Saturday, June 25, 2011

100 Followers Favorite Books Giveaway ends June 30th - Reminder!

Don't forget to enter my giveaway contest which is nearing it's end on June 30.  If you haven't entered yet, follow the link below or on the top left to enter my giveaway for 10 of my favorite books!  Contest ends June 30 at 11:59 pm EST.  Open to US residents only and you must be a follower to qualify.

Good luck, and leave a comment when you enter!

100 Followers Giveaway

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir by Dick Van Dyke (audio)

Goodreads Book Description:
Dick Van Dyke, indisputably one of the greats of the golden age of television, is admired and beloved by audiences the world over for his beaming smile, his physical dexterity, his impeccable comic timing, his ridiculous stunts, and his unforgettable screen roles.

His trailblazing television program, The Dick Van Dyke Show (produced by Carl Reiner, who has written the foreword to this memoir), was one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1960s and introduced another major television star, Mary Tyler Moore. But Dick Van Dyke was also an enormously engaging movie star whose films, including Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, have been discovered by a new generation of fans and are as beloved today as they were when they first appeared. Who doesn’t know the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

A colorful, loving, richly detailed look at the decades of a multilayered life, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, will enthrall every generation of reader, from baby-boomers who recall when Rob Petrie became a household name, to all those still enchanted by Bert’s “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” This is a lively, heartwarming memoir of a performer who still thinks of himself as a “simple song-and-dance man,” but who is, in every sense of the word, a classic entertainer.

When I was little the Dick Van Dyke Show was one of my favorite shows.  The reruns are still favorites of mine, I especially enjoy watching them nowadays on Netflix - instant gratification.  I grew up on the Dick Van Dyke Show.  Rob and Laura were the perfect married couple to me.  Laura was so pretty and Rob so funny, the whole scenario of the show was just perfect.  I loved the whole idea of being a comedy writer for the Alan Brady Show.  So many of the episodes were a scream.  My particular favorite was the one in which Laura gets her toe stuck in the bathtub faucet at a hotel while on a second honeymoon. 

To say the least, when I heard about this audiobook, I grabbed it and gobbled it up!  Narrated by Dick himself, it's an inside look at his unplanned career and his life in general.  He's a great guy and I really enjoyed learning about him.  He's exactly what I thought he'd be like: a genuinely good man and decent human being.   Listening to him on audiobook, I immediately thought he sounded older than I expected him to sound.  A slight slurring in his speech due to false teeth?  Maybe, maybe not.  Once that initial impression passed, he became the Dick Van Dyke of my memories - aka Rob Petrie.  He's now in his 80's but still working and keeping himself busy and sharp.    It was like having him join me in my kitchen over a cup of coffee and talking, talking, talking.  His narration is natural and easy - conversational and amusing. 

If I had to say there is a theme to Dick Van Dyke's memoirs it's that he marvels at the fact that he wound up in this kind of career and was blessed to be part of such a perfect TV show.  In fact, most of Van Dyke's life is a a charmed one.  He came from a very normal Mid-West sort of background, growing up during the Depression.  His stint in the army reminded me of Rob Petrie's army career.  He began to sing and dance and do his part entertaining troops at the tail end of WWII, though he never went overseas.  He married a home town girl, Margie and haphazardly joined a traveling act lip syncing to popular songs.  Their early married years had their ups and down financially until finally Dick got a few breaks and had a radio show in Atlanta.  From there, he landed a job in New York hosting some game shows until finally he got his big break starring on Broadway in Bye Bye Birdie

We get Dick's thoughts - and fears - of being in a Broadway show - a star, no less!  He's such a regular guy, I could just imagine what it must have felt like for him, starring with Chita Rivera and Dick Gautier.  The show was a huge success, but success didn't go to his head.  Still, very much a family man, he commuted from Massapequa, Long Island into the city.  By this time, he has a few kids and life is good.  Carl Reiner, the creator of the Dick Van Dyke Show saw Dick in Bye Bye Birdie and knew he was perfect for the role of Rob Petrie.  It was a no brainer.  He brought Dick and his family out to LA and so began TV history.

