Monday, September 21, 2009

Gulp! It's almost here!

I'm getting twitchy and edgy - I can't stand the suspense! Tomorrow at this time I'll be reading the most anticipated book I've ever read - An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon.

She and her Outlander Series are the world to me - the whole theme of my blog - my raison d'etre. I think I'll probably devour it quickly and then immediately read it over again slowly and savor every word.

So, don't expect a review on it from me, or even a discussion. No excerpts, no discussion, no spoilers, nada! I am not worthy enough to even discuss it, except to say something like "Wow!" or "I love it!!" LOL!

For the next few weeks I will be pleasantly occupied doing my second favorite thing - reading a new Outlander book! Four years!


See you in a few!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Book Description:
Tough minded Jessica Trent's sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And When Lord Dain's reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising, and public, position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction... Damn the minx for tempting him, kissing him...and then for forcing him to salvage her reputation! Lord Dain can't wait to put the infuriating bluestocking in her place -- and in some amorous position. And if this means marriage, so be it -- though Sebastian is less than certain he can continue to remian aloof...and steel his heart to the sensuous, head strong lady's considerable charms.

This is one of those legendary romances I've heard about, always in the top 10 list of best romances out there - now I know why. It was great! Great story, hot alpha hero (with his own particular insecurities, as usual), smart, clever heroine who is hero's foil and downfall and a compelling romantic storyline that gets better and better as the book goes on. In addition, the bedroom scenes are sexy as well! ;) This was my kind of romance!

Book three in the Scoundrels Series by Chase, it is by far the best so far, though Book 2 was very good as well. This is the story of Lord Dain, born to a cold English lord and a high strung Italian noblewoman who runs off with her lover when he is eight, he has an unhappy childhood. Considered homely with a big nose, blackamoor dark skin and a body he hasn't grown into yet, he is teased as a boy at Eton. To make up for it he becomes an indomitable force to be reckoned with as a young man. He becomes known as the Devil and no one crosses him ever again. He amasses a fortune and develops a reputation, one who does not travel in polite society, prefering the salons of the demimonde: whores, courtesans, roues and other rakes like himself. Tall, broad in shoulders, handsome with dark Italian good looks and a Roman nose that Caesar would envy, he is not the sort to marry. Most women cringe or are scared of him.

Jessica Trent meets Dain while trying to get her brother, who has a major hero worship devotion to Dain, out of Paris and away from Dain's bad influence. Her brother is too much of an idiot to stop himself and smart, clever and determined Jessica is. She winds up being the perfect foil for Dain. She bests him over and over again and the two have an interesting courtship. She admits to herself right off the bat she is in lust with him, but he has a harder time of coming to grips with the fact he's besotted with her. One of my favorite parts of the book is a scene in the rain by a lampost and I like her nickname for him, Lord Beezlebub. The Great Dain doesn't even consider respectable women - much less a bluestocking sister of one of his annoying minions. The whole play between them is delicious and delightful to read about. Can Jess bring Dain down a peg? Will he lose his heart to her? What will happen next between them? I devoured this book in one day, it held my attention and I didn't want it to end.

Jessica and Dain, due to an unfortunate series of events are caught in a compromising position and must marry. The whole lead up to this event and the occurence is great to read and very entertaining. Their marriage night though is not what you'd expect. Dain becomes overwrought at the idea of deflowering a virgin and puts it off, but Jess is having none of that. She takes the bull by the horns and seduces him, it's very well done and I really enjoyed seeing how she gets around him, for he vows he will not be managed by a wife. Yet, over time he realizes, maybe being managed isn't such a bad thing afterall. There are compromises they both need to make and it was a pleasure to read this book all the way through to the end. The basic gist of the story is, can an uber male like Lord Dain overcome the series of heartaches he suffered as a child to let love into his heart and not repeat the same mistakes his father did? Can Jess tame this proud, brawling lummox of a man and show him how easy it is to open his heart?

