I'm back!

>> Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My body spent these last 11 days in Punta del Este (most of them lying on the same beach lounger... you'd identify it by the butt-shaped depression on it), but I didn't.

I've been to Napoleonic France, to New York in the mid 21st century, to Regency England, to Bengal, India in 1932, to a vampire-ridden version of contemporary Caldwell, NY, and I've gone through the history of the entire world in 101/2 chapters. I've also travelled a lot around the present-day US: the Californian Sierras, Seattle, Monterey, Baltimore, Miami, I've been in all those places.

I'll tell you all about them in the next couple of weeks! ;-)


On vacation

>> Friday, February 17, 2006

No, that's not quite where I'm going, and I don't have a hammock (bummer!), but I am planning to do absolutely nothing but read and rest and just generally laze around all over the place, so the photo seemed appropriate.

I'm all packed and ready to go: a small bag of clothes and, as I'm sure you've all guessed, a larger, much heavier bag of books, enough for a couple of months, really :-)

I'm taking only 5 days vacation, because I'm trying to save most of my vacation time from the last couple of years for a certain something I have plans for in the second half of the year, but it's Carnaval on February 27th and 28th (the Monday and Tuesday right after next week), and that's a holiday here in Uruguay, so I'll have a grand total of 11 days in which to rest, which is more than enough.

The plan is to go to Punta del Este, where my parents have a place. It's a pretty busy, fashionable place in January, but it calms down in February, so it's just perfect.

I'll probably check my email every now and then (if only to delete all spam and keep my account from getting clogged), but I'm going to try and stay as far from the computer as I can, so no blog posts from me for a couple of weeks, and no blog-hopping. See you all when I get back!


How Much Is Your Blog Worth?

My blog is worth $14,678.04.
How much is your blog worth?

Yeah, right! Any takers? 14,678 bucks would really come in handy!


If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend, by Alison Pace

>> Thursday, February 16, 2006

I have tried quite a few new authors this month, so no problem choosing one for Angie W's February TBR challenge!

Title: If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend

Author: Alison Pace

Year published: 2005

Back cover blurb:

Jane Laine used to know a lot about art. But that was before she started managing a prominent gallery, and long before she met "it" artist Ian Rhys-Fitzsimmons. Jane can't seem to put a finger on what exactly is so "it" about his work. In fact, as far as she can tell, he's a big fraud and his fifteen minutes of fame should be over by now. Which could be kind of a problem --since Jane is the one who has to accompany him on a five-month international art fair tour.

To get through it all, Jane figures she'll be a good sport and keep her critiques to herself. Until, traveling with this alleged genius from London to Rome and beyond, she starts to understand the connection between art and love --and the fact that, in both, perspective is everything...
Why did you get this book?: The review at AAR first sparked my interest in it and I added it to my wish list. And then jmc mentioned how it was one of her keepers, so I broke down and ordered it, instead of waiting to find someone who wanted to trade it.

Do you like the cover?

Yeah, I do. It's attractive (if not particuarly attention-grabbing), and the art gallery feel is very appropriate to the book.

Did you enjoy the book?:

I did, very much. I'd give it a B+.

Jane was a very engaging character, and I really enjoyed her voice and her take on things. I think one of the things I liked best was the way her attitude towards Ian and his work evolves. At first, she simply doesn't understand it or him. She just can't see what's so wonderful about it, why everyone who's anyone thinks Ian is the best artist in a long time, and this makes her feel insecure, because it makes her doubt that she actually knows anything about art. And this, in turn (added to the fact that anything that relates to Ian makes her boss behave even more unbearably), makes her dislike Ian himself. She thinks he has to be a fake and a phony, that he has to be a pretentious idiot out to fool the world. Given that Ian is such a huge deal in the art world (which is, of course, the world in which much of Jane's life takes place) I thought it was refreshing that their relationship starts out so free of hero worship, and I liked this.

During their trip, her attitude gradually changes, and this change keeps pace with the growth in her character. She soon begins to see that Ian is actually a sweetheart, and a true artist who, even though he takes a healthy interest in the commercial side of his art, really believes in what he's doing. And she also begins to see the whole point of Ian's art. I'm not going to spoil it here, but I loved the scene in which she finally sees what the elusive "it" of his art is.

Oh, and of course, I also adored the travelling. When Jane first gets the news and is, er, less than excited about it, I wanted to shake her. London! Rome! Chicago! Santa Fe! And she doesn't want to go? That's just nuts. But she soon sees reason and begins to enjoy herself, and so did I. I especially loved her Rome appartment and Lucia. ;-)

Her boss, Dick, is also wonderfully done. I've just voted in the AAR readers poll, and I was thisclose to voting for him in the "Best Villain" character. He's just indescribably horrible, unbelievable mean and petty and cruel, and a character I really loved to hate.

The romance was actually really nice. It did leave me wanting more, especially about what was going on inside Ian's head, but in a good way, because Pace managed to subtly show his feelings through Jane's eyes, even when she didn't realize what was going on. Still, I did think the ending was a tad too abrupt, both on the romance angle and (because I'm vengeful that way), in that, while it made it clear that Dick was going to get what was coming to him, we didn't actually get to see this, and I really wanted to gloat!

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again?: New to me: see the definition of this month's challenge ;-) Would I read something else by her: definitely. I've been looking at her website, and she's got a new book, Pug Hill, coming out in May. The blurb wouldn't really make me pick it up, but since I liked IAWHAG so much, I'll check it out.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?: It's already in its place in my keeper shelves.


Danger Calls, by Caridad Piñeiro

>> Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Caridad Piñeiro's Darkness Calls was my pick for best category romance of 2004. It was a darker and grittier read than the average category book, and I very much enjoyed the beta, vulnerable vampire hero and the dark, kick-ass latina heroine. Danger Calls (extras) is its sequel.

Love the cover, BTW. The blonde looks just as Melissa is described, and the background, with its gothicky fence and old houses behind it, gives a very good idea of what the book's ambience is like.

One night was all it could ever be... because Dr. Melissa Danvers was a vampire's keeper. Honor-bound to prepay the man who'd always been there for her, Melissa hoped the 140-year-old immortal could uncover the mystery surrounding her parents' deaths. Complicating her mission was Sebastian Reyes, the young, sexy entrepreneur whose wild lovemaking left her sated, yet burning for more.

