Good, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips this time.

Lady Emma Wells-Finch, the oh-so-proper headmistressof England's St. Gertrude's School for Girls, is a woman on a mission -- she has two weeks to lose her reputation. Arriving in Texas with skirts flying, umbrella pointing, and beautiful mouth issuing orders, she knows only one thing will save her from losing everything she holds dear: complete and utter disgrace!

World-famous playboy-athlete Kenny Traveler has kickedup his boot heels one too many times, and now he's suspended from the sport he loves. Only one thing will restore his career:complete and utter respectability! Unfortunately, he's been blackmailed into chauffeuring bossy, single-minded Lady Emma, and she's hell-bent on visiting honkytonks,chasing down tattoo parlors, and worse.. lots worse.

When a gorgeous man who can't afford another scandal meets a hardheaded woman who's determined to cause one, anything can happen. But love? Oh, dear. That's impossible.That's outrageous. That's... inevitable!
This one was just ok the first time I read it, so I'm thinking that maybe I've grown into SEP, because I just loved Lady Be Good. An A. I think I'm going to have to reread Nobody's Baby But Mine next, to see if I "get" that one too this time around.

This was a blast. It was just hilarious, a real romp. Some of Emma's "adventures" were a bit dumb, but what can I say, I enjoyed them tremendously. Plus, it was funny and sexy, the best combination possible.

I loved Kenny. He was wonderful, a guy who was really charming as a façade to cover some real hurts. It was interesting to see his backstory, he really was a little rotter as a kid! I thought the way his relationship with his father developed during the book was very poignant and sweet. They don't fix everything, but it certainly seems like everything's going to be all right with them.

As for Emma, he was a little cartoon-ish at first (the 30-year-old, virgin, British headmistress, "brolly" at the ready), but soon came into her own. She and Kenny together were so good! I loved how she defended him against everyone, doing what he refused to do himself. These two were a seemingly mismatched couple that really worked.

I also enjoyed the big cast of secondary characters... Kenny's father and his young wife; his sister Torie; his housekeeper, Patrick; Torie's intended, Dexter, Ted, son of Dallie and Francesca, from Fancy Pants, the evil Duke of Beddington... just every character was well-drawn and realistic.

The secondary story was nice, even though it had a "taming of the shrew" element that isn't usually to my taste. It was ok in this case, though, because Torie got a kick out of it, so it didn't really feel like Dexter was walking all over her.

What I wasn't too convinced about was the "daddy knows best" thing. Both Dallie and Warren abused their positions to make Kenny and Torie make changes in their lives. Yes, all this turned out to be for the best, but even so, I was uncomfortable with the message that these people needed to be manipulated into taking control of their lives.It's difficult to really express what it was that bothered me... mostly a "just who the hell do you think you are to..." reflex on my part.

Anyway, just wonderful. I'm so glad I didn't trade this one!


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling

>> Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Continuing with my reread of the Harry Potter series, I got to # 3 this weekend, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

This one's one of the best in the series. I had some doubts about the whole time-travel thing near the end, basically because I thought it opened the door to too many possibilities... going back in time to re-do whatever had gone wrong. However, seeing again how carefully JKR constructed the time-travel here, how they didn't actually change anything, because whatever they did had already actually happened, put my worries to rest. An A+, of course.


Where Dreams Begin, by Lisa Kleypas

I did some rereading this weekend. One of the books was Where Dreams Begin , by Lisa Kleypas

Zachary Bronson has built an empire of wealth and power -- now he needs a wife to help secure his position in society...and warm his bed in private. But not just any woman will do for a man whom all of London knows is not a gentleman. Then he unexpectedly swept Lady Holly Taylor into his arms for an unasked for -- but very alluring -- kiss, and suddenly he knew he had found a woman whose fierce passions matched his own.

Lady Holly Taylor was beautiful, generous, and, as a widow, destined to spend her life playing by society's rules, even when they went against her bolder instincts. But Zachary's kiss had aroused her, and though the shocking offer he made didn't include marriage, she was compelled to risk everything and follow him to the place where dreams begin.
This one was a B. This was a very emotional, angsty story, but one with an imperfect ending, which lowered the grade somewhat.

I liked the conflict in this one. First husbands in romance novels are either first-class bastards of nonentities who the heroine didn't love, but here, Holly's first marriage was very good. She truly did love her husband, and mourned him when he died. We, of course, know that she's better off with someone like Zachary, but she probably would have been content with George. Her reluctance to love someone again was realistic, and made for some really heart-wrenching scenes.

I didn't much like Holly at first. She was a bit too much of a prude and I don't find following rules for rules' sake particularly admirable. But then she started rebelling a bit, in her own way, not completely leaving every stricture behind, but starting to indulge the part in her that told her that she hadn't died with her husband and that she needed to live and be free. And that's when I started to like her better!

I liked that the people who disapproved of her relationship with Zachary weren't presented as evil. George's family was just trying to protect her, and their desire to do so stemmed only from their not understanding her fully. There are no villains here, just people who don't understand that what they think is best for others might be mistaken, and Holly's main conflict is internal.

Zachary was a great character, and one I admired. He did sound a bit exhausting and larger than life, but there were all those instants of vulnerabilities that made him more human.

BTW, I was a bit uncomfortable with the fact that he slept with other women when Holly was already living in his house. I know, there was nothing between them yet, so it wasn't technicaly infidelity, but I didn't like it. He was a bit too much of a slut for me.

The book would have been an A- - B+, but the problem is that it flagged near the end. The last 60 pages or so were like an extended epilogue. Part of it was necessary to show Holly choosing Zachary over George, yes, but there was no urgency in it, and it was too drawn out, a lot of it just showing how Holly and Zachary's life was after they got married. It felt a bit like the ending of another Kleypas, Someone To Watch Over Me, in that way, and it's just not good storytelling. I lost interest in what was going on.

Other than that, beautiful book.


In Over His Head, by Jacquie D'Alessandro

>> Monday, July 28, 2003

The first book I read this weekend was In Over His Head (excerpt), by Jacquie D'Alessandro.

Lexie Webster needs a fling badly. She's not looking for a relationship - her former fiancé, a daredevil with a death wish, cured her of that! But that doesn't mean she has to live like a nun, either. Especially since her newest client, sexy Josh Maynard, is inspiring some very impure thoughts.

Rodeo star Josh Maynard is hanging up his spurs to fulfill his lifelong dream -learning to sail. Only, he never dreams he'll end up in over his head before he even starts! Because it's obvious his new sailing instructor, Lexie Webster, has an agenda: to seduce him right out of his swimsuit and Stetson! And he's more than willing to go along with her. Especially when he realizes that he wants more than just a quick dip...