Chase's heroines are all smart and clever women. Albeit virgins, they have backbones and are not shy and timid. That's one of the things I love about the women in her books, as well as their grandmother's who seem to be made of stronger stuff as well. I think I'd like to read romances based on them in their youth, they'd make good stories too! We also see some of the characters from Book 2, Captives of the Night although from a different perspective which I liked!

A great, great romance - a must read, I highly recommend it!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Rake's Guide To Pleasure by Victoria Dahl

Book Description:
True Pleasure…

Raised by a titled, yet degenerate, father, Emma Jensen never imagined the gambling lessons she learned as a child would one day serve her well. When she finds herself in dire need of money, she concocts the alias of Dowager Lady Denmore and sets off to bewitch London’s noblemen by engaging them in games of chance. The fact that respectable ladies do not gamble does not intimidate her in the least. But the darkly handsome Duke of Somerhart does—for he’s awakened a deep, sensual hunger in her…

Is Always Worth The Gamble…

The dashing Duke of Somerhart has the notorious reputation of being one of London’s most incurable rogues. When he meets the alluring Lady Denmore, he is immediately intrigued. Her recklessness and innocence intertwined titillates him as no other woman ever has. But what secret is the lovely Lady Denmore hiding? He’s determined to find out. But first he must seduce her until she surrenders completely to his most wicked desires...

I really enjoyed this Victorian romance set in England in the 1840's. The heroine Emma was not your usual virginal type. Emma was a gambler who was set on making as much money as she could get so she could invest it and then live quietly in a cottage by the sea alone and unfettered. Not what you'd expect from the notorious lady she poses as who is hell bent on betting on anything that moved. Little did she know she would catch the eye of Hart, the Duke, our hero. And what a swoonworthy hero he was, I wouldn't mind meeting this particular hero face to face, I tell you! Tall, dark and handsome in every way. The book sizzles with lots of chemistry and sexual tension between the two. A very worthwhile read with a good storyline, some blind alleys and I found myself caught up in it. There's a dark tale told here that is unfolds. I sympathized for both of them and what seemed like an impossible love that neither one was willing to admit to.

Plus, this is one of the most handsome heroes on a cover I've ever seen!

Sorry, not a long review this time, I have a very, very busy week, those easygoing days of summer are over and Fall is here with a vengeance!

4 of 5 stars

Friday, September 11, 2009

8 years

It was a beautiful clear day, the sky was a gorgeous blue, not a cloud in the sky. I had just dropped Will off at school. We had moved two weeks earlier into a new house in the same town and he was at a new school, but he loved it and he was just entering 2nd grade and was with all his friends.

I had settled in to finish painting a bookcase in our TV room white. I didn't have the TV or radio on and just as I'm getting into the painting the phone rings and it's my mother.

"Julie - have you heard from Bart?"

I'm surprised at the frantic sound in her voice. "Why would I hear from him? I just saw him before he left for his office?" What's gotten into my mother, "What's the matter?"

"Haven't you heard?"

"Hear what?"

"A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center!" I'm thunderstruck and it's hard for me imagine, much less believe it. I'm picturing a small prop plane crashing into one of the towers.

"Is anyone hurt?" I ask. I'm still clueless.

"Yes! It was an airline jet!" I'm in shock. "Have you heard from Bart?"

My heart lurches, "No!" I shout at her. "Let me go, let me call him, I have to call him!" I quickly hang up the phone. My hands are trembling, I turn on the TV that is right next to me, as I try and dial the phone and call him. I can't get him on the first try, I try again, I get his voicemail at this office - his office - across the street from the World Trade Center!

"Bart-call me! Let me know you're safe! I'm home!" I hang up. I'm watching the TV - the Today Show - they're talking about a second jet that has crashed into the other tower.

"No, no, no! Oh my God! Oh my God!" It's all I can say, as I watch thunderstruck. I bring my hand to mouth in horror. Images of debris falling from the towers before me, did Bart make it to work, has something fallen on him and killed him? What time did the first jet hit? I'm trying to calculate whether Bart would have been in his office or on the street? Where is he where is he where is he? I try calling him again and again - I just get the voicemail, I'm frantic. No answer on his cell, he never carries it.

