Thursday, December 31, 2009

100 Books! What I read fo 2009


I read and reviewed 100 books this year! Mostly romances, but I did read a few non-romancey books as well, I think I read a total of twelve non-romance books all year. I hope to increase that number for 2010. I made up a fun little ticky poll for those of you that would like to check out what I read over at my other blog at LiveJournal. (I'd post it here, but I don't know how to do polls here at Blogger).

Check it out, it's open to all users. Feel free to add me as a friend at LiveJournal if you're so inclined.

My 2009 Book List

Happy New Year Everyone!


Monday, December 28, 2009

The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig (audio)

Book Description:
Emerald rings aren't all they're cracked up to be... Eloise Kelly has gotten into quite a bit of trouble since she's been spying on the Pink Carnation and the Black Tulip -- two of the deadliest spies to saunter the streets of nineteenth-century England and France. Not only has she been unearthing secrets that will change the course of history, she's been dallying with Colin Selwick -- great-nephew of Mrs. Selwick-Alderly, the keeper of important hidden documents -- looking for a romantic adventure to call her own. Little does she know there's another fierce heroine running headlong into history... It's 1803 England, and Letty Alsworth awakens in the middle of the night to discover that her sister, Mary, is about to make the very grave mistake of eloping with Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe (second in command of the League of the Purple Gentian). In an attempt to save the family name, Letty tries to break up the midnight assignation -- only to find herself accidentally carried off in her sister's place. The ensuing scandal forces Letty and Geoff into a hasty marriage -- and just as hastily, Geoff disappears on their wedding night, under orders to hurry to Ireland and help the Pink Carnation squash a ring of Irish rebels led by the Black Tulip. Not to be outdone by her husband, Letty steals away on a ship bound for the Emerald Isle, armed and ready to fight for her integrity, and to learn a thing or two about espionage -- never imagining she might learn a few things about love on the way...

Another winner in the Pink Carnation Series, this one is the third in it and I listened to it on audio. Not as good as the first, which I totally loved, but this was amusing and I lliked it better than the 2nd, but then again, I always like forced marriage scenarios, as was the case in this story. Geoff is a lacklustre sort of hero at first, he's not the dashing and daring type. He's quiet and steady and totally won me over by the end. I really liked Letty too. She's practical in most cases and plucky, but manages to get herself in some pretty tight predicaments - such as having to marry the man her sister was going to run away with! Still, Letty soldiers on and does what she must. Her thoughts are pretty funny and I found her endearing - almost the way I'd act if I were in her place!

The book starts out with Letty foiling the attempts of her sister to elope with Geoffrey, who we know from the last book. He's been harboring a tendre for Letty's sister, Mary, for two years. But it all backfires since Letty is in her nightgown when she goes to put a stop to it, and she winds up sharing a smoldering kiss with Geoffrey in his carriage (before he realizes she's not his beloved Mary) and they are seen, and one thing leads to another and they are forced to marry to save Letty's reputation. I couldn't help noticing the obvious homage to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice who have been reincarnated as Letty's parents. Mrs. Alsworth is in near hysterics over the scandal, and then nearly swoons and is ecstatic when it means her daughter will be getting married! Mr. Alsworthy is much calmer and philosophical about it, almost enjoying seeing everyone lose their mind while he sits back and takes it all in, laughing to himself, not really seeming to care much that his daughter is very put out and does not want to get married and that it's all a big mistake! Geoffrey does the right thing by asking for Letty's hand, but he thinks she planned it all and is nothing more than a scheming adventurous! He leaves her soon after they're married to go to Ireland on a mission and they don't even have a wedding night together. Hen and Miles (from the last book) take her under their wing and tell her where he has gone, though she knows nothing about him being a spy or anything for the Pink Carnation. Letty decided to take matters in to her own hands and hightails it off to Ireland to make it up with her new husband and fix things.

Letty runs into a few snags and things don't exactly go her way. Before she knows it, she's reunited with Geoff, though he wants nothing to do with her. Unfortunately, he has no choice in the matter and she must be told all about the Pink Carnation and his involvement. Jane and Miss Gwen are in this book alot and as usual, Miss Gwen, is a hoot and has some of the best lines. I like Jane's stealy grace under fire and mastermind. I can't wait to find out if she ever retires as the Pink Carnation and gets a love interest for herself!

Once again, after Letty is told the big secret about Jane and the legion of the Purple Gentian, she soldiers on and does what she must - this time to prevent an Irish rebellion and to help find the Black Tulip. Added to her woes is Geoff's annoying cousin Jasper, another homage to Pride Prejudice. Jasper is a dead ringer for George Wickham - uniform and all! But, that's where the similarities end between the two books, albeit, both novels take place during Regency times in England and are humorous. There are lots of amusing moments, and I loved the way Letty handled Jasper. Her thoughts on his sideburns were hilarious!

But, one of the things I liked best about this book was the interaction between Letty and Geoff. How they went from disliking one another to falling for one another while working together to foil the Black Tulip. The ending was wonderful, I was so happy for the two of them. I didn't think I'd really like Geoffrey all that much, but I did! What a surprise! He seemed so dull to me in the last book, but as he describes himself to Letty at the end and asks her if she'll still have him, I simply loved him! He's a good man and they make a cute couple together. Their first night together as husband and wife was worth waiting for, and it was romantic and hot, but was lightened up by the oddball setting of where they were (at least they weren't in a carriage, though!)

Meanwhile, the Colin/Eloise plotline is slowly but surely developing, though I was disappointed that they weren't together for much of it. Still, I always laugh out loud at what Eloise is thinking and has to endure - such as a blind date with an American named Jay that her grandmother has set her up with - and then running into Colin on the date! It was pretty funny, and by the end of the book Eloise gets her longed for wish and a date with Colin for dinner - on a Saturday night no less! (We'll see if it actually happens in the next book - with poor Eloise's luck, I'm not holding my breath!)

Kate Reading did a good job with the narration, though I wasn't crazy about her American accent for Eloise, I much prefer her cultured British voice for the historical parts of book. Her voice for Geoff took some getting used to as well, which I did eventually. At first he sounded so snobbish! But, overall, she was fine. The actual story of the Black Tulip and foiling the Irish rebellion was a bit hard to follow, but Miss Gwen, Jane and Lord Vaughn (back again from the last book) improved on it, otherwise it would have been pretty dull. Though, I'm still wondering whose side Vaughn is really on!

I'm eager to listen to the rest of the books on audio now, and another one is coming out in January, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily! So far, I'm really loving this series. It's very clever with the contemporary side of it and then the historical side and it's witty and endearing. Basically, it's just a lot of fun!

Btw, on a totally unrelated note, this is the 100th book I've reviewed for 2009!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

An Affair to Remember by Karen Hawkins

Book Description:
An arrogant earl looking for the perfect wife; a strong-minded governess determined to transform him into the perfect man--who will win?

I really enjoyed this regency romance, my first by this author. This is the first in her St. John Brothers/Talisman Ring series. Her previous book about their sister, The Seduction of Sara sets this series up, though I haven't read it yet. I intend to, for I really loved this and kept wishing I had already read Sara's story for she and her husband figure prominantly in this one. Particularly in the beginning.

This is the story of Anthony Elliott who is a wealthy bachelor earl. Anthony's unsavory stepbrother dies and leaves his five unruly children to Anthony. Not one to be overly alarmed, he figures he can handle his charges with no problem by hiring a governess to take care of them. Easier said than done. They scare off plenty of governesses and turn his estate into a shambles before he finally gives in and hires his sister Sara's best friend, Anna Thraxton. Anna has been forced to become a governess because her family has run out of funds, even though they come from an old and distinguished line. She has developed a reputation of being the best governess there is, though with a price. She is no longer accepted in polite society. Still, she makes the best of it and prides herself on her accomplishments. Although Anna and Anthony have met before, they did not get along, in fact they dislike one another! But, he's desperate, he needs her. She has no desire to work for him either, but he offers her an outlandish sum of money and it's too good to refuse. It can get her family back into society. She relents and agrees to tame his five wild banshees.

Normally this would be a predictable scenario, governess falls for English lord and he falls for her, blah, blah, blah. But Anna is a fiery and feisty strong willed redhead who gets under Anthony's skin, but not by being oh so beautiful and angelic. Instead, she is considered just short of beautiful due to her imposing Roman nose and they have a tendency at first to argue over everything! But, Anna is clever and knows how to get her way. Not only does she tame his kids, she manages to tame him as well, although he is a reluctant tamee.

Being the alpha male that he is, Anthony had to smarten up and see what is right in front of his face. Although he recognizes that Anna comes from a noble background and treats her accordingly, he's totally attracted to her and wants her in his bed! What gall! In this respect, he doesn't treat her with the respect she's due. He expects to take liberties with her. This is where Anthony is a total blunderhead. I often felt like slapping him and telling him to get some sense in his head! Instead of wanting to marry Anna, he thinks of her in terms as a mistress rather than a wife, when it's so clear she'd make him the perfect wife! But, he has already chosen a wife for himself, a very young proper ingenue type, Charlotte, who lives on the neighboring estate and doesn't even want to marry him. She's scared to death of him! It's so obvious she's not suited for him, but it's an arranged marriage and he sees no problem in marrying her and having Anna as his mistress. What an idiot!

Fortunately, Anna is not going to become anyone's mistress, as tempting as Anthony's great big bed is. She is proud and could never let her family name down that way. Instead, she continues on with her duties as governess, making headway with taming the little scoundrels and she even befriends the shy and cowering Charlotte by trying to teach her how to stand up for herself and prepare for her marriage. She pities Charlotte for she knows she's all wrong for Anthony. Deep down Anna knows she'd be the pefect wife for Anthony, but she's merely a governess and doesn't have a chance. Although... she does succumb to his charms eventually, and finally gets to try out that big bed of his, showing a complete disregard for what the servants must think - as well as the children! Heavens! Still, she has the good sense to decamp the estate the next morning, determined to never see Anthony again!

