6/30/10

Hump Day Summer Movie: Evolution (2001)

Getting back to my standard of choosing movies based on their impact on my personal lexicon, I give you: Evolution.

It stars David Duchovny, Seann William Scott, Julianne Moore, and Orlando Jones and is probably one of the funniest sci fi movies made in the last 10 years. The science is OMG awful, but I  do think this one was underrated and poorly marketed. It is silly and sometimes stupid but always funny.

Duchovny plays his normal, sardonic straight man role to his much funnier sidekick (Jones) while Sean Williams Scott plays his usual dumbass persona.

No deep message, no thought-provoking plot. But if you're not laughing at the giant mosquito extraction scene, there's something wrong with you.

And here's my second favorite scene: Ca-Caw!

6/28/10

Review and Giveaway: Instant Temptation by Jill Shalvis

Pub. Date: April 2010
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Format: Trade Paperback


It was with mixed feelings that I started the last of the Wilder books, Instant Temptation. I knew it was going to be awesome. I am so in love with the Wilder series and Jill Shalvis's writing. But knowing this was the last book in the series meant it was going to be a bittersweet experience for me.

Unlike the two previous installments in the series, this isn't a hometown boy meets out-of-towner story. It's a story about two people who have known each other all of their lives. Not quite friends to lovers, given the tension and hostility that exists between the two characters throughout the previous 2 books in the series, but with the same immediate intimacy that trope supplies.

Harley is one of my favorite characters in this series, and I've been waiting impatiently for her story. She's hardworking, practical, competent, kind. She has a plan, goals, and the only person who really gets on her nerves is TJ Wilder.

TJ is the oldest of the Wilder brothers. He's the one who leads most of the long term adventures provided by the outdoor adventure company owned by the Wilder family. He's always been drawn to Harley and just can't seem to understand where her animosity towards him comes from. And he's a little irritated that he has to work at getting past her defenses when female companionship has never been a difficulty before.

Review: A Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr


  • Pub. Date: June 2010
  • Publisher: Mira
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback, 408pp
  • ISBN-13: 9780778328704

I tend not to like romances set in the greater Sacramento area. I just really don't like Sacramento. It's  a quirk I have, so any romances set there are automatically engaged in an uphill battle with me. But Robyn Carr's latest wasn't, in the strictest sense, a romance at all. A Summer in Sonoma is more of a women's fiction book, as it focuses on a large ensemble cast of characters and their various relationships. Which, again, runs counter to my personal preferences.

    The focal relationship is one that begins with an attempted rape. Cassie, an ER nurse, is assaulted in a parking lot. She is rescued in the nick of time by a big, burly biker named Walt who breaks through a side window to free her from the would be rapist. Cassie and Walt form a tentative, unique friendship that Cassie, at least, is determined to keep strictly platonic because she just can't see herself dating someone who looks like he does.

    6/25/10

    Audiobook Week: Recommended Audiobooks

    As part of an Audiobook Week discussion, hosted by Devourer of Books, here's a MY list of recommended audiobooks.  It's almost more difficult to recommend audiobooks than regular books because you have to recommend both the story and the narrator.

    For someone new to audiobooks, I definitely think the Harry Potter series is a good place to start.  I've only heard the Jim Dale versions but have heard good things about the Stephen Fry versions as well.  I'd also suggest they visit a site like Audible.com which allows listeners to preview books--important to make sure the narration isn't going to drive you crazy.

    For me, the fiction books that lend themselves to audio format are the ones told in the first person. Because it seems like they are telling you a story rather than some other person reading a book to you.

    The Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat, is probably my favorite series. Rosenblat does a terrific job with the accents and difficult Arabic words. You never have to wonder who is talking because they sound unique. German, British, American, Egyptian...she masters them all.

    I also really like the Aisling Grey, Guardian series by Katie MacAlister (also narrated by Rosenblat), the Tempe Brennan series by Kathy Reichs (again, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat)--noticing a theme?-- and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward narrated by Jim Frangione.

    My husband really likes the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and the Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony. He can't stand the Amelia Peabody series, though, and that seems to be a consensus among most male audiobook listeners I've asked.