I'm watching the news, anything for a look to see what's happening. I'm alone and trying to keep my head, but I'm so scared. Before I know it, my mother is walking through the door. She's nearby in the next town. She asks me if I've heard from him. I tell her I haven't been able to. They're talking terrorists now on the news - what's happening? What's happening? I hear jets flying overhead. The phone rings, it's a freind, asking me if I'm going to get Will from school - she's getting her kids. "No." I want to keep him there. He's safer there and I don't want him to see me so upset not knowing about Bart.

My mother and I go into the kitchen and sit down in front of the TV there. We're glued to it, and I have the phone in front of me, waiting for his call. A half hour has gone by, I'm frantic. The phone rings, I grab the phone, "Bart?!" It's my brother. He works in Newark, "Julie, have you seen the towers? It's amazing, I have a perfect view of them!"

I'm nearly hysterical, I tell him, I can't talk, I tell him I haven't heard from Bart yet - I'm crying now I HAVEN'T HEARD FROM BART I DON'T KNOW WHERE HE IS OR IF HE'S ALL RIGHT! I remind him Bart works right across the street at One Liberty.

"Oh man, I'm sorry, he'll be all right." and he quickly gets off the phone. My mother and I watch the first tower collapse. That's it, I lose it. I'm convinced he's dead. How can anyone live through something like that? If he's anywhere near there, how could he survive? It looks so devastating on TV. Then the next tower collapses, I remember watching Ashley Banfield and her glasses on TV reporting. I'm holding my mother and crying, we're standing and hugging each other and I'm just wailing - I sound like an animal, but I don't care. I remember seeing my neighbor walk down his driveway and he briefly looks in our kitchen window and sees me. He must know I'm crying because Bart is dead.

So many emotions are going through me, "What do I do? what do I do? What do I do?!" I cry to my mother - I'm really losing it - I'm hysterical. My mother shakes me and says right in my face, "You be brave, you be strong because you have a little boy who needs you." Shehe hugs me and I cry even harder and shut my eyes - I can't stand it. The thought of Bart dead, William fatherless, me a widow - all kinds of images are floating in front of me. "How will we find his body? We'll never find his body!" I've never felt like this before, my mother is holding me and trying to comfort me, shushing me as if I'm still a small child. I'm glad William can't see me. I'm glad he's at school. My brother Bob rushes in to the house. The front door is open since it's been such a beautiful day with the screen door unlocked. How can it be such a gorgeous day when Bart is dead?

I'm crying and sniffling and trying to pull it together, my bout of hysteria has subsided. Bob joins us in watching the TV. I'm hoping to see a glimpse of Bart somewhere, maybe he's alive - maybe he got away in time. All I can think of is Bart. We continue watching, my mother is holding it together for me. She's strong - the mother of six children - she's good at this. I'm not.

A few more people call over the course of the morning, friends asking if I've heard from Bart, they've heard from their husbands - assuring me he'll be all right. Finally, the phone rings at 12 pm, I answer it, it's not a caller id number I recognize - it's from New York!

"Bart? Hello? Hello?" No answer it went dead. "Bart? Bart" I'm screaming into the phone. I hang up. It rings again.

"Bart - hello?!"

"Julie!" It's Bart. ThankyouGodthankyouGodthankyouGod. I cry. He tells me he's all right. He started walking uptown as soon as the 2nd plane hit. He was outside and looking up and saw the huge fireball and immediately started walking away as fast as he could. He left everything back at his office.

"Julie, you can't believe the horrible things I saw," he tells me in a hushed voice.

He met up with some friends and they all walked up Fifth Avenue and not until they got to the 30's did phone service work again. They watched the towers fall from a bar somewhere. He was far away from them by then. Thank God. He sounds great - he's okay. We'll be okay. He has to get off the phone, he's borrowing someone's cell. He's heading over to the river to get a ferry to NJ. The tunnels and bridges are closed. I hang up, I'm a new person. I tell my mother and brother Bob and he eventually leaves knowing Bart's okay and we'll be all right now. Mom stays with me and we keep watching the news. One of my nextdoor neighbor comes by to see if I'm all right. She heard me crying. She looks fearful and embarrased. She's a nice older lady. I tell her Bart's okay, she's relieved and goes to tell the rest of the neighbors. They all heard me wailing before, I don't care if I made a spectacle of myself - it's okay now - Bart's okay!