This was a B, a cute, but pretty insubstantial story. Simple and straightforward, with two protagonists who like each other from the start, have no problem in going to bed together the first night, and whose relationship is mostly hitch-free, except for a small hiccup in the end. There just wasn't much it, but it was just the kind of feel-good story I sometimes like to read.

Josh and Lexie were cute, and nice, and kind. Josh was almost too perfect. I loved the way he thought about his late parents; it made a welcome change from all those dysfunctional families so common in romance novels. Lexie was likeable, too, and I did understand her reaction near the end, pushing Josh away. It was a little bit exagerated, but I understood the principle. (BTW, I only wish she didn't say "Yikes!" quite so often ;-)

This book had many, many love scenes for a barely-200-pg long story (hell, it would have had many love scenes for a 400-page-long book!). They were very nice scenes, but the story was so cute and sweet that they felt a bit incongruous. I could have done with a bit less in that department.

I like D'Alessandro in small doses. A few books like this and I'd go right into diabetic shock, but one, once in a while, is nice.


>> Friday, July 25, 2003

I really don't feel like answering today's FridayFive questions. It's not that they're too intimate or anything like that, they're just the kind I lack imagination for. I also checked out the ones on Las Cinco del Viernes, in case they were better, but they are too similar to the ones that were posted a couple of weeks ago at FridayFive.


Take Me, by Cherry Adair

>> Thursday, July 24, 2003

Take Me, by Cherry Adair has been in my Wish List for quite some time. I can't remember just why I added it, since none of my regular haunts has reviewed it.

Business exec Joshua Falcon is used to getting his own way in the boardroom—and in the bedroom. And when he meets gorgeous Jessie Adams at a party, he wants her. NOW. NAKED in his four-poster. Together the two of them could have a hot sexual affair – with no commitments.
She's his for the taking. . .

That suits Jessie to a T. Long nights of incredible sex. No ties. All she wants is a baby by the man she's always secretly hungered for. . .and then she's moving on. Except Jessie and Joshua share a surprising past. One that is about to take them where they never expected to go. . .
This was my first F in a very long time.

The book starts very contrived and stays that way. In the first scene, Joshua comes into the diner where Jessie is waitressing and proposes marriage to her. He needs to get married rightnow! because his uncle will give control of his company to the first cousin who marries and settles down. Oookay. His uncle's still alive, mind you, so he'll see that the marriage isn't real. Doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of wanting a man who's settle down to run the company?

The marriage is supposed to be fully in name only, and it remains that way for 7 years. That's when Jessie decides to ask her husband for what he's promised in exchange for marriage, "her heart's desire". And her heart's desire is a baby. Not just any baby, she wants her husband's baby, born in wedlock. At this point I was already asking myself "WTF??" First of all, the author in no way shows Jessie desperately wanting a baby. It's just stated and we're supposed to believe it. Second, whyever would she be so set on wanting Josh to be the father? She saw him for a couple of hours 7 years before, and that was it.

And it gets worse. She doesn't approach him and ask him "Oh please, impregnate me!" (which would have been bad enough, LOL!). No, she engineers a meeting, doesn't tell him who she is and plans to sleep with him until she gets pregnant. She even has her fertile days marked in a calendar. Zero compunction about forcing a man to have a child when he doesn't want to. She has no problem with telling him she's taking care of birth control and then not taking anything. Very, very creepy. Come on, she actually has a room full of baby things in her house, everything ready, and she's been following his exploits for years (I just knew he'd been having the time of his life during their marriage, while she'd been celibate, and I was right. She was actually a virgin). It's almost stalker behaviour.

And another thing. "Protection" seems to be only against getting pregnant, for these two. I mean, Josh, of course, has been a slut these 7 years, and has had sex practically with everything that moves. He has no problem with having sex with Jessie without a condom, which implies that this is something he's probably done in the past, and Jessie is not at all worried about having unprotected sex? Stupid, very stupid. I hated her, I really did.

But then, I also hated Josh, the sexist pig. He's patronizing. He orders for her. Women are all money-grubbing bitches, so instead of just having a couple of one-night-stands, or a relationship that ends when it ends, he proposes that she be his "mistress", with a legal contract and everything. Oh, please! Does anyone actually use that word these days? And would any woman with even an ounce of self-esteem actually accept the "job"? Disgusting. And I hated his cavalier attitude towards her career, he thinks nothing of asking her to drop her clients and accompany him during business trips.

Of course, Jessie is "good". She doesn't accept the money. She doesn't want expensive jewelry. And she's returned every cent of the money she got for marrying him. That just doesn't make sense. I mean, it was a business arrangement. Josh'd get control of his company, and she'd get enough money to make a good life. What the hell is wrong with that?

Also, apart from hating and despising both hero and heroine, I was bored, very bored by the endless and frequent sex scenes. Even some of those were a bit creepy... those benwa balls? Which she didn't want to use, and yet he sticks them inside her in an elevator? God, sorry but yuck!

I'm never, ever reading Cherry Adair again. I usually give authors a couple of chances, but not if I find their books this offensive.


Gabriel West: Still the One, by Fiona Brand

>> Wednesday, July 23, 2003

I've just finished Gabriel West: Still the One, by Fiona Brand.

The breakup of her marriage had been devastating, but Tyler Laine had rebuilt her life and now moved in a world of money and privilege, a far cry from the mean streets of his world. And yet Gabriel West, ex SAS agent and her estranged husband, still haunted her nights with dreams of what might have been. Then someone decided Tyler would be better off dead, and she knew there was only one man who could protect her....

For years, Gabriel had dreamed of a second chance with Tyler-so when she asked for his protection, he was more than happy to oblige. He'd found a way back into her life-now if only he could find a way back into her heart....
Brand's is a name that's always mentioned when readers are looking for recs for books similar to Suzanne Brockmann's but I didn't spot any similarities. Maybe the fact that the characters are military, or rather, in this case, former military, but that's about it.

In any case, I didn't like this book at all. A D+.

My main problem with it was that I just didn't come to care for the characters. Both Gabriel and Tyler were a mystery to me. They are given interesting backstories, but these issues are never developed. There is such an emphasis on the suspense, that we don't get to know the characters, and their relationship doesn't develop at all. Gabriel just comes back and Tyler welcomes him with open arms, and that's it. They never discuss why this time their relationship would work, or what went wrong the first time. Not only that, they don't even give the relationship a little time to see if everything will go ok, they immediately start trying to get pregnant. Really smart decision.