As Dick says in the first few lines of his book, if you're looking for scandals and tell alls in this book - look elsewhere.  Dick is just about as wholesome as he appears on screen.  If you're familiar with his role as Rob Petrie, then you know what Dick Van Dyke is really like.  He was Rob Petrie!  Over and over everyone says he was simply playing himself.  In addition to his TV career, he made a decision that he would not make any movies that he'd feel uncomfortable watching with his kids.  I admired him for this and sticking to his decision.  It probably prevented him from making a lot more money, but he still made plenty as it is and he had fun doing it too.  Dick honestly really loved his career and had fun.

I found it fascinating when he described making Mary Poppins. I loved him as Bert and for some reason, "Chim Chim Cher-ee" brings tears to my eyes to this day when I hear it.  It's a very nostalgic movie for me, one of my very favorites as a kid.  He mentions more than once what a lousy English accent he had for the role and how strenuous the role was as well.  His first meeting with Walt Disney was memorable and you can't help feeling he was very fortunate to be part of that very special movie.

But, in addition to the good things that happened in Dick's life, there's always a down side to things and one of the things that happened to Dick while in Hollywood was his propensity for drinking.  Before moving to Hollywood, he and his wife didn't drink at all!  But, he fell into the routine (as so many of us do) of having a drink or two after work when you get home.  One drink began to lead to another.  He never really thought he had a drinking problem, he never drank at work or during the day, it was only at home before and after dinner or at parties.  Many would say he was a social drinker.  But, at around the time he started to analyze his life, in his late 40's he realized he had a problem and got help and stopped drinking.  Interesting he chose not to go through AA.  It wasn't easy and he fell off the wagon several times, but eventually he stopped altogether, he just didn't like the way it was making him feel sick.   He stopped smoking too.  Around that same time, he fell in love with another woman.  He didn't expect it or see it coming and though he loved his long time wife, Margie, they had grown apart and wanted different things in life.  She eschewed the Hollywood life and she didn't even want him to act anymore.  She was happiest away from Hollywood, and they lived in Arizona for a long time.  He loved his acting career and longed to talk about it with someone who could relate to it.  That someone wound up being a young woman he got to know, Michelle, who became his partner for the next thirty years until her death from cancer.  (Ironically, she was Lee Marvin's ex-girlfriend who made the word "palimony" a household word.)

Even though Dick and Margie split, he was a gentleman about it, though he felt terribly guilty at first sneaking around behind her back with Michelle.  He made sure Margie was always taken care of for the rest of her life.  They remained friends and he was with her when she too died from cancer.  He's a good father, grandfather and great-grandfather.  I felt terrible for him when he described his eldest granddaughter's heartbreaking death when she was 11 years old from Reye's Syndrome.  He has a big heart and a sense of justice and equality.  No longer as politically active as he was for a time in the 1960's, he still helps many people, visiting and spending time in shelters with the poor and homeless.  I really, really like him!

This is a short audiobook, the book itself is less than 300 pages long.  It only made me like Dick Van Dyke even more.  There are loads of amusing anecdotes and observations in regard to his co-workers, Mary Tyler Moore, Morey Amsterdam, Carl Reiner, Walt Disney, Julie Andrews, Ann-Margret, Janet Leigh, Jean Stapleton to name a few.  It's a great look at Hollywood and the early days of TV in the 1950's and '60's.  I loved every bit of it, I only wish there had been more of it.  I admit, his later years weren't as interesting to me, since I never watched any of his later TV shows like Diagnosis Murder, but no matter what, he always remained a good man in whatever he did.

Anyone who is a fan of Dick Van Dyke should read or listen to this book, you'll love it too!  How can you not love it? It's Dick Van Dyke!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Legacy by Jeanette Baker

Book Description:
In Scotland to claim a castle she has inherited, professor Christina Murray meets the handsome man who may hold the key to the secrets of Traquair House, and to her heart. Then she travels through time to unveil the mystery of her family, only to find herself in grave danger.

Although I liked the gist of this time travel Scottish historical, I found Legacy a bit confusing and choppy in parts.  It's basically the story of a young woman, Christina Murray who has memories of three of her Murray ancestors who were put under a curse that would not allow them to marry anyone from another clan - the Douglas's.  Christina is an American who has just learned she has inherited a Scottish estate and has no knowledge of this curse or her ancestors.  She is perplexed and confused about why she, of all people, has inherited this estate, known as Traquair House. Things become even stranger as she begins to time travel back to the lives of these three women.