I go get William from school as always at 2:45 and we walk home. He doesn't know much. I don't tell him about the bullet we dodged today. Mom is still at home watching the news. Will's watching with us and we're all watching and all of sudden Bart walks in the front door! It's 3:30 and he's never looked so handsome. Tan, wearing a button down shirt, no tie, his hair kind of tousled, my God - he never looked so good! I fly into his arms and hold him. He laughs and kisses me, tells me he's all right. He got a tan from waiting for the ferry in the sun, the lines were endless. When he got to Weehawken, he started hitchiking home and someone picked him up immediately. A former sailor in the navy who wanted to do his part. He drove Bart all the way home to our front door - 20 miles. My mother hugs him and leaves right away - knowing we need our time alone together. As soon as she leaves I burst into tears and hold him tight.

I've never been the same since that terrible, terrible day. I wrote this out a year ago and I still find it hard to deal with. We live about 20 miles west of the city, we have a gorgeous view of the NY skyline. For weeks and weeks I remember watching the smoke around ground zero, it went on forever. I can look at the skyline now, for two years I couldn't even look at it or go into the city, but as time went by, I got my courage back. Bart still works Downtown, he even went back to work at One Liberty after they restored and cleaned it (it had been a makeshift morgue on the ground floor).

We can never forget, be vigilent always.

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed My Life by Eve Brown-Waite

Book Description:
In this laugh-out-loud funny memoir, a pampered city girl falls head over little black heels in love with a Peace Corps poster boy and follows him -”literally -“to the ends of the earth.

Eve Brown always thought she would join the Peace Corps someday, although she secretly worried about life without sushi, frothy coffee drinks and air conditioning. But with college diploma in hand, it was time to put up or shut up. So with some ambivalence she arrives at the Peace Corps office,€sporting her best safari chic attire -“to casually look into the steps one might take if one were to become a global humanitarian, a la Angelina Jolie. But when Eve meets John, her dashing young Peace Corps recruiter, all her ambivalence flies out the window. She absolutely must join the Peace Corps - and win John's heart in the process. Off to Ecuador she goes and - after a year in the jungle - back to the States she runs, vowing to stay within easy reach of a decaf cappuccino for the rest of her days.

But life had other plans. Just as she's getting reacquainted with the joys of toilet paper, John gets a job with CARE and Eve must decide if she's up for life in another third world outpost. Before you can say, "pass the malaria prophylaxis," the couple heads off to Uganda, and the fun really begins-if one can call having rats in your toilet fun. Fortunately, in Eve's case one certainly can, because to her, every experience is an adventure to be embraced and these pages come alive with all of the alternatively poignant and uproarious details.

With wit and candor, First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria chronicles Eve's misadventures as an aspiring do-gooder. From intestinal parasites to getting caught in a civil war, culture clashes to unexpected friendships, here is an honest and laugh-out-loud funny look at the search for love and purpose,”from a woman who finds both in the last place she expected.

I really did enjoy reading this book, even though it took me forever to do it! Buying it on Kindle with every intention of reading it while working out at the gym, I thought I'd breeze through it! Ahem, not exactly, since I haven't been to the gym in over a month! But, I finally decided, I've just got to get into it and finish it, which I did today!

I have a few personal reasons for picking this book up, one is I have a sister who was in the Peace Corps in Iran (to be with the man she wanted to marry and the only way they could go together was if they were married) and I have a "do-gooder" niece who has been all over, not unlike Eve, first in S. America, then in Africa (with the man she loves) and now in India! I found there were many similarities in this book to my niece's story, and I wonder just how many Peace Corps and CARE volunteers really join up because they are head over heels in love and want to go for that reason!

