3/31/10

Favorite Rereads aka the Comfort Read

With so many books coming out each month, it takes a rare book to get me to sit down and reread it.  My TBR pile is already sky high, but there are a few go-to books that help me out when I'm in the middle of a reading slump or just too tired to read anything new.


A few of my favorites:

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn.
I don't love all Bridgertons equally, I'm afraid. This one is definitely my favorite of the series. It has far more emotional depth than most of the others. Kate and Anthony during the storm scene is permanently etched in my romance drenched brain.

A Secret Love by Stephanie Laurens
While I love most of the early Bar Cynster series, Gabriel and Alathea's story is my favorite. The childhood friends turned lovers trope is my absolute favorite. And the characters here are so well done. Not to mention this one is scorching hot!

Lady in Red by Karen Hawkins
Okay. I admit it. Part of the reason I love this book is that the heroine's name is Honoria Baker-Sneed. But honestly, I love the entire Baker-Sneed family here. This is the last of the Talisman ring series, and while I like the rest of the series also, this one is special.

Single White Vampire by Lynsay Sands
This  dates back to the first few of the Argeneau series. Honestly, I think it's the first romance I read that literally had me laughing so hard I was crying. A vampire romance novelist. And the lampoons directed at the fictional version of the RT convention are equally funny. Clever and light-hearted, this book highlights what is great about this series--even if Sands seems to have drifted away from this type of slapstick humor.

Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody, Book 1) by Elizabeth Peters
I love the entire Amelia Peabody mystery series, but the first book holds a special place in my heart. I love watching Amelia and Emerson fall in love while chasing after perambulating mummies and trying to save priceless Egyptian antiquities. Plus--Amelia has an outrageous vocabulary which is so fun to read.

So, what are your favorite books to reread?

3/27/10

Historical Accuracy in Historical Romance

A recent conversation about historical accuracy in romance fiction caused me to spend some time pondering my reading preferences and expectations.

Some background: I have a history degree. It's only a B.A. (4 years for non-US peeps) and I don't use it for anything remotely useful. But I do have a pretty decent *general* knowledge of most European and American history. I am--in short--a font of useless trivial knowledge and not much else. Some would probably think that having spent 4 years (okay, 4.5) studying history, I would demand absolute historical accuracy in my fiction. But I don't. In fact, most of the authors who spend a lot of time getting the details right are the ones on my do-not-read-under-any-circumstances list.

*Gasp!* Why?

3/26/10

Review: All Night with a Rogue by Alexandra Hawkins

It's been a long time since I stumbled across a book I just couldn't finish. Sadly, this is one of those. I don't think I've read another romance with as many unappealing characters as inhabit this one. I'm a bit of a traditionalist with my historical romance, though, and this one just had a crass, modern feel to it. It was ugly in every sense of the word. Debauchery in excess--with cruelty mixed in. No thank you.

That's not to say the writing is necessarily bad, but for those, like me, who like to at least be able to *some* hint of humanity in their heroes--and some hint of brains in their heroines--this one failed with me.  I put it down permanently on page 84.

My Grade:
F/DNF

Cookbook Review: What's New Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

The authors of Hello, Cupcake have done it again. This sequel is packed with even more fun, whimsical ideas to take advantage of the cupcake trend. And, again, they do it without fancy equipment or complicated ingredients.

What's New, Cupcake builds upon the basics found in the first book by showing you how you can use sugar cookies to expand your cupcake building skills. They also add a technique for making hard candy decorations.

The sense of whimsy is what sets this series apart from other cupcake books. The point is not just to make a cute cupcake, but to get a reaction from the people eating them. So while they have a duckie cupcake pattern (as shown on the cover) they also show you how to make a diving duckie. Which the kids find hilarious.

3/25/10

RITA Finalists Announced!

RWA is in the process of notifying the nominees and posting them on their site this morning:

RITA FINALISTS

A few standouts for me:

Victoria Dahl's Talk Me Down is nominated for Contemporary Single Title Romance.

Elizabeth Hoyt has 2 nominations--To Beguile a Beast in Historical Romance as Hoyt; For the Love of Pete in Contemporary Single Title Romance as Julia Harper.

Congratulations to all of the talented writers whose nominations were announced today!

3/24/10

Hump Day Classic Movie: The Adventures of Robin Hood

Okay, we've seen every conceivable version of the Robin Hood legend on film. From Kevin Costner's horrible accent to the animated Disney version featuring animals. But have you seen THIS version? Not the highlights. The entire movie.

It's from way back in 1938 and features Errol Flynn in one of his iconic roles.

Here's why I love this version.