I get the feeling we're supposed to know more about these characters than I did, and that's something else that annoyed me. This book was very obviously part of a series, one I haven't read, and all these characters I didn't know kept appearing all over the place. There's even this little reference "So and so was psychic, although he would deny it to everyone except his wife". Huh? As I said, very annoying.

The suspense subplot was very, very boring. I ended up skimming the last 60 pages at full speed, just trying to get it over with. I'm not fond of those "international crime" plots, with multimillion deals going down, and this one was this. And then there was the very unbelievable villain. We meet him only in the last pages, and it turns out he wasn't just a crooked dealer, he was a serial killer, seriously psycho, who had targeted Tyler. That part came completely out of the blue.

I don't know if this one is a good example of Brand's books, but unless I get many, many recs, from trusted sources, I don't think I'd try one of hers again.


Fabulous Beast, by Jayne Ann Krentz (reread)

>> Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Another reread, this time of a book I read pretty recently, Jayne Anne Krentz's Fabulous Beast, an old (1984) category. I'll repeat the plot summary here:

Tabitha Graham is on a cruise looking for a little adventure. Recently divorced from a bad marriage (he was on rebound and soon found girl wanted him back), her ego has been scarred by the marriage, leaving her doubting herself in many areas.

She rescues Dev Colter in a back alley - she thinks he is a mugged tourist - but he is actual a secret agent. Due to his weakened state of being beaten, Tabby takes care of him and helps him back to the ship. He likes the softness and womanly tenderness he sees in her and encourages Tabby in this mistaken belief he is a mild, almost shy man.

Needless to say, Tabby is not happy when she finds the man she 'understands so well' because they are so much alike, is nothing like he man she created in her mind. But Dev knows Tabby likes fanciful beasts like dragons and unicorns - so he is out to convince her a live 'beastie' is even more thrilling to trap.
My grade had been an A+ on my first reading, but though it's excellent, I didn't find it as excellent as that on reread. It's still an A-, though.

I loved the way Tabby seduces Dev, thinking he's a shy, insecure guy. And Dev's reactions were priceless. The way he wanted to retire from the secret agent world and have a nice, comfortable life with Tabby spoke to me, for some reason.

I hope there's another winner like this one in the batch of old JAKs that will be arriving any time now.


Still rereading Harry Potter, this time # 2, Chamber of Secrets. Excellent, but I have to say this one's probably my least favourite of the series.


Portrait in Death, by J.D. Robb (In Death #16)

>> Monday, July 21, 2003

The books in J.D. Robb's In Death series have always been auto-buys for me. It seems I've been getting tired of the series, though, since I didn't feel the urge to immediately buy installment # 16, Portrait in Death. I bought this one used, and it got here only last Friday.

After a tip from a reporter, Eve Dallas finds the body of a young woman in a Delancey street dumpster. Just hours before, the news station had mysteriously received a portfolio of professional portraits of the woman. The photos seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary for any pretty young woman starting a modeling career. Except that she wasn't a model. And that these photos were taken after she had been murdered.

Now Dallas is on the trail of a killer who's a perfectionist and an artist. He carefully observes and records his victim's every move. And he has a mission: to own every beautiful young woman's innocence, to capture her youth and vitality-in one fateful shot...
I should have read this before, because the author fixed many of the things that seemed to be getting a bit stale. An A-.

It may sound heartless, but I was bored of Eve's backstory. Every single book, we get to see her nightmares and traumas about her childhood. Yes, I loved how it was originally done, how in-depth we went into Eve's psyche, but after 15 books + 2 novellas, it starts getting reiterative. In Portrait we get only a short mention of it, and it was a big relief. It was Roarke's past that got explored in this one, with pretty surprising revelations about his mother.

Something else that was getting annoying was certain dynamics in Eve and Roarke's relationship. Every single book, Eve gets absorbed by her case and won't eat or sleep and Roarke has to force her to take some down-time (how many times has he tranq'ed her soup so far? LOL!). And then she gets hurt and he has to force her to get medical attention. And whenever she gets any kind of personal trauma, she shuts Roarke out and he has to pry things out of her. This time, it's Roarke who closes down and Eve who has to do the work and help him deal with stuff, which was nice. Plus, I loved Roarke showing some vulnerability, he's much too perfect sometimes.

Finally, Roarke is only marginally involved in Eve's case this time. Has Nora been listening to on-line criticism? It's as if she's saying "Yes, Eve's a good cop. She solved cases without Roarke's help for a decade, and she can still do it, see?"

Eve was different in this book. I've mentioned before that I liked the early Eve better. In some of the latest books, she had become too mean and humorless and intolerant. She'd rip people's heads off for no reason, and treat everyone like shit. Here she's human again. She's still tough and strong (which I like, I don't want her to turn into a spineless, eyelash-fluttering girly-girl), but she's nice when there's no need for her to be otherwise, and shows flashes of humour, and I liked it very much. I also enjoyed the further development of her relationship with Summerset. Hilarious.

The only thing I wasn't too crazy about was the suspense subplot. I'm really tired of those snippets from the POV of killers, and do we really need another crazy psycho serial killer? I miss sane villains!


Once Upon a Dream, by Jennifer Archer

>> Sunday, July 20, 2003

I thought I was trading for a book titled Once a Dreamer, but what I received was Once Upon a Dream (excerpt), by Jennifer Archer. What the hell, it sounded interesting too!

Visiting British professor Alex Simon feels "miserably inadequate" when it comes to women. Even his ex-fiancée gave up on the pathetic Alex. He has written off the fair sex so why is he spending so much time observing his beautiful neighbor Robin Wise exercise and asking radio host Dr. Dave for advice over the air waves?

Robin Wise also calls Dr. Dave telling him about her greatest fear that she will die just before her thirtieth birthday. Robin explains the "accidents" that happened to the four previous generations of her female ancestors including her mother. She turns thirty in two weeks.

Then Robin and Alex begin to share identical dreams....
This was a nice, cute story. Nice, likeable hero and heroine, nice paranormal subplot, nice supporting cast... everything nice and sweet, not particularly exciting, but enjoyable enough. A B-.

The high points were the sweet beta hero (though his English accent sounded a bit off to me), the way Alex and Robin were truly fond of each other, and the very imaginative and original paranormal subplot. I loved the dreams, especially those anachronistic touches, very funny! Low points... well, the heroine, probably. There just wasn't much to her. This was pretty weird, because she was the one with Issues here. A curse that would kill her before she turned 30 and agoraphobia could make for an interesting heroine, but Robin just wasn't it.


>> Friday, July 18, 2003

Today's questions from Friday Five. I've just realized I'm much too uptight!