I did laugh out loud reading Eve's memoirs, for one thing, she is the same age as me, and I could so relate, she even got married around the same time I did, and she had her first child the same year I did! I knew where her head was at, despite that I was living in suburban NJ, and she was living in the middle of nowhere in Uganda! This was a great book to give you insight as to what it's like for a city girl in America to suddenly go live in near poverty stricken lands, where no one speaks your language and danger is a way of life. When Eve first goes to Ecuador on her own, it's a bit frightening to her, and she eventually must leave due to the fact she nearly falls apart after a friend is raped and she must come to terms with her own memories of being molested, which she had repressed her whole life. Still, that is a minor part of the story, the main part is her love for John, her Peace Corps poster boy who she marries and goes to Africa with. John - or Saint John as she affectionately refers to him as, was born to be in the Peace Corps or some other similarly humanitarian type of world organization, and Eve willingly goes wherever he leads.

Their life in Uganda is different to say the least. They become friends with many other expats and live in the bush, hardly any electricity or running water, yet they play badminton and tennis daily and drink gin and tonics to keep the malaria away (although Eve still manages to come down with it.) We see Eve change from a total scaredy cat ninny who can't do anything on her own to an experienced young woman and mother who can host a dinner party, buy a fish in a busy marketplace and entertain her inlaws all in one day! Doesn't sound like much, but it's quite a feat in Arua, which is really a dirtwater town. The book is filled him humorous anecdotes and I totally could relate to Eve's squeamishness and fear of many things, as well as her woes as a young mother or the many different smells associated with living it up in the rough during a drought! Thank God she had her husband John and many friends and servants to help her. By the end of their three years in Uganda, she didn't want to leave and it was in her blood (along with the malaria.)

This was a departure for me, but I'm glad I read it to get an eyeful of what it's like living in a third world country. It makes you realize it's possible, yet it also really makes you realize just how poor and behind the times these countries are, and what a long way to go they have to catch up with the rest of the world - or whether it's ever going to be possible. So much of what we take for granted in the West is an absolute luxury in a third world country - this book really points it out and brings it home.

Give this book a try, it's an entertaining read and all true. I'm sure if I had been reading it in regular book form, I would have raced through it, it goes pretty fast, and Eve is very likable and unpretentious as is her writing, not a bit holier than thou or preachy - she's a natural!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Rebellious Desire by Julie Garwood

Book Description:
Of all the dukes in England, Jered Marcus Benton, the Duke of Bradford, was the wealthiest, most handsome -- and most arrogant. And of all London's ladies, he wanted the tender obedience of only one -- Caroline Richmond.

She was a ravishing beauty from Boston, with a mysterious past and a fiery spirit. Drawn to the powerful duke, undeterred by his presumptuous airs, Caroline was determined to win his lasting love. But Bradford would bend to no woman -- until a deadly intrigue drew them enticingly close. Now, united against a common enemy, they would discover the power of the magnificent attraction that brought them together...a desire born in danger, but destined to flame into love!

I really enjoyed this book, another Julie Garwood winner! All of her books that I've read and loved in the past were medievals, but this is my first book by her that is set during the English Regency Period. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it - but I loved it! Her hero was a bit on the domineering side, not open to suggestions or improvements upon his attitude, but that was the point of the story, will he finally come around and be considerate and trust his new wife, in other words in blind faith?

Caroline Richmond is the heroine, born in England and sent to live in Boston with her uncle and aunt and cousins at the age of four, she returns to England fourteen years later to be reunited with her father and to experience her first London Season with her cousin, Charity. As it turns out, Caroline is a crack shot with a pistol and helps rescue an English dandy being set upon by bandits. He is embarrased but grateful. I loved this moment in the book, btw, great surprise at the end of the chapter. His friend, the Duke of Bradford, comes on the scene shortly after the rescue and is immediately taken with Caroline. A cynic by heart, he is transformed and suddenly very interested in this new girl on the London scene. He does everything to make her "his." But, being the young virginal daughter of an earl, he must court her properly, even though he takes as many improper advances as he can get away with.