I really enjoyed reading this story, there were a lot of funny bits, and I loved the way Anna managed to evade Anthony and didn't want to be alone with him. Then, to make it even better, the plot thickens as Anthony's evil stepmother tries to mess things up and enlists the help of her scapegrace son, Rupert, a ne'er do well with no money who unexpectedly falls in love with the sheltered and shy Charlotte! The whole thing starts to read like a Shakespearean comedy with a big wrap up at the end! I loved it!

Give it a try, this was a fun read and I'm definitely going for the rest of this series!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bound by Your Touch by Meredith Duran

Book Description:
Silver-tongued Viscount Sanburne is London's favorite scapegrace. Alas, Lydia Boyce has no interest in being charmed. When his latest escapade exposes a plot to ruin her family, she vows to handle it herself, as she always has done. Certainly she requires no help from a too-handsome dilettante whose main achievement is being scandalous. But Sanburne's golden charisma masks a sharper mind and darker history than she realizes. He shocks Lydia by breaking past her prim facade to the woman beneath... and the hidden fire no man has ever recognized. But as she follows him into a world of intrigue, she will learn that the greatest danger lies within - in the shadowy, secret motives of his heart.

Coming off Ms. Duran's previous book, The Duke of Shadows which I totally loved, I was bound for a let down, and let down I was with Bound by Your Touch. I must be the only person out there that was not bowled over by this book! Let's just say, I am not into these ne'er do well reformed rake tales. When we first meet our hero, Viscount Sanburne, he's up to his neck in debauchery, living it up at a wild party, stoned on some kind of hallucinogetic drug. I found this a bit offsetting in an historical romance, albeit, it's the late 1800's. I'm a bit prudish when it comes to heroes. I'm all for lots of unmarried sex and a randy hero, but when he's smoking hash and taking LSD, umm, no. Still, I continued with the story to see just how Sanburne reforms, since I knew immediately, this was going to be one of those kind of stories. I'm just finding them a bit old and boring now. Plus, I had issue with his name. Not to be nitpicky, he's the Viscount Sanburne, but his given name is James. Often, I was confused, who was the author referring to at first? Who is James? I had to stop and think, it kept bobbing back and forth. Is he one of Sanburne's many dissolute friends? (I had trouble keeping track of them as well!) Back and forth, back and forth, sometimes he's Sanburne, sometimes he's James - confusing to say the least! Eventually, I wised up and realized when our heroine, the bespectacled bluetocking Lydia Boyce is referring to him, he's Sanburne. But, when we're following Sanburne himself and his thoughts, he's James. Duh, took me a while, but I finally caught on. ;)

On the surface, James' big problem and driving force is to get back at his father whom he can't stand. He blames him for his sister's present state in a mental asylum for murdering her husband who beat her. He believes his father is to blame for letting her remain married to the brute, and keeping her locked away from society. James' raison d'etre is now to get back at his father and drive him crazy - so he's a rake and an owner of factories (horrors!) and has no intention of settling down and producing an heir to carry on the family line. But, at the same time, James also blames himself for the plight of his sister. Not only is he punishing his father, he's punishing himself. James has a lot of familial issues. He goes through a sort of self flagellation, beating himself up by boxing, acting like a bored ne'er do well, do-nothing peer who doesn't care about anything, when really he does care about women and factory conditions and their life in the slums. Yet, he'd never admit to it or take credit for the good deeds he does. Instead, he drinks himself to oblivion to forget and tries to piss off his father who is also a collector of Egyptian antiquities.

What a coincidence, our heroine Lydia Boyce is an expert on Egyptian artifacts and sells them for her father who is an archeologist. She adores her father - the exact opposite of James. Irony plays a role here for as we learn by the end of the book, fathers are misunderstood and are not always what they seem. Lydia is the eldest of three daughters - and a spinster. Four years earlier, she is embarrassed to find out that after declaring her love to her suitor, George, she finds out that she's not the one he intends to marry - instead it's her younger sister, Sophie, he wants to marry! Four years later, Sophie and George are unhappily married, and Lydia is still unmarried. She throws herself in to her Egyptian work and is considered an expert in the field. Smart and intelligent - except when it comes to love - she suffers from an inferiority complex that she's unattractive and no one will ever want to marry her. Plus, all the ton knows that she had once been in love with her sister's husband who jilted her! How humiliatng! Deep down she has the ability to be wild and attractive, but alas, no one will probably ever get to see that side of her. Until she meets the Viscount Sanburne, of course.

She and James meet and tangle at once. They find each other annoying, yet both are drawn to each other in more ways than one. It turns out they have some things in common with their interest in Egyptian antiquities and they're forced to work together to get to the bottom of the mystery of who is trying to kill him and ruin her father's reputation as a scholar and antiquities dealer. Yet, although they're total opposites and an unlikely couple, they get along and he can't stop trying to seduce her. It's become a challenge to him to unveil the prim and proper miss Boyce. Despite her lacklustre protestations, they manage to have some romantic moments in some very unlikely and uncomforable places, like a London rooftop for one. I had trouble not rolling my eyes over it all. Unfortunately, I just didn't really like James' all that much and felt a bit embarrassed for Lydia. I had no sympathy for him and wanted him to get over himself and be smarter - I kept wishing Lydia could do better. By the time we find out the truth about him and he's really good, my mind had already written him off.

It all unfolds at the end and our hero and heroine come to terms with themselves and deal with the truths about their families. Lydia, of course, has this "I'm not good enough for you" martyred role, but James talks her into it and they are bound to live happily ever after. But, throughout it all, I just didn't really - care! It took me over a week to read this short romance and as much as the mechanics of the book and the story itself and the depth of the characters was good, I just wasn't into it.

Maybe you will be. Still, I do intend to read all Ms. Duran has written, for her first book was so good and I have high hopes she'll write another winner!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Book Description:
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

Before I read this book, I'd never heard of "steampunk." I had no idea what it referred to. Vaguely as I understand it, it's a literary genre that takes place in the late Victorian age, in which the plotlines contain scientists and inventions that use steam in a fantastical kind of way. This book is considered steampunk, but it is also a paranormal involving werewolves, vampires and one other supernatural being, Alexia Tarabotti, who has the dubious distinction of being able to neutralize the powers of said supernaturals. She is considered "soulless." Naturally, being a woman from the upper echelons of London society, accustomed to good manners and breeding, the sensible side of her dislikes this name for her "power", yet her common sense accepts it. She is indeed soulless, but that does not mean she is dispassionate about things. She just happens to be very matter of fact and sure of herself. She is not the overly excitable type, prone to swooning and reaching for her smelling salts, though a certain Connal Maccon, Lord Woolsey does get her heart beating faster!

It took me a while to like Alexia, but it took me a while to get into the book at all since I was reading it slowly, only at the gym in half hour intervals on the elliptical. But, as I got further into the book, I began to read the book more often, not just at the gym, and wound up really liking it! As the above blurb says, Alexia finds herself attacked by a vampire and winds up killing him! A no-no in the alternate Victorian society depicted in this book. In this alternate London, vampires and werewolves are accepted in society. There are "hives" for the vampires and "packs" for the werewolves. One particular werewolf that I loved was Lord Woolsey, an alpha male from the Scottish Highlands that is the head of BUR (they oversee all the supernatural goings on). He and Alexia tangle and butt heads often, and soon more happens between them, which I simply loved! Alexia, labeled a spinster, has a healthy appetite for food - and for matters of a more romantic bent. Lord Woolsey's animal tendencies and forceful manner is a good match for her.

Alexia and Lord Woolsey, along with some of the other interesting side characters in the book are trying to get to the bottom of what or who is killing rogue vampires and werewolves - and why? This is not something that is normal, and it is alarming. There is also someone trying to kidnap Alexia - a strange wax faced man that scares her and haunts her dreams. What is going on - and can Lord Woolsey save her when he's "indisposed" during the Full Moon?

Give this unusual and enjoyable book a try if you're into historical paranormals and don't mind a little romance and sex with naked werewolves! It's well written, clever and amusing. I recommend it!


Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde (audio)

Book Description:
Detective Thursday Next is back for another round of time traveling and bookish sleuthing after Fforde's successful debut, The Eyre Affair. Like his earlier novel, this one is set in the U.K., in an alternate version of our universe-one in which time travel is possible and the boundaries between life and literature are porous. Thursday works for Special Ops in the Literary Detectives division. She's made an enemy of the corrupt Goliath Corporation, which manufactures absolutely everything, by imprisoning one of its executives, Jack Schitt, in the pages of Poe's The Raven. In return, the corporation eradicates her new husband, Landen. Since no one really dies in this chronologically fluid universe, Landen could be restored-but Goliath won't do it until Thursday brings back Schitt. But rescuing Schitt is easier said than done-Poe's oeuvre is dangerous territory. Thursday enlists the help of Great Expectations' Miss Havisham, who works for the intra-literature police force, Jurisfiction, and the two leap into the pages of Kafka's The Trial, Austen's Sense and Sensibility and Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Thursday also finds time to authenticate Cardenio, a newly discovered Shakespeare tragedy, and save the world from being engulfed by an oozing pink sludge. Time flies-and leaps and zigzags-while reading this wickedly funny and clever fantasy.

Having read the first in the series, The Eyre Affair, I was a bit iffy on continuing with it right away. I hadn't really gotten into it and was disappointed there wasn't more Mr. Rochester. *grin* Finally, I decided to get on to the next book, and found it in audiobook format and I'm so glad I did! I enjoyed this 2nd book in the Thursday Next series so much more - the characters literally all came to life and I found Thursday, our literary detective heroine, more endearing than ever! The book is very funny and absurd in parts, that kind of dry British humor that is dead pan and ridiculous at the same time, while being completely matter of fact as if it has no idea it's so funny! And the names are a scream! The narrator, Elizabeth Sastre, was great. She was wonderful at all the voices and British accents of all the many characters. Her Thursday voice was just perfect as a youngish (30's) British modern who seems to be the only voice of reason amidst a world of crazies (except for her beloved Landen).