Errol Flynn in a swashbuckler (you're gasping in surprise, right?).
Olivia deHavilland as someone (anyone) other than Melanie in GWTW.
Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisbourne

Sherwood Forest is actually Bidwell Park in Chico, CA. My "general" neck of the woods.

It's so incredibly cheesy. But it is THE version I love for silliness. And the sword fights. They are awesome.


You can find the trailer here: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3471574041/

3/19/10

Cookbook Review: Mother's Best by Lisa Schroeder with Danielle Centoni

FTC Disclaimer: Review copy courtesy of the publisher 

Mother's Best: Comfort Food That Takes You Home Again is a gorgeous cookbook featuring comfort food classics with a twist.

With today's busy schedules, it's difficult to make comfort food like Mom used to make. Those dishes that remind you of home. Sunday dinner types of meals. Mother's Best is a collection of recipes from the Mother's Bistro and Bar in Portland, Oregon. And it far more than a rehashing of classic stand-by recipes. There's an entire chapter devoted to macaroni and cheese. All with a new way to prepare it that make the actual prep a touch less tedious and is filled with time saving short cuts or advance prep ideas.

3/17/10

Happy St. Patrick's Day: Irish Romances


In honor of St. Patrick's Day (March 17th), here are a few ideas for romances to read that are set in Ireland!

Nora Roberts's Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy is probably one of my favorite series set in Ireland. Sure, she has the "Born in" trilogy as well, but there's just something about the Gallaghers that I love.

The titles are:
  • Jewels of the Sun
  • Tears of the Moon
  • Heart of the Sea
Not a Nora fan? JoAnn Ross also has a few books set in Ireland. My favorite is Fair Haven.
    If you're in an historical mood, Tracy Anne Warren's The Wife Trap is set in Ireland as well and has some terrific descriptions of the Irish countryside. Plus I love the secret Earl in disguise trope, and this one is a lot of fun.


    If you want a touch more of the paranormal, I suggest The Magic Knot by Helen Scott Taylor.

    Here's wishing you a terrific St. Patrick's Day.

    May you always have walls for the winds,
    A roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
    Laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
    And all your heart might desire.

    3/16/10

    Review: Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole

    Garreth MacRieve is the Prince of the Lykae--reluctantly leading the werewolves since the disappearance of his brother over a century ago. He stumbles upon his fated mate, Lucia, during an immortal rugby match and is determined to protect and claim her. Not any easy task given who the fates have chosen.

    Our Valkyrie heroine, Lucia, is unwilling to be mated to anyone, even though she is attracted to Garreth. And she does have a few good reasons for her resistance. Known as The Archer in the Lore, she is bound by a vow of chastity made to the goddess Skathi. If she breaks her vow, her extraordinary archery skills will be rescinded. And it's not only her vow that keeps her from accepting Garreth. Darker secrets she's sworn to take to her grave are an even bigger obstacle to their happily ever after.

    3/15/10

    Mind Games Trapped in a Restaurant meme

    1. In MIND GAMES, hypochondriac heroine Justine Jones can’t figure out why tortured mastermind Sterling Packard never sets foot outside the Mongolian Delites restaurant. What if you were somehow trapped in a restaurant, what sort of restaurant would you prefer?

    Italian --as long as they had plenty of cappuccino and lots of tiramisu.

     2. What if you won the fancy $100 dinner to a restaurant of your choice, and you could dine with any character from any book, movie, or history. Who would you choose?

    Theodore Roosevelt


    3. Choose three characters to dine with for a lively dinner party (you can define lively however you want).

    Fred, Daphne and Velma. I'm curious to see how and what they'd eat when Shaggy and Scooby aren't there stealing all of the food.

    Wanna play, too? Find more details here.

    DA BWAHA Contest: Time to Pick Your Brackets

    If you haven't already done so, now's the time to hurry on over to the DABWAHA site and pick your brackets for this year's tournament.

    What the heck am I talking about?

    It's a delightful bit of silliness brought to you by Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books that mimics the March Madness Basketball tournament...except it is a battle of books going head to head for the grand prize.

    More information can be found here.

    Be sure to follow along on Twitter as well with the hashtag #dabwaha  There's already some lovely, good-spirited heckling going on.

    Brackets must be submitted by Wednesday, March 17th at 8pm EASTERN.

    3/12/10

    Cookbook Review: Joy of Cooking: All About Chicken by Irma S. Rombauer et al

    I thought I'd take a break from romance and mystery reviews for a second to write about a few cookbooks in my collection.

    I'm not a foodie. I'm not into the uber-gourmet cooking that requires tons of expensive ingredients and hours upon hours to make. I have kids. Yeah, enough said.