One night of passion with the beautiful healer would haunt Sebastian the rest of this life. Now Melissa needed his computer expertise to unravel a crime and stay one step ahead of a desperate killer. Sebastian was strictly a no-strings-attached guy. Until danger and desire delivered him to the one woman his soul couldn't forget.
Piñeiro truly is a buried treasure. I'm surprised her books haven't garnered much more attention. This was really good. A B.

Danger Calls is very much a sequel to Darkness Calls, rather than merely a spin-off of it. The ending of Darkness left plenty of issues hanging, even though the HEA we had WAS satisfying. I mean, Diana's case was closed and she and Ryder were together and planning a future, but we still had no idea of how they were going to deal with the fact that Ryder was a vampire and Diana wasn't. Nor did we know a whole lot about Ryder's vampirism, or about whether there were others like him around. And then there was the issue of Melissa Danvers, Ryder's "keeper". Would she have to live her whole life hanging on Ryder's needs, as her ancestors had, out of a sense of duty and responsibility?

Danger focuses on this last question, mostly, though there are certain hints about the others, as well. While Diana and Ryder are vital characters in this story, the focus here is on Melissa Danvers and Sebastian Reyes, Diana's brother.

From what I've written above, it's probably obvious that this is a book that doesn't really stand alone very well. In fact, even though I reread Darkness not too long ago, I was slightly lost at first. You know how sometimes reading a book in a series without having read the previous ones can feel like arriving at a party with people you don't know, who all know each other and keep chatting about people and events you know nothing about? Well, this wasn't quite like that, but it was similar. It was more like arriving late at a party full of friends of yours and finding them all talking about something that happened right at the beginning of the party, which you obviously missed.

The book starts only a few months after the events in Darkness, and we're dropped right in the middle of things. Someone has stolen one of Melissa's father's journals, in which he, as his "vampire keeper" ancestors had done before him, recorded the everyday details of caring for Ryder. Diana and Ryder and Melissa are obviously very worried, especially after some initial investigation shows that Melissa's parents' death wasn't an accident, as they had thought, and they, together with Sebastian, try to get to the bottom of things. It took me a little while to understand exactly what was going on, at the beginning, but I was soon all caught up and ready to go.

I thought Sebastian was a particularly fascinating character. I think this might actually be the first time that I've read a romance novel hero that I actually recognize as my contemporary. Sebastian is in his 20s, and he acted like it, both in his attitudes and in his fashion choices ;-) About his actions and attitudes, I do NOT mean he was immature. It's just that even young heroes in romance novels tend to feel weirdly settled, and Sebastian was different in that.

I also liked that he wasn't immediately all macho-man, I'll-protect-my-woman the minute Melissa asked him for help, even though they had a past and were still very attracted to each other. He simply found himself pretty creeped out by the whole thing with Ryder and with the murders and stolen journal, and he's not at all convinced that he wants to get involved, basically because his very conservative father destroyed much of his self-esteem and he now can't accept that he might be able to be Melissa's "hero".

He and Melissa were sweet together, and I enjoyed the romance, even though I actually found myself even more interested in what was going on around them. As in the previous book, while the "case" is closed and Sebastian and Melissa end up very much together, not all questions are answered, and there are plenty of hints of more developments to come.

The next book in the series, Temptation Calls deals with another vampire, a female one (will Ryder finally discover that there are, indeed, other like him out there?), and there's another book in the series, Death Calls, coming out in November. I'm not sure what that one's about (can't find any blurbs yet), but I seem to remember Ms. Piñeiro leaving a comment in my review of Darkness Calls and mentioning there would actually be another book about Diana and Ryder, so this one might be it!


The Demon's Daughter, by Emma Holly

>> Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I'm a big fan of Emma Holly. I've loved her erotica (ahhhh, Menage!), her historicals (ahhh, Beyond Seduction!) and the couple of her paranormals that I've read (ahhhh, The Night Owl!). The Demon's Daughter (excerpt) combines elements of each of the three.

Oh, and that cover? I'm not the world's biggest fan of man-titty covers, but I thought this one was particularly attractive. The guy seems to be Pocket's Cover Model Muse, as P.Devi says ;-)

Inspector Adrian Philips keeps the peace between demons and humans in Avvar, a city not unlike Victorian London. To do his job, he's allowed his strength to be enhanced by demon technology, a choice that's cost him his wife, his family and—some would say—his humanity. Rejected by both races, he hungers for a woman's touch.

Roxanne McAllister is an outcast, too: the illegitimate daughter of an infamous chanteuse. One fateful night brings Roxanne and Adrian together, and though the border between human and demon is treacherous, these two may be just the ones to cross it. The question is, will the exquisite pleasure they find together be worth the risk...
Do you know what Steampunk is? I didn't, not until Maili mentioned that's what The Demon's Daughter was. I've since watched some movies which qualify, and I agree. It is steampunk, and it is pretty good! A B+.

For those of you who, as I was, are baffled by the term, Wikipedia defines steampunk as:

Steampunk is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. Fiction in the steampunk genre is set in the past, or a world resembling the past, in which modern technological paradigms occurred earlier in history, but were accomplished via the science already present in that time period.
TDDdoesn't exactly fit this definition, because those "modern technological paradigms" occurred, not via the "science already present in that time period", but via the discovery of a hidden civilization which was more technologically advanced. However, it does have a certain steampunk feel to it.

Ok, on to the story. It's set in an alternate universe, a Victorian London-ish kind of city, Avvar. Not too long before our story takes place, an expedition to the frozen North had found a hidden civilization, the Yamas. I won't go into detail about them, because it would take paragraphs and paragraphs, so just the basics here: the Yama look pretty much human, but they can do a certain amount of telepathic communication, they feel no emotions (at least, they tend to feel much less than humans do) and they can "feed" off humans' "etheric force". They are also much more technologically advanced than humans, so in exchange for their technology, the citizens of Avvar have agreed to receive the lower caste Yamish (or "demons" as they're also called). There is a good deal of xenophobic feeling against them (as you've probably deduced from their being called demons), but things tend to be peaceful between them and humans.

Our hero is Adrian Phillips. He's a policeman, and very much an outsider. See, for all that peace is the norm between the Yamas and humans, sometimes there are problems, and since Yamas are much stronger than humans, policemen could only stop them by killing them. Adrian is part of an experimental force which has had Yamish implants put in, which make them much stronger and allows them to police the Yamas better. Of course, his implants have also made Adrian even more of an outcast, because his fellow police now feel he's tainted by those demon implants.