The genre is alternate history with some fantasy under the premise that the Nazis invaded England during World War II and won the war. Forty upteen years later, this is now what England is like under the thumb of a big brother-like Goliath Corporation (coincidence the book takes place one year after 1984?) Spec Ops is the other big company, a bureaucratic governmental type that everyone seems to work for, including Thurday. Thursday is riding high on publicity of her Eyre Affair, but she finds herself in trouble soon enough and to make matters worse, her new husband, Landen, has been eradicated forever unless she helps Goliath retrieve a shady character left to rot in Poe's The Raven. She must figure out how she can get into The Raven to do it, and at the same time, save Landen. She is put into the capable hands of Miss Havisham from Dickens, Great Expectations who deigns to take Thursday on as her apprentice at Jurisfiction, a fantastical giant library where you can jump in and out of books at will. Jurisfiction is amazing and vast and I can't even begin to describe it. The best parts of the book are with Miss Havisham and Thursday slowly but surely learns to jump in and out of books. I also loved the brief interlude spent in Sense and Sensibility , meeting Marianne and then Mrs. Dashwood, who claims it was all her husband John's fault that the Dashwood women never got any money! She pleads innocence and worries that everyone will hate her and she will be known as a literary villainess forever! (Of course she's right, and everyone does hate her for her what she did to the poor Dashwood girls after their father died!)

Meanwhile, while trying to save Landen - and the world - Thursday's father pops in from his time travel journeys from time to time and helps her feel better, though often even more confused than ever! At times Thursday even gets to talk with Landen in her memories. It's poignant to think that Thursday has lost Landen so soon after getting married - especially since she finds herself pregnant! But, if he's been eradicated and never existed - who is the father? I found it very amusing when Thursday is afraid it could be the dashing and very handsome Miles Hawk of the sexy voice!

There are many puzzling quandaries throughout the book, but they are mostly answered and throughout all of it, we get to meet dozens of funny and quirky literary characters most will recognize. They were especially entertaining in audiobook form, the Cheshire Cat and Miss Havisham were my two favorites. I'm in awe of Jasper Fforde for he is extremely talented, this book brings the art form of the absurd to new highs. The many names of the various characters are hilarious and you must pay attention to really catch all the details and absurdity that abounds - it was indeed very, very clever!

I'm eager to read the next book in the series, which will definitely be on audiobook, I can't imagine not listening to these books now. Very, very entertaining, but I imagine they'd be just as funny and amusing in print as well. I highly recommend! Oh, and this was my final book in my TBR Challenge this year! A great finish!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

2010 TBR Challenge

I had such fun doing this for 2009, below is my 2010 list! One was on my list from last year, so I'm determined to read it this year! Some have been hard to get hold of, so it will be a challenge just to acquire them!

The Rules (as developed by MizB)

* the challenge is to read 12 TBR books in 12 months — you can read those all in one month if you want, or one a month, or however you wanna do it.
* you should have a list posted somewhere for others to see
* you CANNOT change your list after January 1st, of the current year!!!
* you can create an Alternates list of MAXIMUM 12 books, if you want, in order to have options to choose from (you can read these in place of books on your original list).
* audiobooks and e-books ARE allowed
* re-reads are NOT allowed, as they aren’t TRUE “TBRs”
* you CAN overlap with other challenges

If this is something that you would like to know more about or participate in you can sign up at 2010 TBR Sign up.

My TBR List

1. Katherine by Anya Seton
2. The Heaven Tree by Edith Pargeter
3. The Scottish Thistle by Cindy Vallar
4. The Stone Maiden by Susan King
5. Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penny
6. Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman
7. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
8. When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
9. The Collector by John Fowles
10. Stolen Charms by Adele Ashworth
11. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
12. On a Highland Shore by Kathleen Givens

My Alternates:

1. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
3. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
4. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
5. Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas6. Hornblower and the Atropos by C.S. Forester
7. Shield of Three Lions by Pamela Kaufman
8. What Do You Say to a Naked Elf by Cheryl Sterling
9. The Gift by Julie Garwood
10. If You Dare by Kresley Cole
11. Clockers by Richard Price
12. Intimate Enemies by Shana Abe

Stop by from time to time to see how I'm doing, or check the tax for 2010 TBR Challenge for my progress and reviews!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Time Travel Reading Challenge

I found another reading challenge that is perfect for me! This one is run by Alyce from At Home With Books. Ever since I read Outlander time travel has been one of my very favorite genres. I'm going to commit to reading six time travel books for 2010, but I'm sure I'll probably read more than that. Some have been on my TBR list for a long time, so this is incentive to finally get them read! Others I've just added, but I'm always looking for good time travel stories!

The Rules:

Decide how many time travel books you want to read and then read them before the end of 2010 - that's it! (The challenge goes from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010.)

My List:

For the challenge I am planning to read at least six of these books.

1. Secrets of the Highlander by Janet Chapman
2. Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine
3. The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
4. The Legend MacKinnon by Donna Kauffman
5. A Dance Through Time by Lynn Kurland
6. Pirates by Linda Lael Miller
7. Return of the Highlander by Sara MacKenzie
8. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
9. Replay by Ken Grimwood
10. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
11. Green Darkness by Anya Seton
12. From Time to Time by Jack Finney
13. Twilight in Babylon by J. Suzanne Frank

January, 2011:  Well, I didn't finish 6 by the end of 2010, but I did read Replay and The Legend MacKinnon January 8th, 2011, so I came pretty close to completing the challenge.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed with my choices, but my two favorites that I read on the list were Replay and A Dance Through Time, which you can read about from my reviews here on my blog.

Friday, December 18, 2009

TBR Challenge - 2009 - Done!

I completed my 2009 TBR Challenge! I was a bit negligent over the summer with it, but kicked up the pace in the late Fall. I had to select 12 books that had been on my reading list for at least six months and then I had twelve alternates. Most of the books on my TBR list were not romance - surprise, surprise! If I had a favorite, I'd have to say it was The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons. It was an exhausting final book in her trilogy about Tatiana and Alexander. Fantastic ending to a great series. I vetoed two of my original list, I just knew I wasn't going to read them, not that I won't ever, but I just didn't think I'd be able to read the next Lymond book, Pawn in Frankincense this year by Dorothy Dunnet, I'm too into romances and paranormals now, and with Lymond you have to really think! Not that I don't think when I read romances and paranormals, but they're easy compared to Dunnett. I just didn't feel up to the mental gymnastics her books require, but I will finish the series someday - just not any time soon. The other I missed was The Sword Maiden part of a trilogy that takes place in Scotland, the Maiden Series by Susan King and I'll try to tackle the first early next year. I just keep putting it off for some reason. One of my alternates was a meh mystery by Sharon McCrumb, but at least I tried it and realized it wasn't for me (I'm not a big contemporary mystery person, though I like historical mysteries, I've realized). The other alternate I read was a pleasant surprise and I'll be reading more of Judith McNaught.

Below are all the books I read for my challenge. All are reviewed, check the tags to find it.

I'm definitely doing this challenge again for 2010, and I'll post the books late this month that I'll choose for the challenge.

My List of Completed TBR Books

1. House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende - a South American classic, but I found it a bit boring, though it was interesting in parts. Still, I'm glad I read it. 3.5/5
2. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy - a classic, and I loved it! Full of irony, and surprisingly easy to read for Hardy. 4.5/5
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - so good, I cried, original, a must read about life in WWII Germany 4/5
4. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly - really enjoyed it, sweeping historical fiction/romance from London to New York in late 1800's 4/5
5. The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons - my favorite, an amazing exhaustive journey of young marrieds coping with life in post WWII 5/5
6. Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen - Loved it, memorable historical fiction/romance 4.5/5
7. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy Emmuska - a classic adventure story that led the way for many like it. On audio 4/5
8. Desolation Island by Patrick O'Brian - not as good as previous ones. Not enough Aubrey in it for me. On audio. 3.5/5
9. Sick of Shadows by Sharyn Mccrumb - just didn't do it for me, quirky but dullish southern mystery 3/5
10. Across a Wild Sea by Sasha Lord - bit of a disappointment. Scottish historical romance of blind girl and warrior that I didn't even like! 3/5
11. A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught - loved it, will read her backlist now. 4/5
12. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde - loved it, so funny and enjoyable especially on audio! I'm going to listen to the rest of this series on audio - after reading the first (The Eyre Affair), I realize audio is much more entertaining! 4/5

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We Have a Winner! Cookie Giveaway!


Who is the randomly chosen winner of the Sweet Inspiration Cookie Giveaway! tetewa will receive an assortment of delicious holiday cookies from Kate at Aunt Cake's Cookies which will be shipped directly to her address!

tetewa, I've sent you an email to request the address where you want them sent.

Thanks everyone for entering the contest, and thank you Penny for your wonderful book, Sweet Inspiration! Good luck and happy holidays to everybody!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Pleasure Seekers by Melanie George

Book Description:
Author Melanie George delivers a sexy new novel of dangerous delight, where England's most independent woman meets her match in the ton's most seductive gentleman....

Lovely Lady Bliss Ashton has her pick of the attractive, sophisticated men in Regency society...and she's rejected them all. But when Caine Ballinger, the Earl of Hartland -- famous the length and breadth of England for his sexual prowess -- lays siege to her, she's finally tempted to fall. Not just because of the passion he arouses in her untutored body; it's also the hint of vulnerability she sees beneath the arrogant, dangerous facade he shows to the world.