Caroline is overwhelmed by Bradford as well, he's huge, virile, masculine, commanding, and unfortunately stubborn and obstinate when he makes up his mind. As he and Caroline become closer and closer (and ultimately marry) he treats her unfairly. While she admits to him she loves him, he cannot say the words back to her. He jumps to conclusions when he sees her in the arms of another man, even though moments later he realizes she's unwillingly being mauled by the creep! He's a duke of the realm, and he not used to being crossed in his decisions and ways of thinking and handling himself. Caroline is also very stubborn and is bent on changing him for the better - but he doesn't want to be changed! She's angry at him a lot of the time, despite their passionate and hot forays in the marriage bed. They have a lot fights and it becomes tiresome after they are married because they're always at odds with one another, I just wanted to slap them and tell them to just get over it and give in! Pride gets in his way, and she has some unrealistic notions of how he should be. She knew what he was like when she married him, yet she's trying to change him! The crux of the matter is, is their marriage doomed if he can't trust her blindly, no matter what - and admit he loves her? Can she live with him and remain married to him if he doesn't change?

In the meantime, they're also trying to figure out who is trying to kill Caroline. Bradford means to keep her safe, yet he's also being too paranoid about it and ultimately hurting her feelings by not consulting her in what he's doing.

I did really enjoy this book, but I would have liked it a lot more if Bradford had not been so high and mighty and lording it over Caroline so much. She's likable and smart, though she starts out as a self-reliant cool, calm and collected heroine, once she meets Bradford she falls apart and loses her backbone. I was disappointed in the way she became with him, always doubting herself and crying and wishing he loved her. I wanted her to be more like her old self. But, since we have a happy ending and they clear everything up, I'm optimistic she finds her old self again.

Give it a try, if you like regencies and Julie Garwood, you'll probably really enjoy this book! She does a great job in describing the settings and clothing and Bradford is quite the swoonworthy hero - he's just got to be brought down a peg!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Deed by Lynsay Sands

Book Description:
An innocent young beauty finds herself the fulcrum of a struggle for feudal power. Along with her ample dowry, Emma finds herself promised to Amaury de Aneford, a landless knight whose able sword has preserved the King's crown—and whose rugged good looks make her heart skip a beat. But on the wedding day, as a rival knight gallops toward the bridal chamber, Amaury will find that making love to his naive new bride will take consummate skill. For in the conjugal bed, Emma is astonished to learn there is more to a wedding night than just a sound sleep - and more to true love than she's ever imagined.

A quick review of a cute medieval on the humorous side. My first romance by this author. Ditzy but good hearted heroine, Emma, who is borderline TSTL has been married for two years but has no idea of what really goes on in the marriage bed. Her husband (who I suspect must be gay, though we never find out) never properly beds her. She goes to King Richard (as in the Lionhearted) and ask him to make her husband do his duty. Richard does so, and the husband kills himself on the way to his wife. So, she's now a young and very pretty widow - and a very rich widow as well.

Amaury, our hero who is indeed rugged and handsome (but as dense as pea soup at times) is in need of his own lands. Bastard born, the King has now made him a duke and he's en route to marry the new widow Emma. Sight unseen, he's convinced she must be an ugly old hag, why else would her dead husband not have bedded her? Anyway, as soon as Amaury gets to her castle, he finds out how wrong he was about her and that they must wed and consummate the marriage immediately or else this other dastardly knight will try and marry her first. And so the mayhem begins...

Amaury must do "the deed" - in haste! Poor Emma has no idea what's in store for her. She was sweet, but really, really naive, to the point where she was borderline annoying. Still, I found the book amusing as these two must deal with each other's quirks and habits and get rid of a lot of pre-concieved notions of what makes a marriage.

I enjoyed it! A quick read with the sexy moments that were hot and some moments were funny as well. There is also the side story of who is trying to kill Amaury and how many times will his new young wife rescue him? I recommend it, and am eager to read the next book, The Key which I hear is hilarious.

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