1. When was the last time you cheated?

If this means cheat on a boyfriend, never, and I don't think I ever would. This is Uruguay, a whole country that is actually a small town. If you ever want to do something in Uruguay that you don't want anyone to know about, just don't do it.

Other kinds of cheating, yes. *cringing* I cheated playing solitaire yesterday. How pathetic is that?

2. When was the last time you stole?

This has haunted me for the last 19 years.

It was 1984, and I was in 1st grade. Our teacher, Mrs. Zanoni, had organized a "reading day". Each of us had to bring reading material in English from home and we'd swap during the class. A girl named Carla brought a Donald Duck comic (I still remember the cover: dark blue with a picture of Donald wearing a blue-striped shirt) but someone grabbed it before I could. By the end of the class, I still hadn't been able to get my hands on it, and I really wanted to read it, so I took it from Carla's backpack when noone was looking and took it home in mine.

3. When was the last time you lied?

Earlier this week. A friend called me to go shopping with her and I made up an excuse. I love her, but buying clothes with her is hell. It takes hours, for one thing. She goes into every single store, tries on everything in each of them, makes the store employees make countless trip to the storage area and then leaves without buying anything.

4. When was the last time you broke or vandalized another's property?

I don't remember ever doing something like that. I've been tempted (oh, the cruel things I've thought of doing to my brother's drums!), but I've never actually gone ahead with any of my nefarious plans.

5. When was the last time you hurt a loved one?

I'm sometimes horribly mean to my dad. He'll offer to do something for me, and when I tell him it's not necessary, thanks, I've got everything under control, he starts insisting and insisting to help and I start getting frustrated because I really can handle it and I end up yelling at him to stop bothering me. And then he looks all hurt and I feel guilty, because he was just trying to help.


Letters to Kelly, by Suzanne Brockmann

>> Thursday, July 17, 2003

Next up was Letters to Kelly, by Suzanne Brockmann, an A-.

The stomach-clenching I didn't get in Final Exit was present in LTK, and it was there with a vengeance. Brockmann always does this to me, whether she's writing about her SEALs or about civilians. I swear this woman could write anything and I'd be buying it in a minute, and in hardcover. She has the most amazing voice, and I love her heroes. This book wasn't perfect, yes, but I enjoyed it very much.

For years, a trumped-up charge--and a Central American prison cell--kept Jax Winchester from claiming the girl he loved. Now he was a free man. Or was he?

For only the memory of Kelly O’Brien-- and the letters he’d composed to her--had kept him going. But once he was released, he knew he was still a prisoner--in a jail of his own making. The way out this time? Keep that promise he’d made to Kelly all those years ago--and claim her for his own...
The backstory here was more than a little icky. A 16-year-old girl with a 22-year-old man feels very weird, at least until I remember how I myself dated a 24-year-old when I was 16, and there was definitely no feeling of an older guy taking advantage of an immature girl there. In fact, I was the one who broke it up because I realized the guy was too old for me (I mean, he was talking about how he was at a place where he was thinking about settling down and getting married... not necessarily with me, but this was something he seemed to want to do soon, while I didn't -and still don't- plan to even start considering that until I'm at least 30!).

Ok, enough about me and back to the story. I wasn't entirely comfortable with the age difference in the backstory, but I wasn't entirely creeped out either. Just tried to get past it and concentrate on the present-day story, which was really good. I'm a sucker for the pursuer hero, and Jax was definitely that. He knows from the beginning that he loves Kelly and wants to marry her, and he never gives up the chase.

Kelly was less easy to like. She was a bit too hesitant to even listen to Jax. I understand that she would be skittish after he abandoned her like he did, but when he came back, I'm sure I would have at least asked him what the hell had happened, not just treat him as anyone, only refusing his invitations. I understood why Jax took so long to tell her what had happened. She never asked, and he didn't want her to pity him and accept his just because she felt sorry for him. Not entirely reasonable, but understandable. What wasn't that realistic was that there hadn't been more publicity about what had happened to him, but ok, I'll buy it.

High points: 1) Romance author Jax's dialogues with his hero... priceless! That was lots of fun. 2) Any author should read what Brockmann has to say about writing love scenes. Yes, yes, yes! She's so utterly, completely right! Concentrate on feelings, what each of the protagonists is feeling, both physically and emotionally. Don't write about how tab A is going into slot B and leave it at that (of course, that shouldn't be missing, either). I've always said that Brockmann's scenes were the best because there was so much feeling in it, and it seems it was on purpose ;-)

I also especially liked that these characters were more modern and liberal than most in romance-land. How often do you see a romance hero wearing an Amnesty International T-shirt? Or a college student heroine? Very enjoyable.


>> Wednesday, July 16, 2003

We're having some light construction work done in the room where I keep my book collection, so I had to move them to the living room for a while. Since I keep them 2-deep in a bookcase, and there are some in the back row that haven't seen the light of day in ages, the moving process took me twice as long as it should have. I kept finding books and going "Ohhh, I remember this!".

There's a lot there I want to reread, like the Sister Mary Helen books by Sister Carol Anne O'Marie. These are cozy mysteries, with a nun as the Miss Marple-ish detective. Great fun!

There are also some Dean Koontz books, unread. I like his books, they have great characterization.


First Lady, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I mentioned how after reading the latest Susan Elizabeth Phillips book, Breathing Room, I was tempted to try First Lady, which hadn't looked too good when I read its review. I finally did it this last weekend.

Daughter of a powerful politician and widow of an assassinated president, Cornelia (Nealy) Litchfield Case has spent her entire life under Secret Service and media scrutiny. When her father insists that she continue the first lady's social duties for the new bachelor president, she instead resolves to break out of her glamorous prison and live life as a normal American. She knows that she can't elude the Secret Service forever, but every moment of anonymity is priceless.

Mat Jorik is a pushover for a female in trouble. When his ex-wife dies and leaves him her two daughters, he agrees to drive them from the East Coast to their grandmother's Iowa home. They haven't gone far when he takes pity on another female and offers her a ride in return for her care of the baby and teenager. Nealy accepts his offer. Little does she know when she climbs into the Winnebago that she's about to lose her heart to two kids and a handsome man who she thinks is a steelworker. When Nealy discovers his real job, Mat may wish he'd confessed earlier. In the meantime, they're off on an adventure, the likes of which Nealy's never had before. But the Secret Service is hot on Nealy's trail and despite her best efforts, she's bound to be caught. The question is, what will happen to this slapdash family when they're found?
Ok, first of all, the back blurb (which I wasn't able to find online to put above), made me laugh. The first lady of the US the most famous woman in the world? Nope, I don't think so. Her husband might be the most famous man (and I said "might". I'm not too sure if there aren't some actors with more fame!), but most people outside the US couldn't pick the US first lady out in a line-up. I probably wouldn't recognize her if I passed her in the street, and I'm pretty well-informed!