Caine is only wooing Lady Bliss to win a bet, so he can regain his ancestral estate -- with the added attraction that by seducing her, he'll get revenge against her father. All he's interested in is getting her luscious body beneath his, then publicly shaming her. So why does he feel so strange when her gentle fingers stroke his hard body, or her soft words soothe his tortured soul? And when the bet is revealed, Caine has to choose...between his longtime dream and the woman he craves with all his heart.

My first time reading a romance by this author, I started out disliking both the hero and heroine. The heroine came across as one of these independent types who dresses provocatively in a very daring dress and then wonders why the hero acts like a cad and can barely keep his hands off her everytime they meet. He's drunk most of the time and is a "kept man." He has lots of issues, mainly that he's a kept man by the woman who bought his family estate and he's under her thumb. So, he's drunk most of the time and trying to deal with the fact his father killed himself because he was so in debt to a particular duke - who happens to be the father of our unbeknownst heroine! One minute our heroine refers to herself as no lady, yet she is a virgin and the daughter of a duke! She spends most of her time living with her mother in Paris, painting nude models - well, I guess most ladies of the ton would consider that rather unlady-ish.

Anyhow, the story was a bit ridiculous and I found this was one of those kinds of books that was driven by sex, sex, sex. Lots of sex - or near sex. The hero and heroine were constantly at odds with each other when he wasn't tearing her clothes off. He was a tortured hero, and only our heroine Bliss could soothe his pain. But, after a while, both of the characters began to sort of grow on me. The story shifted from England to Paris and got a little better. He managed to clean himself up, declare himself to her, but then manages to get himself arrested for murder. She knows he didn't do it, because he was making love to her, but he's too much of a gentleman (now he decides to be a gentleman?) to admit to it, so he doesn't have an alibi. Fortunately, there's a happy ending.

Described as a Regency, it's really not, I think it takes place sometime in Victorian England, but not sure of the decade, 1860's or '70's. There's mention of pantalettes and Moulin Rouge and Manet, the artist, so who knows!

Not bad if you like historicals with lots of sex - quick read. It's funny too, the entire time I was reading this paperback, I had no idea the picture was of a half naked woman on the cover! LOL! I thought it was some sort of flower collage thing!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Author Interview: Penny Watson and Cookie Contest Giveaway

Debut romance writer, Penny Watson is author of the newly released e-book, Sweet Inspiration. She gets to incorporate her wide array of interests, including gardening, cooking and travel into her light paranormal stories. Penny lives outside of Boston with one fly-fishing crazed husband, two lively Filipino kids, and a wiener dog.

Book Blub:
What if the legend of Santa Claus is in fact, true? What if Santa has five big strapping sons who help him run his empire? Five single, sexy sons looking for romance...

Nicholas Klaus is a master pastry chef, a strict disciplinarian, and the eldest son of the legendary Santa Claus. One look at cafe owner Lucy Brewster sends him into an unexpected tailspin of lusty desires. When Lucy is injured, Nicholas makes a decision that catapults their lives into turmoil...

Lucy Brewster, the free-spirited proprietor of Sweet Inspiration, has a flair for concocting sugary confections but no time for adventure. She gets more than she bargained for when she awakens in the North Pole...rambunctious elves, a fitness-obsessed Santa, and the man of her dreams. Does she have what it takes to become the next Mrs. Klaus?

Penny, welcome to Outlandish Dreaming, and congrats on your new book and I wish you much success! Now, on to the interview!

Julie: Penny, I loved it how you portrayed all your characters, but what gave you the inspiration for Nicholas’ parents to be so wild and bohemian, a hippy mother and buffed up Santa?

Penny: I knew I wanted to play around with the accepted legend of Santa Claus. I figured the complete opposite of a round-bellied Santa would be a fitness buff obsessed with marathons. Mrs. Claus always looks like a sweet little grandmother-ly type, so I decided a sexy bohemian would be a nice twist on that. Just trying to keep it fresh and fun!

Julie: The obvious questions – are you a baker yourself? If so, what do you like to bake most? If not – why did you write about two bakers? LOL!

Penny: I do love to bake, especially around the holidays. My husband is Filipino, and his family creates huge feasts that are really fun and delicious. So, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Cooking is a big deal in our family. My daughter also wants to be a cake decorator when she grows up! My favorite thing to bake is chocolate chip cookies with my daughter...she is a great little assistant.

Julie: Why is Lucy a redhead? How did you decide on that? Did you have her fixed in your head already as a redhead?

Penny: Have you ever watched the 1970 animated Christmas special Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town? Kris Kringle falls in love with Jessica (who obviously becomes the first Mrs. Claus). She is a red head! I think I watched that movie about 10 million times when I was growing up. There is an incredibly romantic scene in that movie where the two of them are married outside in a forest of evergreens with all of the animals as witnesses. Love it!

Julie: What’s the story behind Nicholas wearing glasses?

Penny: I totally dig Amanda Quick's heroes who are super-intellectual, spectacle-wearing guys. I personally find that very sexy. And of course, the standard Santa Claus image is of an old man with a beard and glasses. So, I just decided to take that image and make it younger, sexier, and throw in a hot tattoo for good measure! :)

Julie: Who’s next on your Klaus brother list?

Penny: I am not writing the brothers in chronological order...I am working my way to the final brother's story, who of course will become the next Santa Claus. (Not telling!) Oskar Klaus, the youngest brother who is a snowboarding punk and Director of Elfin Resources at the North Pole, is next in line. His book, Sweet Magik, will hopefully be coming out Christmas 2010.

Julie: Do we ever get to hear about Gregor’s New Year’s Eve party?

Penny: Yep! In fact, the first scene of Sweet Magik is at Gregor's Manhattan apartment, during the New Year's Eve party.

Julie: How do you decorate your Christmas Tree – is it like the one Nicholas had for Lucy?

Penny: I wish! Our tree is a huge hodge-podge of lights, home-made and store bought ornaments, crocheted snowflakes and gold bead garlands. Fun and festive, but pretty crazy. For the tree that Nicholas got Lucy, I had a vision of a a gorgeous 9 ft. tree covered in all glass ornaments and sparkling white lights. Something really magical and incredible. If I had a tree like that in my house, all the glass ornaments would be broken within 10 minutes!

Julie: Which scenes in SI did you enjoy writing the most? Why?

Penny: I love writing the scenes with all the brothers together. I get a big kick out of the testosterone-fueled banter that happens with a group of guys. It's fun to write, and flows very quick and easy for me.

Julie: What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?

Penny: I have a master's degree in turfgrass science (yes, frighteningly, there is a science to turfgrass!) I still love horticultural science, and I spend a lot of time gardening in the summer, especially culinary herbs.

Julie: What’s the most important advice you can give to other aspiring authors who want to publish their first book?

Penny: Don't give up! Even if you write something that is outside of the box of the standard publishing world (like a 55,000 word light paranormal Christmas-themed romance about Santa Claus!) it is still possible to get it published. There are a lot of paths to publication, and it's worth exploring all the avenues. Most importantly, have fun! If you're not having fun with your writing, then you're doing something wrong.

Thank you Penny for taking the time out of your very busy schedule for this interview! Everyone, please check out Penny's sites below, and you can purchase her e-book below at:

Sweet Inspiration

Penny's Other Sites:

Penelope's Blog

Penny's Website

Now for the contest!

In keeping with the spirit of Penny's book and the whole theme of baking cookies, my good friend Kate, real-life baker extraordinaire of Aunt Cake's Cookies will ship to the winner of this contest an assortment of some of her famous and truly delicious and remarkable homemade Christmas cookies to anywhere in the U.S. (sorry for those of you outside the US). Each person who comments on this post will be entered into the giveaway once! Please post your email for me so I can contact the winner who will be randomly chosen when the contest is over at midnight December 16th!

Thanks again Penny for the fun interview, and everyone check out her book, it's a lot of fun and perfect for the season!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (audio)

Book Description:
When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers -- with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another. The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building's other residents.

There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including -- perhaps -- their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.

Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life -- even after death.

Symmetry. Cemetery. Symmetry. Cemetery. Highgate Cemetery in London is the backdrop of this disturbing yet compelling drama involving life after death and the spiritual bonds between twins. In addition, it brings up the question of resurrection - is it possible? And that age old adage - "be careful for what you wish for, you just might get it."

The above synopsis is pretty accurate of the plotline. I liked the book, but if you're thinking this is going to be like The Time Traveler's Wife - the author's previous book, forget it - it's not even remotely similar. The writing and characterizations are well done, but this is not a love story, it's more of a cautionary tale. Most of the characters in this book experience the sense of being trapped, whether it's self imposed or involuntary. The common thread throughout the book is getting oneself out of the trap and to what lengths must one go, to do it.

The story revolves around the death of Elspeth Noblin. Her lover, Robert is devastated and mourns her passing. Before she died, she told him that she was leaving her flat in London to her two nieces - twins from Chicago. The twins come to London and they are strange girls. They have flaxen blonde hair, dress the same way (though they are 21 years old), sleep together in the same bed, eat the same things and look like they're about 12 years old - they're odd. Plus, I just didn't like them very much because of their oddity. Nothing about them was appealing to me. It's like they were joined at the hip and their voices were flat and they sounded like annoying teenagers. While living in the apartment, which happens to look over Highgate Cemetery where Elspeth is buried in the family crypt, they get to know Elspeth's neighbors, primarily Martin who lives upstairs and has OCD, he cannot leave his flat due to his disease. Robert, their neighbor below, still suffers from losing his lover, Elspeth.