To complicate things further, a handsome Scottish neighbor, Ian Douglas (uh oh, he's a Douglas!) befriends her and soon they begin a romantic relationship and Christina promptly gets pregnant - something she never thought possible.   Ian is friendly enough and wonderful in many respects, but she suspects he's keeping something from her. She also wonders why Traquair House's housekeeper seems to dislike her - and what is the housekeeper's relationship to Ian?  After overhearing a conversation between the two, Christina is having doubts about him.  Is Ian only after the estate or does he truly care for her?

In addition to the present day storyline, the book is broken down into three different time periods and storylines from the past that parallel an important period in Scottish history.  Each part revolves around one of Christina's ancestors: Katrine, who lives during the times leading up to the battle of Culloden in the mid 1700's, Jeanne, who is accused of being a witch and loses one of her children in a fire in the 1500's and Mairi who was loved by Edward I, King of England in the 1200's and stole the real Stone of Scone, hiding it so the English couldn't take it.  All died violently for the causes they believed in.  As Christina lives through their eyes, she realizes she looks just like all three of them - and they all had diabetes... just like she does!   Each one's story is sad in of itself and they kept my attention - I just wish they didn't end so soon!  Because this is not a really long book, each story was missing the sort of depth and romantic build up I'm used to.  Because of the lack of development I felt vaguely dissatisfied with each separate storyline.  Regarding the present day romantic storyline, it was much too fast and unbelievable as well. 

Overall I was disappointed in this book.  I feel it could have been better if it were longer so each historic storyline could have gotten the attention and romantic build up it deserved.  There were poignant moments, yet I felt little emotion over them because I hadn't gotten a chance to really get to know the characters involved.   The climax of the book when all is revealed was anticlimatic and Christine's decision about her pregnancy and what to do about Ian was - frankly - annoying!  Albeit, it was probably realistic, but I was angry at her!  Still, I did appreciate the historical background and the different locales of the Scottish Highlands like Blair Castle and Traquair House (I'm really thinking of passing by it this August on my trip to Scotland) but I wish the last 50 pages of the book had been written differently.  It does end happily, but not the way I expected it to.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (audio)

Book Description:
Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective wall. To the south, the King's powers are failing, and his enemies are emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the King's new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but also the kingdom itself. A heroic fantasy of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and evildoers who come together in a time of grim omens. The first volume in George Martin's series.

This is a book I’ve heard about for the past several years and when I heard it was going to be on HBO I decided to add it to my TBR list and see what all the fuss was about. I’ve never read the Lord of the Rings (gasp!) and I’m not a big fantasy reader, but this sounded good, so I gave it a whirl.  I chose the audio format narrated by Roy Dotrice who did a fantastic job with the various voices and dialects. Most sound British, but his accents for Khal Drogo and his blood riders were appropriately guttural with a realistic sound to them.  I really enjoyed listening and then keeping pace with the HBO series while only watching the next episode once I passed that part in the book.   It's an absorbing fantasy of the alternate world of Westeros, a land of seven kingdoms and the political intrigues surrounding two of the main clans: the noble Starks of Winterfell in the North and the rich and powerful (and incestuous) Lannisters of Casterly Rock who have a never ending need for power.

What else can I say about A Game of Thrones that hasn't already been said?  It was a great story and I'm ready to read on in the series - I'm glad there are so many books in it!   Set in an intricately woven alternate fantasy world of Westeros, it's capital is known as King’s Landing, appropriately named, for that is where Robert, the king dwells. Winterfell is a northern territory and there resides the Stark Clan. Eddard (Ned) Stark and his wife and six children (one is a bastard, Jon Snow) reside there. In the land of Westeros the seasons can last for years. Currently it’s summer, one of the longest in memory, lasting several years, but there are signs indicating that ‘winter is coming’ – the Stark family’s "words". The Starks are comfortable in the cold and they are closest to The Wall.