As the story starts, Adrian is a man hungry for some human warmth. He's just come out of a marriage to a woman who was cold, both physically and emotionally, and his supposed friends' treatment just adds to his feelings of loneliness.

He finds all the warmth he needs in Roxanne McAllister, when he gets hurt during a mission in the slums and the last thing he can do before he collapses is climb on to a building right at the edge of this area. He's rescued by Roxanne, just as much of an outcast as he is.

Roxanne is the daughter of a famous opera singer, La Belle Yvonne, and has quite an interesting past. After her mother died and left her alone very young, Roxanne did a stint as a sailor in an all female ship. After retiring, she took up art, and is well known for her classic nudes, though she used to specialize in erotic pictures, which some people called pornography. Roxanne lives with two boys she rescued from the street, the teenaged Charles and five-year-old Max, and they have become her family.

Roxanne and Adrian share an instantaneous, combustive attraction, which soon develops into love. But if Adrian wants to progress in his career, which is more a calling than just a job for him, he can't be with a woman who hasn't got a spotless reputation, and Roxanne's is far from it.

And if that wasn't enough conflict, there's the fact that Roxanne has just found out that her father is actually a Yamish diplomat, and this man wants a relationship with her. And not only that, her father has to do some very delicate manouvering, because it's unheard of that a human become pregnant by a Yama, so he fears his bosses might want to steal Roxanne away in order to study her.

Well! That was complicated, wasn't it? However, I'm glad to report that it wasn't at all hard to follow in the book. The complicated plot, the complicated universe, I thought Holly did very well in introducing everything bit by bit, without any boring info-dumps.

Also, for all that the setting was fascinating, it didn't overshadow the romance at all. Roxanne and Adrian's relationship was really sweet and steamy, and I loved the way each made the other feel less alone. Adrian, especially, is a wonderfully done character. I appreciated that he really sacrificed a huge deal for Roxanne, and this sacrifice was even more meaningful to me because of all his initial doubts about whether or not he should do it. I mean, if he'd instantly given up all his dreams and hopes for Roxanne, then I guess I would have felt they didn't mean all that much to him in the first place. But the way Holly sets up things, you do get a feel for the real meaning his sacrifice had.

I think I enjoyed the secondary relationships just as much as the romance. I loved to see Roxanne and Adrian with Charles and Max, and I loved the slowly developing relationship between Roxanne and her father. When the book was over, I wanted more!

Oh, well, it looks like I won't get it. I guess TDD wasn't too well received, because Holly doesn't seem to be planning to write any more books in that universe. That's just too bad. I didn't find out nearly as much as I wanted about Avvar and the Yamas here, either. There were some truly tantalizing hints there, and I would love to see Holly explore them. No way to do that in this book without the setting taking over the story, but maybe if she had a few more books?

Edited to add: I was too hasty. Looks like Holly's short story in the Hot Spell anthology is set in this universe! Oh, cool, now I want that book even more, if that's possible!


Cause Celeb, by Helen Fielding

>> Monday, February 13, 2006

Helen Fielding is best known for being the creator of the poster girl for chick lit, Bridget Jones, but before that, she wrote Cause Celeb, a book that does have a taste of chick lit in certain parts, but which ends up being completely different.

Rosie Richardson, a twenty-something literary puffette is in a totally nonfunctional relationship with an unevolved but irresistible adult male--a hotshot TV presenter who plunges her into the glitzy, bitchy inane lifestyle of London's It people. Disillusioned with the celebrity world, Rosie escapes to run a refugee camp in the African desert.

When famine strikes and a massive refugee influx heads for the camp, governments and agencies drag their heels. Bringing her former media savvy to the fore, realizing the only way to get food out fast is to bring celebrities first, Rosie returns to the life and man she fled to organize a star-studded emergency appeal from famine-racked Africa.
This was a lovely book. It could have done with a somewhat stronger romance, but other than that, it was just great. A B+.

Cause Celeb has an interesting structure. For much of the book, the action runs back and forth between London and the Safila refugee camp in the fictional African country of Nambula, and between past and present. Interspersing one scene from each, Fielding tells the story of the events leading up to Rosie deciding to leave London for Africa, and the events leading up to Rosie Richardson deciding to go back to London to seek help for her camp.

The scenes from the past are actually kind of reminiscent of typical chick lit... the leading-to-nowhere job, the awful boyfriend our heroine tolerates outrageous stuff from, that kind of thing. Rosie works for a publisher (but of course), doing PR. During a party, she meets famous presenter Oliver Marchant and they start dating, and at his side, Rosie gets an introduction to the celeb lifestyle.

Only problem is, Oliver is a cruel bastard who seems to delight in tearing down Rosie's self-esteem, and who keeps going back and forth, driving her crazy. Whenever Rosie's had enough with him, Oliver seems to realize that, and he'll throw her a crumb, maybe telling her he loves her, for instance. The next Rosie knows, once she's so happy, he's screaming at her and humiliating her and telling her he doesn't love her and needs his space. Over and over and over, until he's pretty much destroyed all her sense of self-worth, the slug.

The only reason I didn't throw the book against the wall in these sections, angry at Rosie for taking Oliver's crap, was that after each of those chapters, we had one of the Africa chapters. And that was kind of a guarantee that there was light at the end of the tunnel, that Rosie would, indeed, grow out of her self-destructive behaviour and become one seriously strong woman.

These Nambula chapters show Rosie actually running a refugee camp in Africa. See, one of the things did in her PR job was to arrange for her employer to donate some books for the campaign to help starving refugees in Nambula, people who'd ran from famine and war in the neighbouring Kefti area. Apparently there'd been a Live Aid-ish campaign to help them, and Rosie's employer wanted to get involved, in order to get good PR. Well, Rosie ends up being the one going to Nambula to take the books, and what she sees there, coupled with her increasing unhappiness about her relationship with Oliver and the shallowness of her life in London, convinces her to chuck it all and move to Africa.

Years later, she is actually the person in charge of running the Safila camp, and, at first, almost unrecognizable from the Rosie in the London chapters.She's competent, efficient and caring, tireless in her determination to do things right and, since things are much better now in the camp, in her determination to prevent another disastrous famine such as the one from four years earlier.