I can't say I really liked any of the women in this book, with the exception of Martin's wife, Marijka, who leaves her husband, Martin, because she cannot live with him anymore and his OCD behavior. She is Dutch and moves back to her native Amsterdam, escaping from the trap of the apartment and his constant cleaning and counting. She still cares for him, but has given up, she must get out for her peace of mind, she cannot continue this way with her life. She is strong and takes the initiative. They talk on the phone occasionally, one "dinner date" they had was especially poignant. I enjoyed Martin and Marijka's story. It was my favorite part of the book, even though it was a sideline.

The other married couple we meet, Edie and Jack in Chicago, is very different. Their life is portrayed as your typical sort of mundane American existence. Trapped in suburbia. There was one mention of Edie listening to audiobooks while doing her needlepoint while Jack surfs the internet in another room - eek! That's sound just like me! A little too close to home! Little do we know, there is more to their marriage that is part of the big, bad, dark secret beween Edie and Elspeth that led to their falling out 20 years earlier. What was the big secret that involved Jack who we learn dated both of them?

Edie and Elspeth are not likable, plus there is this deep dark secret about them. Twins themselves, you can't help but compare them to the other twins, Valentina and Julia, who are just as unlikable. I kept trying to think, which one was their counterpart. Both sets of twins are similar to each other and both make damning mistakes in their lives that will change them forever.

Robert's story is more complicated and mixed up with the twins. The twins resemble their aunt Elspeth very much. Robert misses Elspeth and avoids meeting the twins at first, he just doesn't think he can handle it - so he follows them around London without their knowing who he is. Robert is lost. He still functions, yet, he's fumbling along, not sure what to do with his life or what he wants. Once they meet, he warms to Valentina and begins to date her. "Mouse", as her sister, Julia (the bossy one) calls her is meek and has let Julia boss her around all her life. She is also sickly and has asthma, she's the weaker of the two - or rather is seems that way at first. She feels trapped and under Julia's thumb. Julia is used to taking care of Valentina and wants to keep it that way.

Then we have Elspeth's point of view in the story. After she dies, she returns to her flat as a ghost. She's stuck there and cannot leave it. She is literally trapped. At first she can barely do anything except float around, but soon she is able to move objects and once the twins move in, she is able to eventually make herself known to them - and Robert. She is friendly, not a scary ghost or anything. She's herself, but just stuck in the flat, bored and dying for conversation. She'd love to get out and about if she could. Robert, naturally is fixated with her ghost at first, using a makeshift OUIJA board and automatic writing to communicate with her. It's an unatural relationship obviously, but neither is willing to end it. Their predicaments are similar, yet Robert has a way of getting out of his rut, but chooses the wrong path. He's trapped due to his own weakness. I wasn't crazy about Robert, at times he was just so malleable he needed to stand up for himself. Another weird thing about Elspeth's ghost was the twins didn't seem to mind the fact that Elspeth could see and hear them in the flat all the time. The twins, being twins, didn't seem to miss their privacy at all. I would have been freaked out! I would have stayed out of the apartment as much as possible! Another reason why I didn't like the portrayal of the twins - so bizarre!

Meanwhile, the twins are having relationship problems. It's as if they are married, and Valentina wants a divorce. She doesn't want to do everything Julia wants to do anymore, she wants her own life and go to design school. After seeing what happened to their pet cat, she gets the crazy idea of "dying" with Elspeth's help and then having Elspeth resurrect her. It's complicated and completely ridiculous and asinine and I thought the book took a turn for the worse with this change in the plotline. Plus, it was just creepy. In addition, the revelation of the big bad dark secret between Elspeth and her sister, Edie also made me doubt whether I liked this book or not. Still, despite the outlandishness of it all, I had to see it out to the end. I needed to finish it up and see how this bizarre story would wind up. I guessed it pretty much, but it did have a touch of irony about it. Let's just say, everyone gets what they deserve at the end, and I wound up appreciating it for it's originality, even though I disliked the majority of the characters in it. If I hadn't read The Time Traveler's Wife, I probably never would have given this book a second look.

I listened to this on audio and really liked the narrator, Bianca Amato. I can recommend it. She did a great job with all the accents - American for the twins and their mother in Chicago, and then the British accents, mostly the men, Martin and Robert, and she was very good at Marijka's Dutch accent. She made me really like Martin, despite his OCD tendencies of the contant washing and fear of leaving his apartment. He was urbane, charming, interesting! Robert was more needy and pliant, completely under the thumb of Elspeth, in real life and in her ghostly form. All the characters had their foibles and were kind of messed up in some way, except for the elderly couple that ran the cemetery that were friends and confidantes of Robert's.

The question of resurrection with Valentina's decision to die, and the outcome of their plan brings up some questions. Is sacrificing a human life worth it, if you can resurrect another? And how do you live with yourself if you're involved in some kind of scheme to carry it out? Is it murder? Is it suicide? What is is? Another issue is the miracle of twins - do twins really have some kind of spiritual bond between them? Can this bond be a trap, or more like a gift? I read over and over in books about this connection - does it really exist? Is anyone out there a twin that can attest to it? To be honest, I'm getting a little tired of these "twins" stories that I've read in the past two years. It's getting old.

But, despite all my questions and criticisms, I recommend this book if you're looking for a well written, different, macabre, thoughtful sort of tale. It's quirky with interesting characters and a well developed storyline. I even learned a little about Highgate Cemetery to boot. Cemeteries - the ultimate trap in the end, isn't it? Give it a try if you're in the mood.


A Kingdom of Dreams by Judith McNaught

Book Description:
From sweeping passion to taut suspense, Judith McNaught has entertained millions with a stunning array of emotions in nine dazzling bestsellers. In this beloved classic, "one of the best ever" (Rendezvous), two defiant hearts clash in a furious battle of wills -- in a glorious age of chivalry. Abducted from her convent school, headstrong Scottish beauty Jennifer Merrick does not easily surrender to Royce Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore. Known as "The Wolf," his very name strikes terror in the hearts of his enemies. But proud Jennifer will have nothing to do with the fierce English warrior who holds her captive, this handsome rogue who taunts her with his blazing arrogance. Boldly she challenges his will...until the night he takes her in his powerful embrace, awakening in her an irresistible hunger. And suddenly Jennifer finds herself ensnared in a bewildering web...a seductive, dangerous trap of pride, passion, loyalty, and overwhelming love.

My first book by Judith McNaught, I really enjoyed this medieval. Reminiscent of the medievals I've read of Julie Garwood I instantly liked the heroine, Jennifer, though "the Wolf" took a little more getting used to. This book came out in 1989 and it shows. For one thing our heroine's name. Is it me, or is Jennifer just too modern a name to have been around during medieval times? I know it was a very popular name in the 1980's, so maybe that's it. And it also bothered me that Royce always called her Jennifer in the beginning, not milady, or Lady Jennifer, just Jennifer - which was just not done back then. And then Royce was sleeping in the same tent as her all the time when she was still held captive by him - and no one seemed to raise an eyebrow? These little historical inaccuracies bugged me, but it didn't ruin the book - but still!

The basic gist of the story is Royce is a great knight and landowner in England, a close friend to the king (Henry VII). His brother mistakenly captures Jennifer and her sister from the abbey where they live in Scotland because their father is their enemy. Much happens, and Royce winds up bedding Jennifer (willingly, though she was coerced into it) and it gets out and he has to marry her, but she's still labeled the whore of Scotland. Due to much misundersandings she hates him after this, but is still drawn to his vigor and sexual magnetism. He thinks she is a scheming bitch and lied to him from the beginning and had set a trap for him. She didn't, all she was guilty of was walking up a hill with her sister and getting captured! Eventually love triumphs over all the political and familial tensions they both have to undergo. It's a great story with two powerful leads as our hero and heroine. Jennifer is a good match for Royce and I liked the way she was strong and could stand up for herself and wasn't some shrinking violet under his gaze. She really had some nerve, particularly her antics in sewing his clothes!

Royce was no nonsense. Used to being a conquering warrior, it's time for him to give it up. He wants to settle down at his beautiful castle, marry and produce heirs. Sounds simple, but it isn't for him. Just marrying Jennifer was a trial! Then, once they are married, they must try and overcome their distrust for one another. Just when it looks like they're going to - something happens to ruin it! On top of that, every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to fight the great Royce Westmoreland and in an exciting build up, Royce must fight many at a mock joust which turns out to be more than he bargained for. Not only is he fighting for his life, he's fighting for the love of his life and her acceptance and love for him. Of course, there is a happily ever after ending, but there was a lot of angst and tension getting there. Through much of the book, there is some humor and irony mixed it with it as well as the usual historical aspects of medieval times with horses and swords kings and what not. Oh, there's a fair amount of sex too! *grin*

I am definitely planning on reading through the rest of her backlist, particularly the rest of this Westmoreland series. I'd always heard of Judith McNaught and I'm sorry it took me so long to get around to reading one of her romances. Now I know why she is such a legend, this really was a good book, a well developed storyline, great characters, humor, passion, I enjoyed this medieval romance very much!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig

Book Description:
The Pink Carnation, history's most elusive spy and England's only hope for preventing a Napoleonic invasion, returns in Lauren Willig's dazzling imaginative new historical romance. The Masque of the Black Tulip opens with the murder of a courier from the London War Office, his confidential dispatch for the Pink Carnation stolen. Meanwhile, the Black Tulip, France's deadliest spy, is in England with instructions to track down and kill the Pink Carnation. Only Henrietta Uppington and Miles Dorrington know where the Pink Carnation is stationed. Using a secret code book, Henrietta has deciphered a message detailing the threat of the Black Tulip. Meanwhile, the War Office has enlisted Miles to track down the notorious French spy before he (or she) can finish the deadly mission. But what Henrietta and Miles don't know is that while they are trying to find the Black Tulip (and possibly falling in love), the Black Tulip is watching them.

I really enjoyed this 2nd book in the Pink Carnation series, though I was not as crazy about it as the first.