The Wall is a 700 foot high structure that is the barrier between Westeros and the Haunted Forest and the North. It is 300 miles long.  Wildlings and monsters are beyond The Wall, including the White Walkers. The White Walkers are back – legendary monsters that haven’t been seen in thousands of years. Many believe it's not possible, that they're only a legend, but how to account for the disappearances and sightings of the living dead? Are they legend or truth? The Wall is manned by the Knight's Watch, men who take a solemn oath to defend the wall and the kingdom from anyone (or thing) that threatens. They must give up their families and pledge celibacy. Most are outcasts and criminals who have nothing else left to do with their lives, but some are noble born and for whatever reason have chosen to don the black and guard The Wall.  It's bleak and cold and not the most pleasant of places.  To desert is mandatory beheading, if caught.

I can't even begin to go over the whole plot line of this book, but trust me, it's good.  It's vast and sprawling as we get to know the various characters and kingdoms in which they live.  Author, George R. R. Martin spends a lot of time laying the groundwork for future books.  The basic gist of the story is the Lannisters want to control the kingdom.  Cersei Lannister is the Queen, married to Robert, the King, who is either clueless about his wife's treachery or chooses to ignore it with a bottle of wine.  Her twin brother is Ser Jaime Lannister - and her lover.   The king's son, Prince Joffrey, is really Jaime's son (to keep the Lannister bloodline pure).  This is the big secret that must be protected.  Anyone that learns the truth is going to die, pretty much.   The Lannisters aren't the only ones that want the throne - there is also the Targaryen's who used to have the throne, but Jaime Lannister killed the mad king Aerys.  Jaime is now known as 'the Kingslayer.'  Never mind that he broke his sacred oath to protect the king as a member of the Kingsguard.  (A minor matter when it comes to taking over the throne.)  He didn't get it, instead Robert Baratheon became king but Jaime's sister Cersei married him.  The Lannister's first foothold towards the throne.

Getting confused?  Just try listening to it on audio!  I admit, watching the series helped a lot, but I've got the characters and plot line under control now.

Trying to keep the kingdom together and at peace is Ned Stark.  He and his family are a noble and honorable clan.  Ned is old friend's with King Robert, who wants Ned to become his "hand."  (His old hand died mysteriously). The King's hand is the king's chief advisor.  Ned has to go and live in King's Landing to do it.  Loath to leave his beloved wife behind, he obeys the king's wishes, but deplores the treachery and conniving that goes on at Court.  His honor is his downfall.  In my opinion, as good a man as Ned is, he was incredibly naive and all I could do was shake my head over the various blunders he made.  He is no match for the Lannisters.  But, it makes a good story and I liked Ned as well as all of his children, including his bastard son, Jon Snow.   The treachery that goes on between the Lannisters and Starks leads to a war that envelops the kingdom.  This war makes a man out of Ned's eldest son, and an unlikely commander on the Lannister side.

Some interesting aspects to the story that I really liked were the mystical qualities in it.  The Stark's sigil is the dire wolf.  Early on in the story, Ned and his men come across a dead female dire wolf (freakishly large, they are considered nearly extinct south of The Wall) who has just given birth to six pups.  The dire wolf has died from a deer's antler lodged in it's throat. The six pups are seen to represent the Stark children, including Ned's bastard, Jon Snow, who gets the one white pup, an albino - white as snow - get it?  Duh! They each get a dire wolf puppy of their own to raise.  I liked this aspect of the story, and as we see, these wolves play a part in the rest of the story. 

Another mystical aspect to the story surrounds the legend of dragons and the Targaryens who are said to have descended from dragons.  Viserys Targaryen is the son of the mad king, Aerys, who Jaime Lannister killed (Viserys is a bit mad himself, as we see).  He wants to regain the throne himself but he needs an army to do it.  He marries his sister Daenerys off to a horse lord, Khal Drogo, head of the Dithraki, a far off land in the South.  In exchange for Daenerys, Viserys is promised an army from Khal Drogo - though he never quite gets it.  Daenerys and Khal make an unlikely couple at first.  He is the ultimate alpha male, huge and big.  A commander with traditions towards wives, sex and horses that are completely new and alien to the young and innocent Princess Daenerys.  But, she wants to please him and soon she becomes his true mate, the "moon of his life."  She embraces the Dithraki way of life. Their story is the only love story in the novel, adding a tragic poignancy to the plotline.  Daenerys must ultimately choose between her brother, whom she loves (and fears) and Khal Drogo who is her protector and lover - and whom she ultimately falls in love with.  As his wife she is his Khaleesi.  I know who I'd choose if I were in her place! ;)  Even though Daenerys is young and innocent, she carries the blood of the dragon in her, which comes into play later - you'll see what I mean.