When rumours and a dangerous exploratory mission confirm that there are serious possibilities of a new and even more devastating crisis, Rosie does her best to get official help, but gets no results. Desperate, she does the only other thing she can think of that might work: she goes back to London to try and convince the celebrity acquaintances she made when she was going with Oliver to help her put on a benefit.

The sense of humour here is just incredible, because the ROTFL scenes didn't detract at all from the book's heart and emotions. Fielding had me in tears one moment, and in tears of laughter the next, sometimes about the exact same things. Her sense of humour is pretty irreverent, and I thought it worked to make the book less of a "oh, those poor people" drama. The refugees here aren't annonymous masses meant just to make us pity them; they're individuals, with their own personalities and virtues and flaws. And bringing the shallow, self-involved celebrities to the camp makes for some of the funniest, most tragic scenes I've ever read. And those scenes are tragic. Something else the humour helps to do is lighten up things a bit, because what's going on around the camp is just absolutely horrible. And the remarkable thing is, lighten up doesn't mean cheapen or play for laughs.

The characters, both Rosie and the secondary cast, are wonderfully done. Even the most highly exagerated among them have a core that feels true. They're a parody, sometimes, but a parody that's spot-on. The only character who I thought was slightly under-developed is Rosie's love interest. There just isn't enough there. I think I'd have prefered to have either something bigger or no romance at all, to be honest. Still, that was minor stuff. The whole point of the book is the other stuff, and that's perfect.

Even if you hated Bridget Jones, I highly recomment Cause Celeb.


Once a Scoundrel, by Candice Hern

>> Friday, February 10, 2006

What usually happens when I read a rave about a book in one of the message boards I frequent, is that I think "Ohhh, that sounds good! Too bad I still need to order it / it's on its way here / it's at my friend's house in the US and hasn't yet shipped". That wasn't the case with Once a Scoundrel (excerpt), by Candice Hern. I had my particular book right in my TBR, and I had actually just finished the book I was reading, so I simply left my computer, grabbed the book and started reading. Pretty much a new experience for me! ;-)

Too bad about the cover, though. It's not bad for a clinch, but I've been reading such nice, tasteful covers lately, that having to read this one on the bus was a bit of a shock!

It was bad enough when Anthony Morehouse thought he had won a piece of furniture in a card game, but when he learned that The Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet was actually a women's magazine, he couldn't wait to get rid of it. Then he sees beautiful Edwina Parrish behind the editor's desk. Tony has never forgotten the spirited girl who had bested him at every childhood contest, ultimately winning a priceless family heirloom he had no business wagering. Here was a golden opportunity for him to win it back. Yet Edwina, now a voluptuous enchantress, tempts him in a way no woman ever had before ...

Edwina was stunned to learn that Tony is the new owner of her beloved magazine. Being the Cabinet's editor has been a labor of love, and she's not about to let Tony take it away from her. If the scoundrel wants to make a wager, then he'll find that she has a few tricks of her own up her sleeve. But the mischievous youth she once knew has grown into a brazen charmer, and Edwina may be making the biggest gamble of all ... with her heart.
I very much enjoyed this one. In fact, it was a B+ through most of the book, but the very final conflict wasn't too good, and had me lowering my grade to a B.

Once a Scoundrel is the second in Hern's series that centers on the staff of The Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet a magazine which looks like a normal ladies' mag but which is actually a hotbed of revolutionary activity ;-) The first book, Once a Dreamer (which I loved) was the story of Simon Westover, who writes the advice column for the magazine. This second entry in the series tells the story of Edwina Parrish, the magazine's editor.

The only reason Edwina and her staff have been able to insert their subtle messages into Cabinet is because the owner, her uncle Victor, never meddles. He runs too many "important" publications to worry about a silly ladies' magazine, so he's never even read it. This allows Edwina to do as she wants with the content -and also allows her to skim some of the profits to use for more direct, revolutionary action, like political pamphlets or funding certain choice charities.

When Victor loses the Cabinet in a game of cards to inveterate gambler Anthony Morehouse, Edwina gets quite worried. She doesn't know what kind of owner he'll turn out to be. Will he allow her free hand with the content? Will he carefully examine the account books and realize what she's been doing with the profits?

Anthony wants nothing to do with the Cabinet. He's none too happy about having won it; he thought he was getting a piece of furniture. None too happy, at least, until he meets the beautiful editor, who is none other than the girl who drove him crazy all those years ago by beating him in every single thing. Intrigued, Anthony proposes a bet: Edwina has four months to double the magazine's subscriptions, with no interference from him. If she wins, she'll own the magazine outright, if not, she will return a statue she won from him when they were kids.

The best thing about this story were the characters. Edwina is just wonderful. She's a woman who doesn't much care for the conventions, but who deeply cares about the world around her and wants to improve it. And to do this, she's willing to take action, whether it is to go to France in support of the Revolution or to publish a women's magazine which slowly tries to change its readers' thinking. For all her modern ideas, though, she didn't feel like a 21st century heroine in petticoats, but like a woman of her time. A radical thinker, yes, but they did exist back then. I also loved the way Hern presented Edwina's sexual past. It was terribly refreshing that she was experienced and she wasn't tortured about it (and that the guy hadn't been a horrible person and a bad lover, to boot).

Anthony was lovely, too. I loved the way he changed from a basically nice guy, but one doesn't do much but gambling, to a man capable of loving someone like Edwina, and a man who gets involved in charities, not to impress Edwina, but for himelf.

Their relationship was great fun. At first I thought I might find their continuous betting irritating, but it worked, because after a while, it became obvious that these bets were neither life or death nor a way for one of them to get an advantage over the other: they were a form of foreplay, and this made for a very sexy read. Even the initial, very serious bet for the magazine, soon loses its potential to cause damage to their relationship, as Anthony soon admits that he actually wants Edwina to win it.

The only thing that bothered me about Once a Scoundrel was the final conflict, which I thought was out of character. Anthony really, really overreacts there, and the things he says are much too hurtful for the offense Edwina had caused him. My feeling there was kind of "Who is this man and what has he done to my Anthony?".

Plus, there's the issue of his realizing so quickly about the profits thing (which I definitely do not condone). I have some doubts about whether it's so easy as to flip through the accounts, unless Edwina was as stupid as to write entries such as "Amount siphoned off for revolutionary publications: 10 pounds", which she doesn't seem to be.

Oh, well. This did make the book end in a false note, never a good thing, but up until that point, this had been such a truly outstanding book, that I'd still enthusiastically recommend it.