This is the story of Miles and Henrietta. Henrietta is Richard Selwick's sister (from the last book) and she is aiding her friend, Jane, in France who is the Pink Carnation. Henrietta likes to think of herself as a spy, but she's really just a young Regency socialite that's looking for some fun and excitement in addition to the many balls and teas that she attends, most of the time with her brother's best friend, Miles.

Now Miles came across as sort of a big blundering puppy dog in the last book, so it was hard for me to cotton up to him as our hero in this one, but I noticed he appears much more handsome and heroic in this book, with the body of Michealangelo's David and height that even puts off The Scarlet Pimpernel! Blonde hair that tends to flop into his eyes, he is a good man and much more clever than he lets on, though he does have a tendency of doing some stupid like things undercover, but for the most part we like him and hope he and Henrietta open their eyes and realize they're meant for each other. I liked this pair, Hen reminded me of a Julia Quinn heroine, but Miles could have been a bit more dashing for my taste, but he's not bad at all, really, I just still have a soft spot for Richard, the Purple Gentian from Book 1.

There were many amusing bits in this book, a mystery of who the Black Tulip is (I guessed it) though I was a bit confused over the ending and who was Vaughn's real wife.

Meanwhile, there is still the ongoing contemporary story of Eloise and the maddening Colin Selwick. In this book, they're down at his country estate and she gets her hands on the letters of Henrietta and Miles and Jane. Things are starting to heat up between Colin and Eloise, but as usual, just when they're about to kiss - uggh, her cell phone goes off - ouch! I cringed and died for her - the moment was lost - but that doesn't mean there won't be many more! I love this part of the story too and find the storyline appealing and very funny - reminds me so much of Bridget Jones.

I recommend this fun series. If you like humor, intrigue, Regency, a little sex and a dash of contemporary in the storyline, this series will fit you like a glove! I found the secret code meaning at the beginning of each chapter especially clever! I'm eager for the next in this series, which I'll be listening to on audiobook.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Audio Book Reading Challenge

This is a challenge that is right up my alley, especially now that I'm no longer listening to the Outlander Series non-stop in one giant loop on CD, (as I had done for the past four years). Now, I can tackle a lot of books I'm been meaning to read, but didn't think I'd ever get around to. Plus, it's so convenient to upload the audiobooks onto my iTouch.

Check out the challenge at Royal Reviews.

Challenge Guidelines:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. There are four levels:

- Curious – Listen to 3 Audio Books.

- Fascinated – Listen to 6 Audio Books.

- Addicted – Listen to 12 Audio Books.

- Obsessed – Listen to 20 Audio Books.

3. Audio books only.

4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010

I'm going for the Obsessed Level. I'll post them as I read them, and show them in my sidebar as I go along with a wrap up at the end - wish me luck!

Plug in that earphone and dig into a good book!

Across a Wild Sea by Sasha Lord

Book Description:
He is Xanthier O'Bannon--cast out Scotsman, marauding sea captain, feared by all. He has lost his land and birthright--and has nothing left but pride and a lust for revenge. She is Alannah - a blind, ethereal beauty with an uncanny affinity for the horses that roam wild across the island she calls home. Raised by a strong woman, Alannah has known nothing but peace in her soul...

But when a violent storm casts Xanthier ashore, Alannah innocently surrenders to an untamed desire. And Xanthier makes a promise to protect her--never suspecting how that simple vow will transform his life...

Uggh, another book that has been on my TBR list for over a year and I'd heard such good things about this one! Unfortunately, I was misled.

The heroine, Alannah, is blind and lives on an island with only an old woman who found her when she was a baby. Alannah grows up having no idea who she really is or what were the circumstances of her being set adrift in a small boat as a young baby. She's incredibly naive when it comes to the rest of the world, but on her own island, which is off the coast of Scotland, (which no one has discovered yet, amazingly enough) she is an expert rider of wild horses and can pretty much take care of herself. Her blindness is not a hindrance to her in most matters, she gets on fine without eyesight.

Then enters our hero. Xanthier is shipwrecked and winds up on the island. To put it bluntly, he is a jerk. I didn't like him at all. But, miraculously, when he meets Alannah, and later discovers she is blind, (it takes him forever to even realize it, btw) he is instantly attracted to her and her blindness and they frolic together and she teaches him how to be blind too and use his senses blindfolded as they skip through the forest. La-dee-da. In real life, (aka in Scotland) Xanthier is a cruel Scottish warrior with a secret of why he has nothing to do with his family and gone to sea. But, on the island, he is tranformed! He is a kinder and gentler warrior. Eventually, the old woman that raised Alannah dies, and Xanthier and Alannah become lovers. She takes to it like a duck to water - she seems to be quite a natural at sex - lucky for Xanthier.

Anyway, before long, his men who have been in search of Xanthier find him on the island and that's when Xanthier loses any gentleness he gained on the island and becomes the ugly warrior again - literally. He sustained some injuries in the shipwreck so his face is burned and he has a large hideous scar - but Alannah can't see it, how convenient she is blind. But, hell bent on obtaining Alannah's island (for her) and going back there to live with her, he basically kidnaps Allanah (and her horse) and takes them to Scotland and keeps her locked up on his ship while he takes care of some business with the King of Scotland, such as asking his permission to marry her and go live on the island. Of course, does he tell her of his intentions? No! She is naturally furious with him and now hates him (well, not really, but she's very angry with him!) Blind though she is, she escapes with her horse and miraculously winds up running into Xanthier's five year old daughter who he has nothing to do with and has left in the care of his twin brother. Alannah befriends the little girl and is taken in by Xanthier's brother (though they have no idea Alannah knows Xanthier) and he and his wife help her find her long lost family and solve the mystery of her origins.

She's taken to the King's court and there she and Xanthier meet again, and she finds out she's an hereiss! Lots of confusion, miscommunication and subterfuge abounds. A plot to kill her and a daring horserace become part of the plotline in which she rides her horse (blind!) to try and keep her island. The nasty (former) heir to her estate now hates her (hence, the murder plot), but he too is struck by her beauty and instead of killing her, he forces her to agree to marry him or else he'll kill Xanthier, whom she still loves. Why she loves him I don't know, other than the fact he's the first man she's ever come into contact with and the sex is great. I'm sure having sex with him whenever they are alone together helps his case, despite the fact he's such a jerk and puts his foot in his mouth whenever he's around Alannah. Out of love, she agrees to marry the awful ousted heir (whose name I cannot remember) and there is lots of angst, a fight and a somewhat predictable ending. I won't bore you further with the details. This was a waste of my time. The writing itself wasn't bad, but I could not get past the fact I couldn't relate to the hero or the heroine. She was a strong woman, yet totally caved at the idea that this ogre could kill Xanthier so easily. As I've said before, I didn't care for Xanthier at all and it was hard to buy into the idea that when he's on the island he's no longer a jerk. Yeah, right, how long will that last once they're married?

Although I stuck with it, I'm sorry this romance wasn't better after having been on my list forever, but I read it quickly (less than 2 days), finished it, and I can chalk up another for my TBR list. Ergh!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sweet Inspiration by Penny Watson

Book Description:
What if the legend of Santa Claus is in fact, true? What if Santa has five big strapping sons who help him run his empire? Five single, sexy sons looking for romance...

Nicholas Klaus is a master pastry chef, a strict disciplinarian, and the eldest son of the legendary Santa Claus. One look at cafe owner Lucy Brewster sends him into an unexpected tailspin of lusty desires. When Lucy is injured, Nicholas makes a decision that catapults their lives into turmoil...

Lucy Brewster, the free-spirited proprietor of Sweet Inspiration, has a flair for concocting sugary confections but no time for adventure. She gets more than she bargained for when she awakens in the North Pole...rambunctious elves, a fitness-obsessed Santa, and the man of her dreams. Does she have what it takes to become the next Mrs. Klaus?

Now that Thanksgiving is over and we're officially into the Christmas season, amidst the hectic craziness of shopping, decorating, party going and party planning, there's nothing I love better than to take a break from the holiday frenzy and snuggle up before a roaring fire with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book - or rather - a good romance. I thoroughly enjoyed this sinfully delicous, fantasy romance by debut author Penny Watson that was original, sexy, well written and ... inspiring in more ways than one! ;)

This is the story of Nicholas Sebastian Klaus, the eldest son of the Santa Claus, who will one day take over the "family business" as tradition dictates. But, not only is Nicholas the heir to his father's vast enterprises, he is an exceptional baker, who spends his time overseeing Klaus Küchen, the extraordinary North Pole bakery under the domain of magical elves and Santa. He travels the world searching out the best ingredients, recipes and food from all over. Will he be able to set aside his love for baking and assume the mantel of his father and become the next Santa Claus?

His travels bring him to Eston, New York, a small upstate town that has a small cafe, Sweet Inspiration. Following up on a tip that the cafe's sugar cookies are the best to be had, he goes to sample them. As soon as he meets the owner and chief baker of the cafe, Lucy Anne Brewster his world is turned upside down. Lucy, a petite redhead with a heart of gold and a loyal following is unexplainably drawn to Nicholas as well. Erotic thoughts of him pop into her head and she wonders who this quiet, good looking, large man with a beard is, and why has he been frequenting her store every day for the past two weeks? Little does she know that he's been having erotic dreams of her as well: pastry cream, red lacy bras and, erm, sugar cookies crumbled over her ... well you get the idea!

She and Nicholas eventually meet and he comes to her aid and helps her with a huge order of cookies that need to be made overnight. That's not all he does. He is falling for her hard and goes out of his way to endear himself to her. They lose no time in getting their first kiss out of the way - Nicholas knows what he wants.

“My God, you are a delectable treat. I want to eat you up.”

Aptly put.