To sum it all up, A Game of Thrones is about one man's quest for truth and justice and the desire to protect his family while navigating the political intrigues that surround his old friend and liege, the King.  There is also the scary and eerie scenario that revolves around The Wall and the threat of the White Walkers.  Not to mention winter is coming.  The crux of the issue is, what's more important?  Battling the White Walkers and the danger they represent to the kingdom, or the battle between the Starks and the Lannisters and who should be the next king after Robert?  How will Daenerys affect this war - is she the true heir to the throne - or is it one of Robert's bastard by blows?    I'm sad to finish this book and I'm sorry to say good-bye to some of the characters I've grown accustomed to.  I'll miss them, but I'm looking forward to seeing many again in the next book, particularly Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf brother to Cersei and Jaime.  He's nicknamed the Imp. He was my favorite in the book as well as in the HBO Series.  He's likable, and even though he's a Lannister, I suspect he's a lot more honorable than all the rest of them put together!  I'm not sure if Tyrion is supposed to be a good guy or a bad guy.  A little of both, but only because he loves his family, despite what he suspects they're capable of.  He's wise beyond his years and I'm eager to see what happens to him in Book 2.  For that matter, all the Lannisters, as conniving as they are, were the most interesting of the bunch of characters in this book.  Isn't that always how it is?  The bad guys make the good guys look downright dull!

I have high hopes for many surprises ahead!

Now, my big dilemma is, should I read or listen to the next book and should I do it now or wait until next year when HBO's 2nd season is aired?  Any advice?


P.S. Read at your own risk! I heard somewhere that George R.R. Martin is evil. Apparently, he has a penchant for killing off beloved - and evil - characters left and right.  Let's hope Joffrey is at the top of the list!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

RWA-NYC Who's going?

RWA is having it's big annual bash in New York City the end of June and their "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing event is Tuesday, June 28 from 5:30-7:30 pm. It's open to the public. Over 500 romance authors will be there! Many are favorites of mine! I'm giddy at the thought of seeing them together all in one room!

Though I'm not a member of RWA, I am attending the signing and I'll either be staying over that night in the city at the host hotel, The Marriott Marquis or I'll take a cab home (much cheaper). Even though I only live about 15 miles west of the city, I'm treating myself so I don't have to worry about driving home that night. Taking the next day off too and making the most of it. Give me a shout if you're going too! What authors are you dying to meet?

A few of my must sees?

Diana Gabaldon (this is a no brainer and will be my 3rd time seeing her)
Julia Quinn
Robin Kaye
Sherry Thomas
Julie James
Carolyn Jewel
Colleen Gleason
Lauren Willig
Elizabeth Hoyt
Karen Hawkins
Sarah MacLean
Sabrina Jeffries
Celeste Bradley
Deanna Raybourn
Susanna Kearsley
Laura Lee Guhrke

Who are some of the authors I wish were going to be there that aren't? Darn!

Lisa Kleypas
Ciji Ware
Tasha Alexander
Jennifer Ashley
Karen Marie Moning
Judith McNaught
Loretta Chase
Julie Garwood
Jennifer Donnelly
Adele Ashworth
Linda Howard
Connie Brockway

So, for those of you that are going, or even if you're not - who's tables are/would you making a bee-line for and why?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

Book Description:
Inspired by female architect Julia Morgan, this is the riveting tale of a race against time to rebuild two luxury hotels after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed 400 city blocks and left 250,000 homeless.

Morgan's fictional protegee Amelia Bradshaw and client J.D. Thayer will sacrifice anything to see the city they love rise from the ashes; in the process, they can't help but lose their hearts.

It's been almost two weeks since I finished A Race to Splendor and I really loved it.  I was captivated by the setting of San Francisco amidst the earthquake of 1906 and the rebuilding of the city. The two main characters, Amelia and J.D., have stood the test of time for me.  I still think about them and wonder about them and their lives.  Both are strong people with an indomitable spirit that makes them survivors.  Together, the dynamic of their relationship was intriguing and and kept me reading and reading - I really had trouble putting this book down!  In fact, I've been desolate every since I've finished it.  I can't stop thinking about it.  What happens next - will there be a sequel?  Please? Please!  She's done it again! Without a doubt, Ciji Ware is one of my favorite authors.  The action, dialogue and plotline all move along at a steady pace, never a dull moment and every scene has a reason for being there.