I also have Once a Gentleman, which is the last book in the series, in my TBR. The storyline, with its shy heroine who's been in love with the indifferent hero for years, doesn't appeal to me all that much, but I've liked the previous books so much that I'll give it a try.


My RTB column

Meant to post yesterday, but I forgot. Well, better late than never: go read my Romancing the Blog column! ;-)


Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It, by Lucy Monroe

>> Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lucy Monroe's The Real Deal was one of my biggest guilty pleasure reads last year. I didn't like it enough to actually go and seek out more of her books, but when someone offered me her Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It (extras), I snapped it up. Sometimes I am in a guilty pleasure mood!

Surprise, Surprise

The last woman business consultant Marcus Danvers expects to find at Kline Electronics is Veronica Richards. He’s supposed to be rooting out a corporate spy, not rehashing an old love affair—with the woman who sold out the company they both used to work for and then took off without so much as a kiss goodbye. All the clues point to Ronnie as the firm’s newest mole, which means he’ll have to spend time with the stubbornly reticent woman he hasn’t been able to forget, and uncover every last thing she has to hide…

Fancy Seeing You Here

It’s just Ronnie’s luck. The one man she’d hoped never to see again is suddenly everywhere she looks—and taking up a starring role in her daydreams, too. Remembering the passion she and Marcus once shared certainly isn’t going to help, though, not when she has so many secrets, and no explanation for the way she left him eighteen months ago—or at least not one he’ll want to hear. The problem is, when Marcus is around all her good intentions go up in smoke…
Guilty pleasure yet again, though the pleasure part was more muted here than it was in The Real Deal, especially in the last part of the book. A C+.

It became clear to me right after starting the book that the events taking place here were a continuation of the action inCome Up and See Me Sometime. It stands alone very well, though. In that first book, Veronica worked as Marcus' secretary and they became lovers. Not long after that, needing money to pay for an experimental treatment for her sick sister, Ronnie sold some company secrets to her employer's competitors and ran away. And she didn't tell Marcus that she was pregnant, either.

As GHNTDWI starts, it's 18 months later and Marcus' company has been hired to investigate possible industrial espionage in the company Ronnie is now working for. One of the first persons he sees is Ronnie, and his first reaction is to think he's got his culprit right there. But he's never been able to forget her, and as he starts discovering some of her secrets, including her reasons to do what she did, he becomes increasingly convinced that she's not the spy he's looking for.

GHNTDWI feels very much like a longer, padded, sexier Harlequin Presents title. I'm far from the line's biggest fan, but I'll concede that when they're well done, they make for some excellent guilty pleasures, and as I said above, this definitely was that. I'm changing my vote for Guiltiest Pleasure for the AAR poll. Good thing I hadn't sent the ballot in, yet.

Why guilty?

Reason #1: The secret baby... emphasis on secret. Ronnie has absolutely no justification for having hid the kid from Marcus. That "I was afraid he'd take him from me" reasoning makes no sense, considering the main reason she hadn't confided in Marcus and had just left without saying good-bye had been that she was so sure he wanted absolutely no commitments or responsibilities. Like a son, say?

Reason #2: "I needed to sell those corporate secrets because my sister had a rare, incurable disease and I needed the money for treatment" Cue violins. Maybe I'm a bitch, but come on! I'd have prefered something less manipulative and clichéd.

Reason #3: Conflicts set up a mile in advance and with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, all depending on characters acting stupidly. Case in point: Ronnie's handling of the incriminating email she finds in the server (and of course, that's not even the worst thing about this particular episode: what imbecile would set up the sale of corporate secrets using a corporate email checked by multiple people?).

Reason #4: The last 100 pages were pure padding. The conflict lost all steam, and I just wasn't too interested in what was going on. It was this part of the book which lowered my grade from a very generous B- to a C+.

Why pleasure?

Reason #1: Marcus. He was a pretty sweet guy, and I liked that he didn't let a pretty traumatic past make him an SOB. I enjoyed his pursuit of Ronnie: persistent, and yet not obnoxious.

Reason #2: As much as I hated the reasons for Ronnie hiding his son from Marcus, the scenes in which he finds out are good, even if my heartstrings are still sore after so much determined pulling by the author.

Reason #3: Same thing about the scenes in which Marcus finds out exactly why Ronnie betrayed his company. He's really hurt that she refused to trust him and confide in him, and yet, it was his own fault for having gone on and on about how it could only be just sex between them and about how he didn't do commitment. Was Ronnie supposed to read his mind to find out he'd started to think about a future with her? Whatever, I loved this!

I'm still not a fan of Monroe after this one, but I'd probably read another one, if I find a cheap copy.


Lie By Moonlight, by Amanda Quick

>> Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Lie By Moonlight (excerpt) is Amanda Quick's latest HC release. I know most people think she jumped the shark years ago, and I might even have to agree, but I still find her books to be wonderful comfort reads.

Welcome back to Late Victorian England—and meet the last Master of Vanza...

During an investigation into a woman's death, gentleman thief turned private inquiry agent Ambrose Wells finds himself at Aldwick Castle—and in the middle of chaos. The building is in flames. Men are dead. And a woman and four young girls are fleeing on horseback...

Concordia Glade has never met anyone like Ambrose Wells. He is bold, clever, and inscrutable—even to the perceptive gaze of a professional teacher such as herself. He is also her only hope to protect her pupils from the unscrupulous men who are after them, powerful, shadowy figures who will stop at nothing to get what they want...
Reading LBM for the first time felt almost as if I was rereading it. The characters, the writing, the plot, it all felt definitely familiar. And yet, it was such an enjoyable, comfortable kind of familiar, that I did like the book, and quite a bit. My grade for it would be a B, though I admit, if I weren't such a JAK fan-girl, a more fitting grade might be a C+.

As in so many JAK/AQ books, the book starts right in the middle of the action, as teacher Concordia Glade and her four pupils are implementing their plans to escape from Aldwick Castle. Not long after her arrival at the castle, Concordia (who, for some reason, I kept calling Cordelia) had become quite suspicious about the circumstances there, and her fears were cemented when she overheard a conversation which implied there was an auction coming up, in which her young students would have been sold off.

Never one to wring her hands helplessly and hope to be rescued, Concordia directs the girls in a daring escape plan, which includes explosive devices set off to generate chaos and distraction, in the midst of which they are supposed to sneak off. But things don't go exactly as planned, and they are rescued by a mysterious man who shows up in the nick of time and leads them to safely, and then to his house in London.