I loved this scene, one of my favorites. Ms. Watson is adept at conveying her hero and heroine's loneliness, neither one has a special someone, they've been too busy with their lives. This is a great lead up to their kiss and discovery of each other - wham! Suddenly the dam has broken, this is what they've both been waiting for and they can't keep their hands off each other! After a delicious first kiss, amidst a kitchen full of apples, I loved it how they blurt out the fact that they've both been dreaming of each other for weeks! When she's too tired to barely stand on her own two feet from working most of the night on the cookie order, Nicholas makes her a sumptuous gourmet dinner and then sweeps her off those tired feet ending in a sizzling night of passion together. But, things don't exactly end up being happily ever after. The next morning, due to a series of unexpected events that befall Lucy, Nicholas has no choice and disobeys the cardinal rules of where he lives by using magic on her. She wakes up at the North Pole in his hometown of Glasdorf to find elves, four other strapping and good lookng Klaus brothers, an unexpectedly buff Santa Klaus and his hip wife, Alena. Will Lucy run away screaming or embrace this magical life that is both foreign and welcoming?

Not only was this story fun to read with it's whimsical touches of fantasy interspersed with reality, it left me craving Christmas cookies and pastries nonstop due to all the luscious descriptions throughout the story of Lucy and Nicholas' confections. They all sounded delicious and made my mouth water - it definitely got me in the mood to make some Chrismas cookies of my own! The story and background of Glasforf was endearing and the legend of Santa with it's German influences and elfin theme was both interesting and gave it an air of authenticity - although of course, we all know there's no such thing as Santa Claus in real life - don't we? Or do we... ;)

Give this heartwarming story a try, a quick read, it's available in ebook format through The Wild Rose Press here and is released today, just in time for the holidays! This is the first in a series in which each one of the five Klaus brothers get their own stories. Ms. Watson is already working on Oskar Klaus' story, Sweet Magik, which I can't wait to read, though Gregor is my favorite of the bunch (besides Nicholas, of course!) I'll also be interested in seeing what the covers look like - this one was to die for!


Click here to purchase Sweet Inspiration

Penelope's Blog

Penny's Website

A special thank you to Penny Watson and The Wild Rose Press for making this ebook available to me for review.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (audio)

Book Description:
In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political power.

England in the 1520's is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king's freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

I was curious about this book, especially since it won the Booker Prize and was getting a lot of buzz in the literary world. I can't say I'm an expert on Henry VIII and his great matter, but I know enough about it, having read a few books that go over the whole thing, The Autobiography of King Henry VIII by Margaret George in particular, which I adored. Plus, I am a fan of the miniseries The Tudors on TV, (at least for the first two seasons), though it is rife with innacuracies. I chose to listen to this book on audio, even though I was sent a copy of the hardcover by the publisher. I'm glad I did, I really enjoyed listening to it and the actor, Simon Slater, did a great job narrating. He was a master at all the various characters and their accents, I found it easy to discern who was speaking. Cromwell's voice was always easy to point out and identify with, but he did an exceptional job with Thomas More, Cranmer and Cardinal Wolsey's voices as well.

Wolf Hall is the story of the rise of a man, Thomas Cromwell, who comes from nothing and rises to nearly the highest office in England, becoming King Henry VIII's right hand man. Thomas, the son of a brutal blacksmith in Putney leaves home as a young teenager after being beaten by his father. He makes his way in the world at various things, learning the wool trade, learning to fight as a mercenary in the French army, studying in Italy, he is a renaissance man, though no one will admit it. To all the nobles and peers he will always be a blacksmith's son. Renown for his great memory and ability at organization he is taken on by Cardinal Wolsey and his household. Here he learns his true calling as a master of politics with the unique point of view of seeing how Wolsey ran the kingdom for Henry VIII. Cromwell meets numerous dignitaries, ambassadors and courtiers, honing his talent for discretion and diplomacy. Through it all, Cromwell stands by the Cardinal, even when it's clear the Cardinal is out of favor with the king. But, Cromwell walks a fine line and places himself in a position to be able to remain at Court and be "useful" after Wolsey leaves the court and eventually dies. Cromwell's reputation and talent becomes known to the King who takes him on as one of his courtiers, eventually leading up to becoming his secretary, a great and important job. Cromwell becomes rich under the king and is able to provide for his family and the various wards he looks after. In my mind, the basic gist of the story is how can it be that a man from nothing can rise to the power that he did in Henry's court? It seems inconceivable, but it truly happened.

Now, there's much more to this book than just Cromwell's rise in power. We are sympathetic to Cromwell from the first. By the way, he is always referred to as "he," the pronoun is always used in regard to Cromwell, as if he is some kind of deity. This was a bit disconcerting at first, but I got used to it, I imagine it was more bothersome in print. Cromwell is a family man, taking care of his entire household and we feel for him many times, first when his wife dies, and then his daughters and sisters. But, all the while, he's never maudlin, often matter of fact, a realist with a dry way of looking at life. He keeps moving on and upward, though he is likable as his power increases, you don't get the feeling that he is a money grabbing greedy opportunist like all the other courtiers and advisors surrounding Henry, particularly the Boleyns.

Often I appreciated the dry wit that came out in his thoughts and phrasing, especially in regard to Thomas More. More comes across as a self righteous prig, with Cromwell as the sympathetic hero, a realist, a survivor, a man with common sense. The book ends, much to my disappointment, with the demise of Thomas More, who refuses to give in and accept the king's marriage to Anne Boleyn and all that goes with it. I've heard that Ms. Mantel wrote this book to counteract A Man for All Seasons which portrays More as somewhat of a saint. She does a good job at undoing that image of More here. Cromwell does not come across as a saint either, he is a bit of an opportunist, though he has a way about him that is charming and self-deprecating. I really liked him, he was human, kind and caring, not the monster he is so often portrayed as in history books and movies.

I guess one of my main gripes about this book is that for most of it, we are with Cromwell, and his rise in power and wealth. It's all about Cromwell, and then in the last part of the book, suddenly it all shifts to More! Once again, Thomas More becomes the center of attention - even here in Cromwell's story! It's all about More, More, More! I found it unfair that we are reading all about likable Cromwell and the whole long book ends with the death of snarky Thomas More, as if he is the center of the universe. I was disappointed that the story shifted to him and his last days in the Tower with Cromwell still trying to be good and noble, giving More a chance to change his mind (which he refuses to do.) Yet no matter what Cromwell may have tried to do, More came off as the good one, Cromwell, the lowly born thug. Still, I enjoyed More's character - his sneariness towards Cromwell, and Cromwell's inner thoughts as well towards More. Here, Cromwell's tutelage under Wolsey comes in handy. Never show your emotions, never let anyone think you are afraid of them. As Wolsey said as he was being arrested, (to paraphrase) "Look at my face, I am not afraid of any man!" You could say the same of Cromwell. Stone faced, rarely showing his true thoughts, he'd just take what was thrown at him and make some pithy or self deprecating remark about it. One particular rumination of Cromwell's on More that I was fond of (and he had many!) that made me chuckle was in regard to More's tendency for lookng shabby. Cromwell wonders why More couldn't seem to get himself a good shave, "Can't he make time, shorten his whipping schedule?" Cromwell was no fan of More's propensity for wearing hair shirts or More's nightly self whippings.

There were many great lines in the book that made me laugh out loud, the Duke of Norfolk had some zingers, "Mary?" (referring to the Princess of Wales) "that talking shrimp?" Many, many little gems throughout this book, too many to list, but Cromwell's observations of everyone were always right on the money, he saw through everyone, nothing escaped him. I enjoyed his banter with Mary Boleyn and Jane Rochford and his thoughts on Mark Smeaton as well. He wasn't one to gossip, unless it would serve a purpose. He was neat and orderly and had a mind and memory like a trap.

Well, enough about the wonders of Thomas Cromwell, you can read the book and read about them for yourself. I enjoyed this book very much, but I can't say it deserves all the accolades and attention it has gotten. Still, it is unique that it paints Cromwell as a sympathetic figure and makes him likable, and for that the book is a worthwhile read, especially if you are are into this time period. I hear the author is writing a sequel, the continuing story of Cromwell in Henry's court, I will definitely read it, though after learning to appreciate Cromwell, I'll hate to read about what happens to him eventually. :(

One last note about the title. Why did she name it Wolf Hall? Yes, yes, I know it's the name of the Seymour family estate, and we all know that Henry drops Anne Boleyn for Jane Seymour, but why name the book Wolf Hall based on the last paragraph of this book? Am I missing something?


Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Gardella Vampire Chronicles by Colleen Gleason

Book Description:
Beneath the glitter of dazzling Nineteenth-Century London Society lurks a bloodthirsty evil...

Vampires have always lived among them, quietly attacking unsuspecting debutantes and dandified lords as well as hackney drivers and Bond Street milliners. If not for the vampire slayers of the Gardella family, these immortal creatures would have long ago taken over the world.

In every generation, a Gardella is called to accept the family legacy and this time Victoria Gardella Grantworth is chosen, on the edge of her debut, to carry the stake. But as she moves between the crush of ballrooms and dangerous, moonlit streets, Victoria's heart is torn between London's most eligible bachelor, the Marquess of Rockley, and her duty. And when she comes face-to-face with the most powerful vampire in history, Victoria must ultimately make a choice between obligation and love...


I simply devoured this series - I loved, loved, loved it! Thank God for Kindle, because it made it so easy for me to just quickly buy the next book in the series and read it immediately! First off, I thought the covers were gorgeous! Aren't they? *scroll down to see pretty covers*

I was instantly smitten with the story of young Victoria Grantworth who is making her debut in Regency England. Only 20 years old she learns at the same time that she is a Venator. She comes from a long line of vampire killers, also known as Venators, it is her destiny and duty to take on this mantel to kill vampires and protect humans. She embraces the idea and doesn't mind it at all, except for when it means that she's going to have to keep it a secret from the Marquess of Rockley, the new man in her life that she is falling in love with and means to marry.