Amelia Bradshaw, newly minted architect has just returned to her hometown of San Francisco from Paris, only to find that her drunkard father has gambled away the hotel she grew up in to no good scoundrel, J.D. Thayer.  J.D. has always had his sights on The Bay View Hotel, a little gem of a hotel on Nob Hill.   J.D. has his own problems, his rich father hates him, his mother is unhappy and J.D. wants to be a good person, but he is saddled with a reputation as the black sheep of the family.  All he needs to do is make enough money to pay off and unshackle himself from the unsavory scalawags he's been associating with.  Unfortunately, they are his means to make the money - plus he's already borrowed a ton from them.  No one really knows the truth behind J.D.'s reasons for wanting the Bay View, which has become an obsession, and he's certainly not going to let Miss high and mighty Amelia Bradshaw take it away from him!  It's his ticket to freedom!

Everyone's plans, whether good or bad, change when the great earthquake hits San Francisco and levels much of the town.  With accurate descriptions and a mesmerizing storyline, the story takes on a whole new dimension as we are immersed in the aftermath.  Resigning herself to the reality that she'll never get the Bay View back (even though she suspects it's rightfully hers because her father died from the quake with part of a winning poker hand clutched in his fingers) Amelia and J.D. become unlikely partners as she agrees to be the architect to rebuild her grandfather's stately Bay View Hotel.  Their relationship is slow in building.  It takes a long time for Amelia to trust J.D., but gradually she does and they become true partners in every sense of the word.  Still, Amelia has a niggling suspicion that he's keeping things from her.  He's juggling all sorts of worries, but his driving force is to get the Bay View built before the other big hotel in town, The Fairmont, beats him to it. 

I loved every word of this book.  The struggles and ups and downs of the building of the two hotels was exhausting to read about, but fascinating too!   I can't even begin to do the book justice with a review except to state it was great and a worthwhile read, especially if you've ever been to San Francisco. I was there a few years ago and adored the city! I loved reading about the descriptions and places and settings - I recognized much and envisioned in my mind Amelia amid the wreckage of the earthquake, Nob Hill, Chinatown, taking the ferry past the Island of Alcatraz across the bay to Oakland.  The era comes to life in Ware's evocative storytelling!

A Race to Splendor is a love story but also one of survival and the battle for acceptance - on all kinds of levels.  Amelia wants to be recognized for her talents as an architect - and a woman.  J.D. wants to be recognized not as a gambler, but as a respectable hotel owner, he longs to redeem himself in his family's eyes (no matter how hypocritical his father is).  The plot is absorbing, culminating with an exciting climax that had me on the edge of my seat.  I worried, I chewed my lip, I twisted my fingers in anticipation of what happens! 

I loved the architectural theme as well, but you don't have to be interested in architecture to appreciate this book.  There are too many little details to list of what I loved best about it, but I can say the love scenes are sweetly satisfying and appropriate to the storyline.  Though I would have been happier with a little more of them! ;)

A wholehearted recommendation and I'm definitely reading this book again just to savor it slowly, for I read it much too quickly.  I consider this historical fiction at it's best.  Another winner from Ciji Ware and I'm delighted to say she hasn't lost her touch with her first new novel in ten years!  She's better than ever!


P.S.:  On a side note, how wonderful that the dress on the cover looks like the one Amelia wears to the opening of the Bay View!  I love it when covers match the actual story!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night by Kresley Cole

Book Description:
Her breathless kiss haunts him...

Bowen MacRieve of the Lykae clan was nearly destroyed when he lost the one woman meant for him. The ruthless warrior grew even colder, never taking another to his bed -- until a smoldering encounter with his enemy, Mariketa the Awaited, reawakens his darkest desires. When sinister forces unite against her, the Highlander finds himself using all his strength and skill to keep her alive.

His slow, hot touch is irresistible...