That out of the way, onto the story. Grading it was problematic. I loved this book, but the setup, what got the whole story in motion, was flawed. Are we supposed to believe that someone like Nealy, who ends up in a high government post, is completely unable to stand up to her father? That the only way she finds to get away from her job as first lady is to run away, putting quite a few jobs in danger? This simply isn't the Nealy we see in the rest of the story, and it's what keeps First Lady out of an A-range grade. My final grade is a B+.

Sometimes it feels like SEP is the only contemporary romance author that hasn't gone the Romantic Suspense way. Everyone else has added some type of suspense subplot to their books, but not her, which is something I appreciate. I do read some Romantic Suspense, but I often wish to read something good that's plain romance, and finding a single-title like that is mission impossible. SEP's books concentrate on the relationship, and though there is always some kind of plot outside of it, I never have to worry her protagonists are suddenly going to be chased by terrorists, or attacked by some homicidal maniac.

The relationship in FL was nice and very fun to read. If I forget my problems with Nealy's primary motivation, her personality from there on was great. She refused to take any shit from anyone, and it was fun to see her genuine delight in being able to be as rude as she wanted. However, I had a little problem with how she simply refused to consider having anything to do with Mat after he confessed he was a journalist, but I suppose her past experiences would explain it.

I liked Mat, too, and understood his wish to be unfettered by any family. His horror at the way a full-blown family (first kids, then a wife -pregnant-, then grandparents!) seemed to be springing up around him was great fun to watch. He fought it, but turned around well.

I'm usually not really into kids in my novels, but I loved Lucy and even -god help me!- the terminally cute, saccharine-sweet Button. Lucy was heart-rending, behind her tough-girl façade, and I enjoyed Button mostly because of the way Mat and Nealy reacted to her, how Mat considered her a Demon, for instance ;-)

I've used the word "fun" a lot in the paragraphs above, and it's not by chance. That's the best world for this book. I adore SEP's sense of humour. She makes me laugh out loud, both with the situations she sets up and with her way of describing things.

I even enjoyed the epilogue, flag-waving as it was. And this reminds me to mention that the author was very careful not to put in anything political here. Or rather, nothing partisan. Through Cornelia, SEP does give us her opinions on what public service should be, and all that, but she doesn't tell us what party Nealy is, and even her politics are "quirky", as Mat says: some left-wing, some right, some middle-of-the-road. I think there ara a couple of hints, so I suppose someone who knows more than I do about US politics could deduce her party. I can make an educated guess, but I'm not 100% sure.

As I said about Breathing Room, I'm probably one of the few people who prefer the latest SEP books to the first. I'm looking forward to her next.


Final Exit, by Laurie Breton

My next read was Final Exit, by Laurie Breton. I got the Australian edition, a trade paperback. I hate the trend of books being published as TPB, basicall because they're much more expensive to buy (and to ship, always a consideration in my case), but I can't deny they're aesthetically much more pleasing. If only I had the money to buy everything hard-back or TPB!

Ten years ago tragedy tore them apart . . . But when FBI special agent Carolyn Monahan walks back into the life of homicide lieutenant Conor Rafferty, the sizzle is undeniable. They are back together, albeit reluctantly, to find the serial killer who is terrorizing Boston.

Caro has made a successful career of putting homicidal maniacs behind bars, and Rafferty is a good cop who's been handed the case of a lifetime. Amid bureaucratic red tape and a mounting body count, they uncover evidence that points to a decade-old unsolved homicide. The tension escalates when the killer develops a psychotic preoccupation with Caro herself.

As the pressure builds to solve the murders, so does the attraction between Caro and Rafferty. But the question remains: Who will get to Caro first, the killer or the cop?
This was a B+. It was "one of those serial killer books". I've mentioned I don't tend to like even the suspense subplots in straight-ish romance, but, nevertheless, I sometimes go for a romantic suspense with a good balance of romance and suspense.

Final Exit wasn't particularly original or ground-breaking, but it was extremely well put-together and I enjoyed it. The author really had me going in the exact direction she wanted me to with the mystery, completely convinced the murderer was a certain character -let's call him A-, and that the little signs pointing to character B were just red herrings. But no, it was character B all along, and I can't very well complain about anything because all the clues were right there. I was just to enamoured of my original theory, apparently ;-)

The mystery was excellent and the characters and romance were good, too. The author managed a large cast very well, making an excellent job of the characterization.

I liked both protagonists, as well. I liked the fact that they had a history, because this made it much more believable that a significant relationship would develop in the midst of a stressful investigation. Both Carolyn and Conor were likeable and their relationship was sweet.

Why not an A-range grade? Two reasons. First, the book didn't have that special zing. You know, the thing that has you reading with a clenched stomach, not necessarily for the suspense, but because you feel what you're reading in your gut. Second, at times I had a nagging sense that I'd read this before, especially some dialogue.

Still, a very enjoyable book from a new-to-me author. Will be looking for her backlist and anticipating her next.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K. Rowling

>> Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I started a reread of the Harry Potter series this weekend. After reading Order of the Phoenix and a couple of weeks reading the posts at the Harry Potter for Grown-ups group (excellent group, but very high-traffic right now), I was ready to look at the series with new eyes.

I found myself getting all weepy during Philosopher's Stone. I felt like crying at the whole thing, basically because Harry is such a sweet guy here, an almost carefree at the end. He doesn't know about all the things that will happen to him, all the pain and sadness... I was also in tears at certain points, especially at any mention of his parents. I was probably just especially sentimental this weekend. I even started crying when I heard Nino Bravo's Libre on the radio!

BTW, need I say this book is an A+?


Ritual of Proof, by Dara Joy

I have a ton of books to post about. First: Ritual of Proof (excerpt), by Dara Joy. This was one I've had for a long time. The idea behind the book intrigued me, but I've seen quite a few posts about how it was just a good idea but no story, so it took quite a bit for me to finally pick it up.

I'm glad I did, because it was great fun. A B+.

In a world where women hold all the power, a titled man can do little but accept his fate -- that his sole purpose is to secure a good match -- and hope his "bed price" is high enough. Jorlan Reynard has every trait necessary for that price -- he is staggeringly handsome. Irresistible. Wildly sensual. But he is also impossibly willful. The brash male refuses to be taken by just any woman merely because she can afford him.