That man is Ambrose Wells, and Concordia's well-laid plans ruined his well-laid plans. Ambrose spends his time as a kind of enquiry agent, and that night he was at the castle investigating the seemingly accidental death of a young woman. His early investigations had pointed towards a well-known crime lord, and he was hoping to get some information on him from his associates, who were at the castle. But once he got there, he found things in a shambles and all he could do was take Concordia and the girls and spirit them off to where they couldn't be found.

There was so much I liked here! Concordia and Ambrose are both mature grown-ups, and I loved the way their attraction wasn't just physical (though there is an element of that there!). No, the main attraction is that with each other, they don't feel the loneliness they had been feeling before in their lives. I also enjoyed that they are never antagonists, but recognize immediately that it would be a good idea to cooperate, which they do without much fuss. As I've said, I've read them both a thousand times before, especially in the most recent AQ books, but I enjoyed them anyway.

The suspense subplot was a bit lackluster, and I did wish there had been more time spent on Concordia and Ambrose rather than on following the investigation step by step, but at least it wasn't excessively convoluted, as some of this author's latest plots have been.

All in all, it was a very nice way to spend a few hours. AQ's next book, Second Sight, is coming in May, and it looks good!


Shimmering Splendor, by Roberta Gellis

>> Monday, February 06, 2006

Shimmering Splendor is the second book in Roberta Gellis' Greek Mythology series. I didn't even know Gellis had written this series until I read the review at AAR. I'd never read anything by her before, but I had her identified as a writer of medievals and nothing more.

Anyway, the whole series looks very interesting, not just this one. I really should have started with Dazzling Brightness which not only is the first book in the series but is about the myth of Hades and Persephone, which I've always liked. However, since Shimmering Splendor arrived first, I decided not to wait. Oh, there's also Enchanted Fire, which sounds interesting as well, though I don't know what Gellis will do for a happy ending there (if there is one, of course), since it's about the myth of Orpheus and Euridyce.

Also, looking at amazon reviews, I saw mentions that Bull God (about the Minotaur) and Thrice Bound (about Hekate) are also related to the series, which is good to know, though at first glance they don't seem to have much romance.

Eros, God of Love

From the moment he beheld the exquisite Psyche, his heart was no longer his. To win her, he would even battle the powerful Aphrodite herself….

Psyche, as beautiful as a Goddess

The object of desire, she swore only to wed the man who showed her undying passion. Then fate made her the pawn of a vengeful goddess... and the prisoner of a mysterious but irresistible lover.

From the mists of timeless legend, bestselling, award-winning author Roberta Gellis has woven a tale of passion and enchantment that sweeps from the towering heights of Mount Olympus to the gentle gardens of Mount Pelion... where Psyche risks everything -even her earthly life- for an immortal love that will take her to heaven and beyond...
As fantasy, this is pretty damned good, and I adored it, but the romance had some problems, especially during the second half, so I'm giving this just a B.

Gellis does a fascinating reworking of the Greek myths here. The main thing is that her gods aren't really gods but powerful mages who have duped the "natives" into adoring them as if they were. With that as a premise, she takes the basics of the myth of Eros and Psyche and gives us her own original take on it.

As in the myth, Psyche is a mortal princess, well known for her beauty. This is actually a huge problem for her and for her family, because the effect of her appearance on most men is such that they become stupid. Psyche fears that any man she decides to marry will end up killing her out of jealousy, and she knows this might end up turning into a state problem, because her family will have to avenge her, which would mean war for the kingdom of Iolkas.

It is decided she will become a priestess in Aphrodite's temple, but when she gets there, the high priestess, who is a seer, realizes that Psyche actually hates even the idea of beauty, so she rejects her (and, by extension, Aphrodite). This angers Psyche's father, who forbids his people to worship at the temple, which, in turn, angers Aphrodite, who sends her good (and completely platonic) friend Eros to solve the problem for her.

When Eros arrives in Iolkas in disguise and meets Psyche, he's immediately smitten. I really loved the way Gellis writes this. It's not so simple as that he falls in love with the person regardless of her beauty, because that would imply he would have loved her even if she had been ugly. It's not exactly that way, because the main reason he's so drawn to her is precisely because being so beautiful has given her an understanding into how he himself feels... into the loneliness that is the consequence of people being so awestruck by his physical aspect that they can't relate to the person inside the flawless body.

Given that he understands Psyche's feelings completely, Eros realizes he can't very well punish her in the fashion he'd planned. Still, he needs to do something as an exemplary punishment, and so he devices a complicated plan, part of which is that Psyche will be left at the altar in the mountains one night to be forced to wed a monster... which will not really be a monster, but Eros (again) in disguise.

This first part of the book, then, is a wonderful Beauty and the Beast story. Eros takes Psyche from the site of her "sacrifice" and installs her at the house Aphrodite has given him near Olympus. He uses a spell to be always surrounded by a cloud of darkness which will prevent Psyche from seeing him, and he woos her until she's fallen in love with him. This part is just perfect, wonderfully romantic. I read it very slowly, for the simple reason that I wanted to savour every single word.

However, as I've implied, this is a book of two very distinct halves. I felt the book experienced quite a change around the half-way mark, when Psyche is allowed to visit her old home, to lay her family's fears for her to rest. There's this whole drama then because she has a hard time being able (physically able, I mean) to return, and this sabotages Eros' trust in her love. From that moment on, the dynamics between these two got really annoying. The relationship, which had seemed sweet and romantic at first, now felt sick and unhealthy to me, especially because of Eros' insecurities and his vulnerability to Aphrodite's meddling.

I especially hated all the emphasis on Psyche having to prove her love for Eros again, and again and again. Most of it wasn't Eros' idea (though it WAS his fault she felt the need to do that), but he's very quick to accept that idea of testing her there in the end, and I wanted Psyche to punish him in some way when she found out what he'd done.

Still, this second part works wonderfully as fantasy. The world-building is just as amazing as in the first, full of little details that make you really feel there, and even when I felt like bitch-slapping Eros, I didn't get bored. In the end, Gellis made the myth her own and gave it depth and life, and I can't wait to see what she's done with the other ones.