    So most of my cooking is thrown together as quickly as possible. But there are times when I just want to COOK. Something homemade, stick to your ribs good. That's when I break out my Joy of Cooking: All About Chicken. It's not at all like the imposing, inches thick colossus, The Joy of Cooking. This is a slim, photograph-filled volume of goodness.

    3/11/10

    Review: Born to Be Wild by Christine Warren

    Christine Warren's Other series is quite clever. She jumps from vamps to shifters with ease. And her writing is razor sharp, compelling, and lough-out-loud funny all at the same time. Born To Be Wild is a terrific, fast-paced read.

    I haven't read about very many (if any) lion shifters before. Wolves, snow leopards, bobcats, bears...but not lions.

    Josie Barret, the local vet, is used to the paranormal. She has, after all, grown up in Stone Creek, Oregon, where 70 percent of the population is "Other". But she's unprepared for the events that follow having the town's sheriff, Eli Pace, show up at her clinic door carrying an injured Lupine.

    Eli Pace, a lion shifter, is startled by how quickly the attraction for the pretty veterinarian hits him after bringing an injured wolf to her door. Despite living in the same town for three years, their paths hadn't crossed in any meaningful way. But as soon as they do...*wham*.

    3/10/10

    Hump Day Classic Movie: Darby O'Gill and the Little People

    It's a week until St. Patrick's Day, but here's a little bit o' Irish to keep you until then. It's super cheesy, features Scottish Sean Connery singing, and is made by Disney.

    1959
    Sean Connery, Janet Munro, Albert Sharpe
    Walt Disney

    Review: Tempt Me If You Can by Janet Chapman

    Having read and enjoyed The Man Must Marry, I was happy to spot Tempt Me If You Can on the shelves. I really enjoyed the Sinclair family's dynamic. Unfortunately, the family plays a lesser role in this book.

    Ben Sinclair receives an anonymous note telling him he has a son living in rural Maine that he never knew existed. After confirming the boy is really his, Ben hotfoots it out to Maine--incognito--while he figures out what to do.  Neither Emma or Michael are fooled by Ben's slightly older appearance or different name. But there's an initial period where they pretend to be fooled which adds a little confusion and tension.

    3/3/10

    Hump Day Classic Movie: The Goonies

    It may not seem like it's been that long since the Goonies came out, but it has been 25 years! Eep! The movie came out in 1985 and has a plethora of former and current film stars in it. Who doesn't love pint size Sean Astin in this film? Or a very young Corey Feldman and Josh Brolin. Not to mention the theme song by Cyndi Lauper. Pure awesomeness. 
    **If you're looking for a politically correct kids film, though, this isn't it!**


    The Goonies
    1985
    Directed by Richard Donner
    Story by Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus

    Click here to watch a clip of Mouth translating...

    3/2/10

    Something About You by Julie James

    Something About You by Julie James

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    Review: One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

    Okay, I admit it. I should have read these books earlier. I can't believe I passed them by. I finally caved to the blogosphere and twitter pressure and picked up the only Night Huntress novel at the closest Borders. It happened to be book #2, One Foot in the Grave.

    One Foot in the Grave takes place 4 years after the first in the series. Catherine "Cat" Crawfield has moved on, as best as she is able, after leaving Bones. She now heads an elite black ops style government operation dedicated to taking down the bad vamps.  The irony, of course, is that Cat is still in love with Bones (a vamp) and is half vamp herself.

    While I liked Bones, I didn't feel the same slave-like devotion for him that so many Twitter devotees seem to have. I did find Cat to be incredibly compelling, though. She felt 100% real. Which is kind of unusual for paranormal romances.  I don't think I've read a more emotionally genuine character recently. She's kick ass without being cold. She's vulnerable without being wimpy. Loved, loved, loved her.

    3/1/10

    Review: Nice Girls Don't Live Forever by Molly Harper

    Yes, it’s yet another paranormal romance vampire book. The trend that just won’t die. But I’m one of those readers who really doesn’t want it to. I like my vampire romances. As long as they’re done well. And they have great characters. And you can’t go wrong with a snarky, southern librarian turned antiquarian book selling vampire named Jane.

    This is definitely one of the funniest books I’ve read so far this year. Nice Girls Don't Live Forever is the 3rd in the series, and I haven’t read the previous two. I’m of the firm opinion that each book should stand on its own merits, and this one definitely does. I wasn’t lost at all, despite some pretty extensive backstory. What did confuse me, though, was that this book, the conclusion of a trilogy, had very little hero in it. He shows up abruptly for about 3 or 4 scenes (a fight or a sex scene), then disappears just as abruptly.

    Gifts for the Baker