Only one -- the Marquelle Green Tamryn -- can claim him. In a bold move, the powerful aristocrat marries him, offering him the security of her name and position, But there are forces conspiring against her, and theMarquelle must summon all her considerable influence to fight for their survival. However, he is not only a passionate lover, but an unexpectedly powerful ally...and soon, the full truth of his remarkable abilities will begin to be revealed to all
I enjoyed reading about the Regency-in-reverse society. I was interested to notice that I felt about it exactly as I feel when reading about the real Regency (or at least, the version we see in romance novels): I felt frustrated by the power of one sex over another and by the constant assumptions that the "weaker" sex was intellectually inferior. This tells me that what bothers me about gender inequallity isn't that it is my gender being discriminated against, but the inequality itself; that a characteristic like gender is being used to determine someone's worth.

Ahem. Moving on. The reason this book worked for me was that Joy did have a story to tell beyond the provoking world she built. This story would have been interesting to read even if the Jorlan character had been a Regency miss and Green the classic Regency rake. Don't get me wrong, the setting added points for me, and made me like the story even better, but it would have been good anyway.

The characters were likeable, and I liked how they played their role in the war-of-the-sexes story. Jorlan was really to-die-for, and Green was reasonable, brave and kind, very willing to accept Jorlan as an equal. Oh, and I must mention that Joy is a genius with love scenes. Very steamy and tender at the same time. And loooong! ;-)

I just wish Joy hadn't introduced all the Sensitive psychic mumbo-jumbo. I probably would have enjoyed this much better without that distraction. I just spaced out when all this started. The set-up had more than enough to make it interesting without adding this to the mix, too.

I especially liked the ending. At first, I wondered if Joy had gone sexist on me: "Why does the man always have to be the one to save the day?" But the epilogue was very, very enlightening, and I liked it.

PS - I'm definitely not one of those people who, after one book they like, demand the stories of every single supporting character. I'm usually more than ready to have them stay supporting characters, but once in a while there's one particular characters who just screams for his own book. River, Green's long-time lover (her "mistress", in a way), is one of them. I was intrigued by his backstory, and it looked to me as if Joy was setting him up for something. Please?


>> Friday, July 11, 2003

The theme today at FridayFive is "Friends"

1. Do you remember your first best friend? Who was it?

My best friend is still, and has always been, my younger sister Luli. She's only 2 years younger (though she usually behaves more like an older sister), and noone understands me like she does. We aren't really very similar in personalities, but we know each other inside out and enjoy each other's company more than anyone else's.

My first best friend other than Luli was a girl who was in school with me, Dani. We met when we were 5 and placed in the same class, and were best friends for about 5 years, until her mom remarried and she moved to Buenos Aires for a few years. When she came back we had grown apart a lot (remember, this was pre-internet, so we didn't keep in touch. A couple of letters and that was it.), and we had each made other friends, so that was it.

2. Are you still in touch with this person?

Yes, though we're not close friends any more. She was in my class all through University and we have a very friendly relationship, we're just not friends.

3. Do you have a current close friend?

As I said, my best friend is still my sister, but other than that, I have some 7 or 8 people I consider close friends. Oh, and I have someone who I consider my "best friend", who is currently living in Paraguay. That seems like my fate, doesn't it, to have friends who emigrate? Still, we're in close contact, with this friend, so the situation is different. She comes back every couple of months for exams, we regularly exchange e-mails, and I even went to visit her and her boyfriend last April.

4. How did you become friends with this person?

She was in my class in University. At first we didn't click much. For the first months I tended to stick close to the 2 or 3 people I knew from school, and she has confessed to me that she didn't like me much at first. She thought I was arrogant and stand-offish, basically because of who the people I hung out with were (my school has a reputation for being a breeding ground for upper-class stuck-ups) and because I'm a bit of a know-it-all in class (to this day she affectionatelly calls me "Pequeña N.", "Little N.", where the N. stands for "Nerd").

Anyway, one day I ran into her at a night club, and we both were a little tipsy (she says I shattered my image as a goody-goody nerd that night) and started talking for a while and that was it, we started hanging out together.

5. Is there a friend from your past that you wish you were still in contact with? Why?

Actually yes, there was an Iranian girl in school with whom I've lost touch and would like to reestablish contact. So, Shadi, if you by any chance read this, send me an e-mail!


Slightly Shady, by Amanda Quick (Tobias & Lavinia #1)

>> Wednesday, July 09, 2003

I've had Slightly Shady in my TBR pile for a while, but I wasn't too motivated to read it until I saw that the third book in this series by Amanda Quick, titled Late for the Wedding, got a DIK review from AAR.

Lavinia first encounters Tobias when he bursts into her antiques shop in Rome, trashing her wares, all the while claiming to be on the trail of a murderer and warning Lavinia that she is in danger. There's also talk of treason, a criminal organization known as the Blue Chamber and an evil mastermind named Azure.

Despite her skepticism, Lavinia returns with her niece, Emeline, to London, where she is caught up in more intrigue. She sets herself up as a private detective and even though stubbornness on both sides leads to an oil-and-water pairing, she soon finds herself in business with Tobias, attempting to foil a blackmail scheme, locate the culprit in a series of murders and identify the surviving member of Azure's organization.

Slightly Shady is quite far from the traditional romances AQ used to write, but I enjoyed it anyway: a B.

There's little emphasis on the Tobias - Lavinia relationship and, in fact, it isn't completely resolved (i.e. there's neither "I-Love-You"s nor a marriage proposal) by the end of the book. However, I liked what there was of it, especially the fact that Tobias wasn't overprotective of Lavinia and did treat her as a partner. Also, the conclusion felt right. A Happily-Ever-After ending is something I require from a romance novel, but the HEA need not consist of marriage. This particular ending felt right for this particular couple in this particular book, and that's what counts, IMO. And, of course, we know their story continues!

Still, Tobias and Lavinia's relationship wasn't as enjoyable as those AQ has written in her best books. The sense of intimacy I've gone on and on about when talking about her books was missing, and so were the yummy love scenes. Plus, this part of the book just wasn't given enough space to satisfy me.

The suspense subplot was intriguing and quite interesting (I especially enjoyed all the info about waxwork), but this is seldom my favourite part of books.

I'll definitely be reading the rest of the series, especially #3.


Dream Man, by Linda Howard

>> Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I recently reread Dream Man, by Linda Howard.

Never comfortable with her fame as an empath, lovely Marlie Keen has led a life free of clairvoyant incidents for several years. But her quiet, ordinary existence is shattered when the unwanted ability to read a murderer's mind returns with a vengeance. Knowing that publicity is sure to follow, Marlie nevertheless tells the police what she knows

. Tough detective Dane Hollister first scoffs at her claim that she "sees" the serial killer who's terrorizing Orlando, but it doesn't take long to convince him that she's telling the truth. It takes even less time for him to recognize the attraction between himself and Marlie, but Marlie is incredibly vulnerable to the visions assaulting her and Dane must put his fierce desire on hold while he tries to track down a bloodthirsty madman.