Temporarily stripped of her powers, Mari is forced to take refuge with her sworn adversary. It's rumored that no one can tempt Bowen's hardened heart, but soon passion burns between them. Though a future together is impossible, she fears he has no intention of letting her go.

This was pretty good, but not as good as I thought it would be. Several people had told me it was one of the best in this Immortals After Dark Series, but it took a long time for it to get going and have Mari (the heroine) finally realize Bowe (our werewolf hero) was for her. I wound up feeling kind of meh about the whole plot and hero and heroine.

We pick up in this book where the last book in the series, No Rest for the Wicked, left off.  Bowen MacRieve is a Lykae werewolf who is taking part in the great Hie, a scavenger hunt for immortals.  The big prize (as we know from the last book) is a key to go back into the past and change it.  He lost the love of his life - his mate - way back when and wants to change what happened to her and bring her back to life.  A Lykae only has one mate in his lifetime (which is forever) so this is pretty important to him.  But, when he meets Mari, lust overcomes him - this is something unusual for him - almost as if she's his mate.  But how can that be?  His mate died - thanks to him, long ago.

Mari is a young witch who hasn't quite learned all of her powers yet.  The prophecies foretell that she is destined for greatness one day, but at the present moment, that's not happening.  Her spells have a way of backfiring and she has a disconcerting tendency to blow things up.  She's also a bit rebellious.  She and Bowe meet in a dark cave searching for these particular ceremonial headdresses for the Hie.  He grabs the prize and seals her in the cave with a few other immortals on the Hie.  He figures she's a witch, she can get them out - but he's wrong.  They languish there for weeks and weeks.  Mari is still mortal, she's hasn't turned yet and nearly dies and goes through quite a bit of misery.  It seems the whole immortal world is furious with Bowe and he has to go back and rescue her.  It's not as easy as it sounds though, for Mari stuck him with a curse so that any wounds he incurs will not heal.  While trying to win the Hie he has really messed himself up!  He is hurt in all kinds of horrible ways, but he treks back to the South American jungle where he left Mari and her cohorts and manages to rescue her.

From there the book follows them all through the jungle which seemed to take an eternity to get through. The endless time in the cave and then the plodding through the jungle became tiresome and I wanted the book to move on!  Bowen convinces the other immortals (who don't like him for obvious reasons since he sealed them in a cave for weeks) to allow Mari to be his "mate" while on the road.  She undoes her spell on him so he's healed and in exchange, he takes care of her and protects from the various South American warlords and criminals they come up against while trying to make it back to civilization.  The book turns into a sort of road trip between Mari and Bowe as they get to know and fall for one another.  Not an easy task for he despises witches and she despises werewolves.  Still, they have a strong lust for one another and I liked the way they dealt with it ;)  The second half of the book picks up once Mari is out of the cave, but I never quite got the feeling they were really connected and meant for one another in a meaningful way.  She's prickly and hard to like - a real deal breaker for me.  I just can't love a book when the heroine is annoying.  Bowe is okay, but I much preferred his cousin from the first in the series, A Hunger Like No Other, which was by far the better book of the two.  Bowe is fierce and has his one goal to get his mate back.  By the end of the book, when all is revealed, I felt sorry for him, even though it's a happy ending.  I sympathized with him, although I didn't feel overly sympathetic towards Mari - she has a lot of growing up to do.  There's not a lot of tenderness or soul searching moments between them.  Their relationship lacked emotion - the sex was good - but not a lot of passion and romance.  He works on her and tries to woo her and it works up to a point.  Something always seemed to spoil things just as it was starting to get good - I could have done without the constant "not again!" moments!

One other thing - I don't quite understand why this is called Wicked Deeds on a Winter's Night, since most of this book takes place in the jungles of South America and sultry, humid Louisiana!  Bowe is from Scotland and they spend time there, but not enough to merit the title of the book!  He likes the winter but that's about it!

Overall I liked this book, but the previous books in the series were much more compelling.  We'll see how I feel about the rest, for I intend to carry on.  I like this fantasy "immortals" world that exists in Kresley Cole's books and am curious to see who the next book is about. 


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt

Book Description:

Infamous for his wild, sensual needs, Lazarus Huntington, Lord Caire, is searching for a savage killer in St. Giles, London's most notorious slum. Widowed Temperance Dews knows St. Giles like the back of her hand-she's spent a lifetime caring for its inhabitants at the foundling home her family established. Now that home is at risk...