Everyone's doing it, so why shouldn't I? *g*

>> Saturday, February 04, 2006

Can't resist. Only one cat post, and then I'll be back to our regularly scheduled program, ok? ;-)

Here they are, my babies. That's Sami on the left, a siamese girl, 9 years old; then Camila in the middle, also siamese, 2 years old (though she was younger there. She's bigger now) and to the right, O'Neill, 11 years old, and he's, according to my mom, a Cacri (callejero criollo - creole street cat, basically. Nothing pedigreed about him!).

And another one, taken about the same time. At least here O'Neill isn't terrorising Sami. He's been chasing her around all day long lately.

Let's start with the eldest. O'Neill (named for my favourite football player at the time he arrived, Fabian O'Neill) very definitely isn't a scaredy-cat. He doesn't mind photos at all. Not a shy bone in his body. When we brought him home he weighed about 150 grams (that's like, about a third of a pound?), now he's some 12 kg, all of it muscle.

Sami is the sweetest, most cuddly one of the three. She'll spend hours and hours sleeping on my lap, or sprawled on my chest (when she leans the side of her face on my breast I just melt). She especially likes sitting on my back while I'm reading belly-down on the bed, or walking around and throwing herself ON the book I'm reading, just to get my attention.

And this is the nuttiest cat I've ever known, Camila. She doesn't walk, she bounces, usually doing crazy "wah-wah-wah" noises. She's not much of a cuddler with us, but she adores curling up next, over or under the other cats. She keeps Sami fit by chasing her around and she keeps O'Neill from getting too smug by fearlessly confronting him, even though he must be 5 times her size.


Guilty Secrets, by Laura Leone

>> Friday, February 03, 2006

In January, I only barely managed to keep with my only reading resolution for this year: to read at least two books each month that have been in my TBR for over 3 years. I read the first one that fit that criterium early in the month, Closer Than She Thinks, by Meryl Sawyer, but I left the second one *very* late! And I'm afraid I kind of cheated. Guilty Secrets, by Laura Leone didn't spend so long in my TBR because I lost interest in it (not the letter of the law, but its spirit), but because I really like this author and I wanted to pace myself with her books.


Leah McCargar had almost believed sexy Adam Jordan was making a pass at her when he'd barged into her bedroom and taken her into his arms. But then she'd realized he was half asleep! Leah was perversely disappointed -but she was also a bit relieved. There was something mysterious about her aunt's literary collaborator. He acted like a man with something to hide...

Adam's actions were hardly premeditated -he hadn't even been able to enjoy them! But though the pretty Ms. McCargar piqued his masculine interest, his common sense reminded him to keep his distance. Because Leah was as brainy as she was beautiful -and she was smart enough to figure out that Adam Jordan was not at all what he seemed!
Eh. Guilty Secrets was promising, and had quite a few elements I enjoyed, but unfortunately, an initially very judgemental heroine and a romance that didn't really completely gel meant that the promise wasn't fulfilled. A C.

First things first: the person who wrote that back-cover blurb I quoted above must have read only the first few pages of the book. Or, which is just as probably, they decided to open the book at random and just describe one scene -any scene!-, no matter how irrelevant it was. Because that scene described there does happen (Adam does walk into Leah's room, half asleep, as she's fighting to get up from a deflated water bed), but the whole thing only takes a couple of pages and has absolutely no relevance to the rest of the book! Ah, well. Just ignore it.

When Leah McCargar arrives on a visit to her aunt Verbena's house, the situation worries her. After publishing a book which flopped because the writing was unintelligible, well-respected historian Verbena has embarked on a collaboration with a young colleague, Adam Jordan, who turns out to be the Adam Jordan who writes popular histories derided by the academic establishment.

Also a historian, Leah is worried that working with Adam will endanger her aunt's professional reputation, so she decides to do her best to discourage Verbena. But as she starts getting to know Adam, she likes him more and more.

And that's it, really. It's a simple main plot, but it's not a simple, quiet book. There's a lot going on, from Verbena's ménagerie (I just fell in love with the Questing Beast, Verbena's shy pet iguana), to a pompous professor who seems to know things about Adam, from a haunted room which needs to be exorcised to the mystery of what's going on with Leah's cousin Malcolm, While I enjoyed certain aspects of some of these secondary storylines, it did get to be too much at times.

Plus, there's Leah's attitude towards Adam, which bugged the hell out of me. She's tremendously judgemental about his work, even though she's never read it.

- "You write lurid, slushy, slick, sensationalistic-"

- "What an admirable vocabulary. And which of my books have you read to make you such an authority?"

- "I haven't read any of them and I don't intend to"
Riiight! Her open-mindedness is astounding. She reminded me quite a bit of the heroine in Ellen Fisher's All I Ever Wanted, which was pretty much ruined by such attitude from its heroine. I think what bothered me the most was that Leah could easily be one of those people who dismiss romance without every trying one.

She does realize she was wrong and more or less makes up for it by sticking up for Adam when he needs her, but to me, she never completely recovered from her initial stupidity.

The romance itself was very blah. Nice enough, after Leah wises up, but nothing too compelling. Just not one of Leone's best, I guess.


Anyone But You, by Jennifer Crusie

>> Thursday, February 02, 2006

My favourite Jennifer Crusie novels are three, and they rotate in and out of the first spot depending on my mood. Two of them are the ones that are typically everyone's favourites: Bet Me and Welcome To Temptation, but the third is one that is slightly less well known: Anyone But You ("reissue note from Jenny" and Chapter 1), a category romance published in the Love & Laughter line some 10 years ago. Not that it's completely unknown, of course (it's even just been reissued in HC), but it tends not to be mentioned as frequently as other titles.

Part basset, part beagle, all Cupid . . . can a matchmaking hound fetch a new love for his owner?

For Nina Askew, turning forty means freedom -- from the ex-husband whose career always came first, from their stuffy suburban home. Freedom to have her own apartment in the city, freedom to focus on what she wants for a change. And what she wants is something her ex always vetoed -- a puppy. A bouncy puppy to cheer her up. Instead she gets . . . Fred.

Overweight, smelly and obviously suffering from some kind of doggy depression, Fred is light-years from perky. But for all his faults, he does manage to put Nina face-to-face with Alex Moore, her gorgeous, younger downstairs neighbor.