The first time(s) I read this I graded it in the A range, but upon reread this time, it wasn't that good. It's still a B+, but I don't think it's "one of the best books I've ever read" anymore.

The suspense angle is just as good as I remembered. It's very graphic and violent, and made me almost physically sick at times, even though I knew what was going to happen. I've probably read a couple of dozen "psychic linked with serial killer" novels since I first read Dream Man, but this is the one where this is best done.

What I didn't enjoy all that much was the romance, most especially the hero. Dane was too much one of those "grunt&scratch" alpha males, and I didn't find him particularly appealing. Yes, he was sweet at times, with the way he protected Marlie, but it felt too much like "big, strong man - weak, defenceless woman" for me to really like the dynamics of their relationship. The worse part is that Marlie wasn't at all weak, but Dane just took over. He started making decisions for her, manipulated her into doing what he wanted, etc, etc., and she just accepted that.

Plus, I didn't find the love scenes as nuclear-hot as I remembered. I mean, yes, the book does qualify as hot, but the love scenes continue the dynamics from their relationship, and I wasn't too crazy about them.

I finished the book feeling more intrigued by Dane's partner, Alejandro Trammell, than by Dane himself. Now that's the kind of guy I like!


Laurel, by Leigh Greenwood (Seven Brides #4)

Laurel, #4 in Leigh Greenwood's Seven Brides series.

Hen Randolph's reputation as a cold-hearted gunslinger without a need for friends, family or women, was the reason he was hired to be the sheriff of Sycamore Flats, a small Arizona town. They needed someone ruthless enough to protect them from the Blackthornes who have harassed the town and run off the previous sheriffs.. When he saves a young widow. Laural Blackthorne, from a beating, he finds he's made a enemy of the entire clan. When he refuses to let the Blackthornes take Laurel's son, they plan to kill him and warn the townspeople to stay out of the way.

Laurel Blackthorne has no need for gunslingers or guns. As far as she's concerned, Hen is no different from her late husband or his family. She wants little more than to prove she was legally married to Carlin Blackthorne and that her son is legitimate. She doesn't want the new sheriff to interfere. But when he does and carefully tends her wounds, she sees the tender man this gunslinger could be. But Hen is a loner who thinks he's empty inside unable to love and certainly not worthy of anyone else's love. She loves him but can't let herself hope for a future with him. As a sheriff, he would always be in danger, and she can't stand the idea of losing him.
This one was a B-

As you can see from my comments about the first books in this series, it has got worse and worse as it progresses. I thought Laurel continued this trend pretty much until I was halfway through. It took me almost a week to get that far.

The point when it started to improve was when Hen - Laurel got off the ground as a couple. Previous to that I liked Hen, but Laurel was a twit, as was her son, and I hated the whole town and wanted a horrible natural disaster to strike and kill all those judgemental idiots.

Hen was very sweet and gentle, one of those silent types. He was pretty tortured, but unlike his brothers, whose main concern seemed to be that they would end up being their father (and they take this much too far), Hen does have a valid reason to be tortured. He considers himself a killer, and thinks this has made him empty inside. He's unlovable, and all that.

Something else I liked was that he was a virgin, the equivalent of all those dead-beneath-the-waist female virgins in romance novels who seem devoid of hormones until they meet the hero. He actually has never even wanted to have sex with anyone until Laurel. I find I like this, probably just because it's original.

As for Laurel... oh, Laurel. She was ok, except for certain episodes of blinding stupidity, most of them in the first half of the book. The whole irrational anger at Hen for being a sheriff and using guns (I hate it when authors make anti-gun charactes stupid and near-sighted; so heavy-handed!), and how she refused to get out of harm's way by coming into town, simply because she was too proud. And I wanted to scream at her near the end for being willing to give up Hen only because Adam decided he wouldn't accept him (and she knows Adam's mind has been poisoned by his grandfather, and that he just adores Hen, and will show it again as soon as he comes to his senses). That didn't especially convince me that she did love him much.

I also wanted to scream (at the author this time) at the contrived misunderstanding, when Laurel never asks Hen about his plans for the future, just asumes he wants to be a sheriff forever.

I hated Adam and the town a little less by the end of the book. A little. Maybe the natural disaster shouldn't kill them all, just destroy a few houses. ;-)

The setting was less important here than in the previous books, probably because I've read about this same desert town in other books and seen it in countless movies. The other books were more original. The suspense subplot, unfortunately, wasn't too good either, though it felt less perfunctory and was better integrated to the rest of the story.


A Man For The Night, by Miranda Lee

>> Monday, July 07, 2003

Harlequin Blazes are my guilty pleasure, and I read one, A Man For The Night, by Miranda Lee, the other day:

Josie Williams needs a date for her ten-year high school reunion. When she showed up five years ago, she came away with mortified memories of a night in tears. This time she intends to arrive with her boyfriend in tow, ready to sparkle and dazzle. Too bad she breaks up with her current boyfriend just before the reunion. At a friend's suggestion, she arranges an escort for the evening. When she meets, however, Josie's fantasies take flight, and she dreams of taking him home as her sex slave for the night.

Callum McCloud's younger brother makes big bucks escorting attractive women. But when his big break comes for his acting career, he is scheduled for a date with Josie. So he convinces his older brother to fill in. Callum did not expect such a sexy lady, and suddenly his libido kicks up to high. Now he is determined to fill every fantasy Josie has on her wish list. But more than lust brews in their heated encounter, and emotions will demonstrate a will of their own.
This one was a C+, and it felt more like romantica than romance to me. It had exciting and exotic sex, though the least convincing part was the romance. I must confess that the sex here wasn't exactly to my taste. A bit too much male-dominant, which makes me a bit uncomfortable. I'm fine with a bit of variety and playing, but this felt too one-sided.

I also didn't like Callum much. I thought he was a bit patronizing towards Josie, too much of a stereotypical womanizer and a bit of a sexist (we see him thinking, for instance, about how "women all want marriage and booties"). I did like him better when he fell for Jose near the end of the book, but even this was too abrupt to be completely satisfying.

As for Josie, I don't know, really. I liked her acceptance that she hadn't had a good sex partner but she would probably enjoy sex with someone who knew what he was doing. It made for a nice chance from all those heroines who are just convinced they're frigid because they had one bad experience. And I really admired her adventurousness, but she was a bit too ready to let Callum do whatever he wanted with her. *Sigh* My own problem, probably.