Caire makes a simple offer-in return for Temperance's help navigating the perilous alleys of St. Giles, he will introduce her to London's high society so that she can find a benefactor for the home. But Temperance may not be the innocent she seems, and what begins as cold calculation soon falls prey to a passion that neither can control-one that may well destroy them both.


This is an interesting beginning to the Maiden Lane series.  Widowed, Temperance Dews runs a foundling home with her brother is St. Giles, a dangerous slum found in London's East Side. Temperance meets and begins a relationship with the notorious Lord Caire of whom rumors abound that his requests from whores are... um...unusual.  Set during early Georgian times in the 1730's, the period is a favorite of mine, but the underlying theme of bondage made me a bit squeamish. 

Caire is searching for the murderer of his former mistress who was found nude, gutted and bound by her ankles and wrists - in bed.  He seeks out Temperance Dews for she can help him with the search throughout the dark alleys of St. Giles.  Her comings and goings at all hours of the night rescuing orphans from the worst of the worst in St. Giles makes her an expert amongst it's back alleys, gin rooms and brothels.

Temperance is hesitant to assist him at first.  Lord Caire's reputation is no secret to her, but his dangerous good looks and the magnetic way he looks at her is too hard to resist.  Does he suspect the secret she carries deep in her heart?  Plus, he's offering her a good chunk of change to help fund the foundling home she runs with her brother.   He also promises to introduce her to slews of rich aristocrats at various balls and soirees where she can make some useful connections and find a suitable patron to the home.  She feels she's making a bargain with the devil, but at the same time, she likes being with Caire.  Their partnership becomes a front for the attraction that's really going on between them - an attraction that both scandalizes and thrills Temperance.

Will they find the elusive murderer and can Temperance resist such a man as Lord Caire and his strange needs and desires?   Does she even want to?  And what will her big brothers do when they find out that there's more going on between Temperance and Caire than searching for a killer?

This was pretty good, a departure for me.  It's not my usual thing, but the bondage and psychological aspect about it was well done and I will read more of this series.  Caire has all sorts of baggage from his childhood that explains why he can't bear to be touched - hence his interesting sexual proclivities.  Temperance is harboring a terrible secret of something awful she once did.  Ever since she's been trying to atone for it by rescuing children for the home - and now Caire wants to know her secret.  Can she trust him enough to tell him?  There is plenty of tension - both sexual and nervous throughout the book.  As they get closer and closer to the murderer's identity more murders takes place - in the same brutal and macabre manner.  Will Temperance or Caire be next?  Will Temperance, who is the daughter of a brewer - and now in love with Caire - ever fit into his world - despite the fact he loves her back?  There are plenty of questions that are asked and most are answered.  But, I am curious about the mysterious sword wielding masked harlequin that aides them in capturing the murderer.  Who is he and what's his game?

There's a real doozy of a sidestory here about Temperance's married sister, Silence.  She's a sweet thing that is dealt a severe blow in life.  I won't go into details but it's very upsetting what happens to her and terribly unfair.  It was almost hard to read about, it was distracting to me and I wanted to get back to the main storyline.  I really pitied her, but at the same time, felt she was much too naive and rash.  We'll see how it all turns out for her in the end, for her story continues on in the series.

As usual, Hoyt is excellent in setting the scene for her novels - Georgian society.  She's one of my favorite romance authors just for this reason.  Whether it's the glittering ballrooms or the seamy backstreets of the East End, I feel like I'm right there, soaking it all in.  Yet, even though the storyline was riveting and the sex was steamy, this wasn't quite what I expected. 

Wicked Intentions is dark and dangerous, it's an apt title.  We're definitely seeing the other side of Georgian England than we've experienced in her previous books.  It reminds me of a Hogarth cartoon.  It's a real eye opener of the times.  Realistic and gritty, cut throats and ruthless brothel madams abound.  Plus, there is the ever present gin.  In addition, let's just say, a lot of weird sh*t goes on in this book.   I'm not averse to reading about perverted or weird stuff when I'm expecting it.  But in an historical romance I like things a little lighter and frothier most of time.  Still, I am curious about what happens in the rest of the series. 

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