I loved Rockley. He was kind, handsome, gentle, noble - everything I wanted for Victoria. I wanted them to be a happy couple and hated the idea that she had to drug him and keep her secret life from him. I was also afraid that he would play right into the vampires hands and they'd use him against her, and naturally, that is exactly what happens. Her dear Aunt Eustacia prepares her for the possibility, but Victoria is still new at this and doesn't believe it. Max Pesaro, an enigmatic fellow Venator who's very good at scowling and showing his disapproval thinks Victoria is much too flighty to be a Venator and he warns her too that she can't have both. There is no way she can live a double life as a marchioness and as a Venator - inevitably she will have to choose - or the choice will be made for her against her will.

I screamed in agony over the ending of this can't put down book and I eagerly loaded up the next on my kindle!


Book Description:
The Gardella Vampire Chronicles continue as the glorious 19th-Century city of Rome gives rise to a new threat from the immortal undead....

Lady Victoria Gardella Grantworth de Lacy has been a vampire slayer for just over a year, balancing her life as a peer of Society with the dangerous role that takes her out on moonlit streets, stake in hand. She has learned brutal and heartbreaking lessons about the sacrifices that must be made in order to save humanity from the evil that secretly preys upon it, but she has not wavered in her vow to fight on.

Now, in Italy, a powerful vampire is amassing the power to control the souls of the dead. As Victoria races across Europe to stop what could be the most deadly army the Gardellas have ever faced, her unlikely companion is Sebastian Vioget, a man as tempting as he is untrustworthy. But when Victoria discovers that she has been betrayed by one of her most trusted allies, the truth will challenge all her powers as a Venator - and as a woman...

The story moves on, sadder and darker, Victoria is now a widow, and I must admit, I was so upset over the ending of the last book that I had to read on immediately - hoping that at the end of the series somehow, some way she could get her Philip back. In this book, Victoria travels to Italy and meets Lord Byron of all people, as well as some familiar faces from the last book. Among them is fellow Venator, Max who is engaged to some Italian blonde! Very, very upsetting ending, though not as sad as in the last book. I still loved all the delightful details, how her maid cleverly hides stakes in her hair before going out, and the idea of Victoria's vis bulla which is a little filigreed hanging crucifix that is pierced next to her belly button and gives her the strength she needs to fight the vampires. It is a tiny silver circlet dipped in holy water and blessed. Amazingly enough, after reading these books, I have a whole new appreciation for body piercing! I have this strange longing to get one myself! Eep!

This book, as I said, is darker and less romantic. Max, we find, has turned against the Venators and has joined the Tutela, a group of humans that aid and protect vampires and provide them with victims to feed on. What has happened? How can Max do this, and how dare he go and get engaged after all the grief he gave Victoria for doing the same thing in the last book! There's more to Max's story than we know. We also get to know Sebastian Vioget better, who owned a vampire cafe in London called the Silver Chalice. He's on the scene in Rome as well and is eager to woo Victoria. He is aware of her secret life and is willing to help her - but for favors in return. Sebastian always knows more than he's willing to divulge and he's not altogether trustworthy. As debonair as he is, I still prefer Max's brooding ways, but Max has plenty of his own problems that all come to a head at the end of the book with devastating results.

I really enjoyed the locale of this book in Venice and Rome and makes me want to go there all the more!


Book Description:
To gain access to the secrets of a legendary alchemist, Rome's vampires have allied themselves with creatures as evil and bloodthirsty as they are. The new leader of the city's vampire hunters-Lady Victoria Gardella Grantworth de Lacy-reluctantly turns to the enigmatic Sebastian Vioget for help, just as Maximilian Pesaro arrives to aid his fellow slayers, no matter what the sacrifice. Desire puts her at the mercy of Sebastian, while loyalty binds her to Max, but she does not know if she can trust either. Especially when a seductive vampire begins luring her into the shadows...

Another dark story, this one is still set in Rome, though it does have it's more whimsical moments in the form of Victoria's mother and two dowager friends who come to visit in Rome and put a definite cramp in Victoria's plans to fight off vampires at night.

Victoria is now the Illa Gardella, head of the Venators and we get more glimpses of the headquarters of the Venators in Rome and it's workings. We meet other Venators like, Brim, Michaelas and Zavier, a red haired (!) Scottish Venator. Alas, Zavier is too short to be a Jamie Fraser, though I was struck by the similarities of his highlander accent and red hair - something to think about... Zavier takes a liking to Victoria, but she has her hands full between Sebastian and now, after a devastating kiss - Max! I enjoyed much of this book, but I found Max's self sacrificing getting to be too much to take - enough already! This becomes the common theme in the books, though angsty and exciting I needed some lovin' between Victoria and Max, I just didn't feel completely comfortable with Victoria and Sebastian and their moments in various carriages - which also becomes an on-running joke throughout the series. Max's ex-fiancee, Sara Regalado and her vampire father play large roles in this book as well.

The end of this book was a shocker as Victoria succumbs to the charms of Sebastian's great-great-great vampire grandfather, Beauregard. It was devastating to read of Victoria in Beauregard's clutches, drinking blood and liking it! Eep! A haunting image in which all I could think of was "fix this!" But, the biggest and scariest part of this book is the cliffhanger and worrisome feeling that although Victoria is rescued, Victoria may have become a kind of vampire herself! I had to immediately download the next Kindle and read on!


Book Description:
Ruining Victoria's homecoming, a vampire stalks the streets of London - during the daylight. Not only is Victoria unable to detect the vampire with her heightened senses, but she's being framed as the prime suspect behind the killings.

Meanwhile, her heart is still divided between the enigmatic Sebastian Vioger and her fellow slayer Max Pesaro. The battle is made even more difficult by the legacy of a vampire's touch - a vampire who left in Victoria's veins boiling blood that forces her to fight evil on two fronts: against the new breed of undead threatening London and against the darkness within herself.

Ah, at last, things are heating up between Max and Victoria. Back in London, Max is back and so is Sebastian. Sebastian is now a Venator and we learn the truth about him. The new Marquess of Rockley (Philip's heir) has turned up, a Kentuckian. I had my hopes that the new Marquess of Rockley was going to be Philip incarnate - but alas, he is not. Not even remotely so. Still, I loved the tie in with King George IV's coronation and the idea that Princess Caroline is a vampire! How interesting!

Sara Regalado, now a minion of Lilith's, is back at it again and up to her dirty tricks, she turns out to be much worse than I ever suspected. Parts were hard to read in this book, some awful things happen to some of our favorites and there is a big showdown at the end, that finally solves the dilemma of what happens to Victoria and the tainted blood of a vampire that runs in her veins.

Again more sacrifices on Max's part, but at least we know he loves Victoria, except that he's always doing something to make you think, "Oh no! This is it! He's going to die now!" Max is no longer a Venator, which needed to happen in order for him to be released from Queen of the Vampires, Lilith, who has been obsessed with him and had him in his thrall. Without the vis bulla of a Venator, Victoria is constantly worried for him since he is not as strong without it, which drives him crazy. He has his pride and he hates to be in the position (especially with his rival, Sebastian, as a Venator now) of being "lesser" than Victoria.

Basically, he is willing to die and save his pride than remain alive and be weak. I am getting a feeling I know where this is going to lead into the last book. The basic key: Lilith must die - but how?

Book Description
Directly descended from the very first vampire hunter in the Gardella family, Victoria knows she must continue the lineage so humanity will have protectors against the undead. While Sebastian Vioget appears to be both the perfect warrior and lover to ensure the Gardella Legacy, Victoria cannot forget Max Pesaro - the former slayer still haunted by the vampire queen Lilith's obsession with him. But it is Lilith's obsession that may save all of humanity. Demons, enemies of both mortals and the undead, have found their way to earth. To defeat them, vampires and slayers must fight side by side. But Lilith wants Max in return for her cooperation - a small price for the world, but too high a price for Victoria.

At last the end, and it was so satisfying to finish, and it was so romantic between Max and Victoria throughout - at last! But, he is so frustrating with this self sacrificing and brooding! Still, I loved the ups and downs and roller coaster emotions I got in reading about the two of them while battling demons and vampires and learning about what Waywren really is (duh, so obvious, but it didn't even occur to me!). I must admit, I was a bit disappointed that there was no Philip coming back from the undead at the end. Despite my love for Victoria and Max, I was really hoping that somehow Philip could return - I loved him so!

I must admit, I was so wrapped up in the romance and relationship between Max and Victoria, the plotline of fighting the demons and closing the gap became secondary to me. And yes, I guessed what was the truth behind Gwen (I must admit I never really liked her all that much!) Getting the five rings and finally killing Lilith off seemed more as a sideline! Still, a lot happens though I was a bit disappointed in the whole Guilia/Sebastian 'saving her soul' plotline - it just seemed convoluted to me, and I was still hoping it was going to be a way to bring Philip back! *pout*

Still, I'm happy for Victoria and Max and the new little Gardella on the way. Loved what happens with her mother and all the loose ends neatly wrapped up.


A wonderful, wonderful series, who knew I've love something like this! I loved the historical aspect of it, the hackney coaches, the inumerable dresses described, the balls and tea things. I loved the thrills the chills, the battles, the swords, the blood and gore, the thrall of being bitten, the eroticism of it. I loved the cold feeling on the back of the neck when a vampire is near and that "poof" when a vampire is staked and the vis bulla that hangs somewhere on the body of a Venator. I loved the "at last" moment between Victoria and Max and the way he told her he'll make her forget her own name. *sigh* It's hard to believe I've never seen a single Buffy the Vampire Episode, and the only other vampire books I've read are the early ones by Anne Rice. Well, I feel a change in the air - a sudden chill, something... paranormal.

Watch out!

Overall series rating: 5/5
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