Oh, and there were certain things I disliked about her, like her comment at the beginning when she was talking about how the guy she was dating had turned out to be bisexual. She made it sound as if that fact alone meant that he was promiscuous and an unsafe partner. Also, I didn't like how ready she was to give up her business for him, and all the emphasis on trying for a kid.

BTW, this one was set in Australia, something I enjoyed.


Magic Hour, by Susan Isaacs

>> Saturday, July 05, 2003

Susan Isaacs is one of my favourite authors, and her book Shining Through (also a pretty sucky movie starring Melanie Griffith and Michael Douglas) is among my top 3 favourite books. Her books are supposed to be fiction, not romance, but some of them very definitely qualify, IMHO.

Anyway, a comment in a message board, asking for suggestions of romances narrated mainly with the hero's POV reminded me of her Magic Hour, and made me want to reread it.

Movie producer Sy Spencer -- one of the premier summer residents of the Hamptons, Long Island's oh-so-fashionable beach resort for everyone who is anyone -- has hosted his last power clambake, thanks to whoever shot him dead beside his oceanfront pool.

Heading the investigation is Hamptons native Steve Brady. His prime suspect is Sy's ex-wife Bonnie, a strangely appealing and energetic woman both in and out of bed. As the case against Bonnie builds, so does Brady's obsession with her. Before long, he's laying the case and his career on the line for her, ignoring all the rules, all the evidence, and all common sense.
The first-person narration from the hero's point of view was less successful than I remembered (I thought he sounded like a woman sometimes, especially when describing women), but that's the only thing that wasn't perfect here. And, in any case, I loved his (or rather, Isaacs'!) voice so much that the fact that it wasn't perfectly believable wasn't so bad. An A.

Isaacs is just wonderful at characterization, all those little details she uses to describe people, it really does work. And she does it with lots of humour and wit. Even characters that appeared in only a couple of pages (Bonnie's neighbour, Wendy, for instance) are more real that the protagonists in some novels.

The book is a perfect combination of romance and mystery. The romance is outstanding, and something out of the ordinary enough that I loved seeing it. In how many novels do you get to see the hero choosing 45-year-old, infertile, promiscuous woman over innocent, pure, teacher-of-the-disabled, 24-year-old? No idealized, perfect relationship here. These two each had their own problems, but I really bought them together.

The mystery, too, was excellently done. Full of twists and turns, and the solution was truly ingenious and believable. And the one to hit on it was the heroine, too!


>> Friday, July 04, 2003

Ooohhh, reading questions this week! This is right up my alley!

1. What were your favorite childhood stories?

The story I remember the most from my childhood wasn't from a book. It was a story my grandpa made up, titled "The Green Pig" (it was about a green pig [duh!] born in a family of black pigs, and how he tried to become black too). I insisted he tell me that story every day. Another one I remember was "The Hoarse Lion", created by my dad. At one point he wrote it and made it into a little book for us. I found it a few weeks ago while cleaning my closet.

After I learned to read, I read everything and anything. Lots of Enid Blyton and other boarding-school books, every book ever published in the Robin Hood collection ("classics" translated to Spanish), Emilio Salgari's adventure books, Louisa May Alcott, and many others, which I'll probably remember as soon as I post this.

2. What books from your childhood would you like to share with [your] children?

If I ever have nephews or nieces, I'd love for them to read a couple of Emilio Salgari books, especially the "Captain Storm" series, which has a Venetian noblewoman disguised as a man and fighting in the siege of Damascus. She and the "Lion of Damascus" end up falling in love... *sigh* :-) I always liked my books to have some kind of love story, which explains my present taste in books.

3. Have you re-read any of those childhood stories and been surprised by anything?

Not too many of them, actually, and I don't remember many surprises.

4. How old were you when you first learned to read?

Almost 4, and I soon started on "thick" books.

5. Do you remember the first 'grown-up' book you read? How old were you?

I've no idea. There was never a separation between "children's" and "grown-up" books in my house or at my school library. I always grabbed whatever caught my fancy from the shelves, and nobody ever said anything to me. I was reading what might be considered age-inappropriate books, but it doesn't appear to have done much damage ;-)

I admit sometimes what I read made me a little uncomfortable, so I'd just leave the book and go back to it after a few months. I remember doing that with # 2 in Phillipa Carr's family series, The Lion Triumphant. Oh, and I remember reading # 9 in that series, The Adulteress one day at the beach, when I was about 12, and a friend of my grandmother's asking me what I was reading. Boy, did she look scandalized when I told her!


All Through the Night, by Connie Brockway

I was writing this post when I got Harry Potter. :-)

I've had Connie Brockway's All Through the Night (excerpt) in my TBR shelf for months, but I'd heard so many raves about how powerful and dark it was, that I never felt in the right mood to read it - until a few days ago, that is.

A woman compelled. . .

In the glittering world of Regency England, Anne Wilder played a dangerous game. A widowed lady by day, by night she became a masked thief preying on society's elite. She roved high above London's black rooftops, compelled by phantoms from her past to take ever greater risks. Until her restless spirit led her into Colonel Jack Seward's trap. . . where seduction was her only way out.

A man obsessed. . .

She'd played him for a fool, taking advantage of his hungry response to escape from his clutches. But as Jack hunted for his thief, his heart fell captive to a self-possessed widow. Torn between illicit passion and tender love, Jack is duty-bound to capture the audacious criminal, even if it means ripping society apart to do so. Now he stalked her through the ton, never realizing the lovely widow who captured his heart was the same woman who roused his most violent passions.

It was, indeed, powerful and dark. An A.

This woman is not afraid of writing about flawed characters with dark sides. I truly enjoyed this book, though I'm not really sure if what Jack felt for Anne was love or an all-consuming kind of obsession. I'm not even sure Anne and Jack were people I would want to know in real life. Whatever it was, it worked and made for a very compelling book.

I loved that Brockway didn't take the easy way out and make the usual excuses for her characters' behaviour. And she added a twist: Anne tried to convince herself that she was stealing only for her charity, but it was clear this was just an excuse. And Jack's conflicting feelings about his father and what he did... they made a horrible kind of sense.

And those love scenes.... oh yeah! ;-)


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by JK Rowling

>> Thursday, July 03, 2003

I finally finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix yesterday. What a book! I won't discuss it here and I won't even post a plot summary, because I think the best way to read it is completely unspoilt. I was sorely tempted to read some spoilers almost from the beginning, but I somehow managed to resist and I'm glad I did.

The only thing I'm going to say about this book is that it was well worth the wait. Really.

And now, we can start speculating about what will happen in book 6!


>> Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Won't be posting for a couple of days. Reading Harry Potter!!!


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