Alex looks great on paper -- a sexy, seemingly sane, surprisingly single E.R. doctor who shares Fred's abiding love for Oreos -- but a ten-year difference in age, despite his devastating smile, is too wide a gap for Nina to handle. Ignoring her insistent best friend, some interfering do-gooders and the ubiquitous Fred -- not to mention her suddenly raging hormones -- Nina thinks anyone but Alex would be a better bet for a relationship. But with every silver-haired stiff she dates, the more she suspects it's the young dog-loving doctor she wants to sit and stay!
Anyone But You is what series romance can be and almost never is: just as great as a great single title. It's books like this one that prove that just because a book is in category format it doesn't mean that it will be any less satisfying. An A.

Nina Askew married young and married her first lover. But after some 20 years of being the perfect big-shot lawyer's wife, spending her life devoted to the career of a husband who'd become a stranger, she got fed up and left him. A year later, she's living in an old converted Victorian house, has a job as an editor and, though she really likes her life, she's a bit lonely. She thinks the perfect solution to that would be to get a cute, perky, bouncy puppy, so she heads over to the Humane Society. Only instead of that cute puppy, she gets Fred.

I loved, loved, loved Nina and Alex, and I adored Charity, Max, Norma and all that wonderful cast of secondary characters, but I have to admit it: Fred is the true star of the book. Fred is the very opposite of a perky puppy. He's "part basset, part beagle, part manic-depressive". Fat, ugly, old, stinky, he's nonetheless one of the most loveable characters I've ever read. And yes, he very definitely is a full-grown character. He's got more personality in his front right paw than many human characters I've read. He's also the spark of some of the funniest scenes I've ever read.

Er, sorry for going into paroxisms of Fred-love. Back to our scheduled program: Nina brings Fred home, and on his very first day, Fred brings Alex. See, Nina's on the third floor of a building without elevator, so instead of climbing up and down the stairs with Fred, she teaches him to climb down the fire escape to the enclosed back yard (and those scenes had me rolling on the floor with laughter). But Fred has trouble telling one window from another, and goes into the second floor one, where Alex lives.

Alex is 30 years old to Nina's 40 and he's an emergency doctor who's trying to resist family pressure to a) move into another, more lucrative specialty, b) settle down with one of the nice young women he dates, and c) have children. He wants to do neither of the above. Like Nina, Alex enjoys his life, except that he would like to be with a woman who likes him for himself, not because he's a doctor.

When he meets Nina, he's immediately extremely attracted to her, and vice versa. They become friends, and the sexual tension ratchets up like crazy, but the age thing is an issue in both their minds.

This was something I very much liked: that both had issues with the age difference. Nina has the more typical ones (though not for being typical are they any less believable or understandable). She's insecure about her body, she fears that she'll look ridiculous to people and become a joke, the dirty old lady cruising the local high school in a convertible. It didn't become at all annoying, it simply felt natural.

But it was Alex's insecurities about age that made the book so great. For him, age is irrelevant in how he feels about Nina. To him, she's more beautiful and more desirable than any other woman, whatever their age. That's not the problem. Age is relevant, however, in how he fears Nina may see him. He's afraid Nina will feel he's immature, and see him as a kid, that her marriage has made her used to things that he won't be able to give her.

Obviously, both their insecurities are completely unjustified, because they each love the other just as the other is, but they make for a powerful conflict. I wasn't completely satisfied with the resolution of Alex's, however, and that's the only negative the book has. I mean, I loved the direction in which Crusie took the story there, but it needed more space than it got. That final conflict, resulting from Alex's conviction that Nina wants all that Guy could give her, ends up feeling a bit glossed over. I wanted to see events as they happened, not to simply be told about them! I wanted to see Nina slowly realizing what's going on, how the vision of the perfect life with Alex slowly degenerates into a vision of Guy II. And I wanted to see scenes like that dinner at Alex's parents' house.

But that was only enough to knock the + from my A. And it was more than compensated by the other brilliant, wonderful stuff in the book, like the secondary characters, for instance, or my personal favourite: the fact that Alex and Nina did not want to have children. I don't need the heroes and heroines of my romance novels to want exactly what I want out of life, to be made happy by what would make *me* happy. I want their HEA to be one that's appropriate to who they are, and that often means kids, which is something that prominently doesn't figure in my personal dream HEA. Still, it's nice to sometimes see the message in a romance novel that a HEA without kids is also perfectly valid, and this particular part of the plot was especially nice for me.


Historia de la sensibilidad en el Uruguay 1800-1860 - José Pedro Barrán

>> Wednesday, February 01, 2006

This probably won't interest anyone but me, so I'll keep it really short. The book's full title is Historia de la sensibilidad en el Uruguay. Tomo I: La cultura "bárbara" - 1800 - 1860, which I would translate as "A History of the Uruguayan Sensibility. Book I: The "barbarian" culture". That might not be a truly literal translation, but it describes the spirit of the book better.

Anyway, the book was written by José Pedro Barrán, a historian who, in the past few years, has been concentrating on a more intimate kind of History than the History of war and politics I learned in school. In this particular book, he analyzes the "evolution of the capability of feeling, of perceiving pleasure and pain that each culture has, and in relation to what it has it", concentrating on such aspects as the way people felt and experienced death, sex, fun violence or work.

I loved that he really paints a picture of a country I didn't know had existed. It would take too long to summarize, but the word "barbarian" is spot-on. The Uruguay in the first part of the 19th century was an almost empty country, in which violence was the only way through which the authorities (whether the State, parents, or teachers) could impose their will, one of the reasons being the extreme independence. The "lower orders" didn't really need to work to be able to subsist. Food was plentiful, especially red meat (cows were slaughtered for their hides, and most of the meat, since this was long before meat could be frozen and exported, was de trop, so it was just handed around freely) and ambitions were low, so people lived easily working only a couple of times a week.

Mortality was high, sexual mores weren't particularly strict, and when these people played, they played hard: Carnaval (Mardi Gras?) was long, and the play so uninhibited and lacking in limits that the authorities actually had to forbid people to pelt each other with ñandú eggs. Ñandúes are large, ostrich-like birds, so those eggs had to do some big damage!

And these are just a few of the fascinating things I learned reading this book. It's just chock-full of priceless tidbits, and I kept breaking to read bits out loud to anyone who happened to be nearby. The only negative I found is that, while Barrán is a brilliant researcher and historian, he's not that good a writer. His writing's convoluted in a way that doesn't add any beauty to it, and he does get a bit repetitive. But that's minor, and I really enjoyed the book very much. A B+.


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