    6/24/10

    Smart Bitch Sarah's Summer Bookclub

    Last night was the first book club meeting hosted by SmartBitch Sarah on the blog, Smartbitchestrashybooks.com  We had a great time discussing the first selection, One Dance with a Duke by Tessa Dare.

    Did you miss it?

    Sarah will be scheduling other chats to accommodate people in other time zones. You can also read an archive of the chat on her blog located here.

    Review: Lover Eternal by JR Ward [Audiobook]

    Audiobook Review: Lover Eternal by JR Ward
    Black Dagger Brotherhood series #2
    • Narrated by Jim Frangione
    • Run Time: 14 hrs 11 min
    • Unabridged
    • Publisher: Recorded Books
    • Format: Downloaded via Audible.com
    • Also available directly through Recorded books in CD and cassette formats.


    As with all of my Black Dagger Brotherhood audiobook reviews, this is essentially a reread. I've read them all in print, but listening to them is a bit different.  This is one of my favorite BDB books, but I think the cinematic melodrama suffered a bit with the audio format.

    Rhage is known as Hollywood within the Black Dagger Brotherhood ranks. He's a vamp who has sex often with multiple partners--sometimes in public--and is considered the playboy of the group. But his laid back attitude is actually a fa├žade, carefully crafted to keep his darker nature in check. Because once he loses his temper, his curse takes over--turning him into a dragon-like creature with little sentience and no ability to tell friend from foe.

    6/23/10

    Audiobook Week Meme

    Devourer of Books is hosting Audiobook Week! And for Hump Day, there's a nice, easy meme






    Audiobook are you currently reading/you read most recently: Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
    Impressions?: I'm in the middle of the Sookie series and am thoroughly addicted.
    How long you’ve been listening to audiobooks: Years, although much more frequently the last 2 years.
    First audiobook you ever listened to: I can't remember! Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was an early one.
    Favorite audiobook title: I don't have a single favorite, but the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters and narrated by Barbara Rosenblat is definitely my fav. series
    Favorite narrator: Barbara Rosenblat--no question. She is amazing with accents. I like Lorelei King who voices the Stephanie Plum series as well.
    How do you choose what to listen to versus read? I do both. I will listen to books I've already read, because they give you an entirely different experience. Or I will give a new author a try if the book is read by a favorite narrator.

    Hump Day Summer Movie: Romancing the Stone (1984)

    Despite its obvious reliance on stereotypes about romance novelists, Romancing the Stone remains one of my favorite films. It's funny, sexy, fast-paced, exotic and did I mention funny?

    Kathleen Turner plays Joan Wilder, a single romance novelist who lives with her cat. She prefers to express her desires through her writing rather than taking chances in her personal life. That changes once Joan receives a package from her sister mailed from Colombia. To save her sister, she flies to Colombia with no clear plan of action.

    Once in Colombia, everything goes wrong. She takes the wrong bus and ends up stranded in the jungle with no idea where to go. And there she meets Jack (played by Michael Douglas) who is nothing at all like her romance heroes. He's rude, he's crude, and he only agrees to help Joan get to her
    destination in return for payment.

    6/21/10

    Review: Halfway to the Grave (audio) by Jeaniene Frost

    Because I started with the second book in this series, this book was more like a prequel to me than the first book in a series. And since Blackstone Audio just released this first book in audio format, I decided to see how well the series translated to that format. The answer is: perfectly.

    The narrator, Tavia Gilbert, brings to life Bones's accent and attitude. Cat is a bit more subdued than she was in the later books, but I think part of that comes from the relative immaturity she has in this book.

    For those unfamiliar with the series, here's the "blurb."


    Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father - the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unlikely partnership.

    In exchange for help finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner...are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon, Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side...and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.


    The only bummer is that the rest of the series will not be available for download or on CD until NOVEMBER.

    I didn't love this book as much as book #2 in the series, but that could just because I read them out of order. I like Cat much better in later books--after she grows up just a little. She feels just a little too young for me here. But this is a fun book, nonetheless.

    My Grade: B+

    You can find the download version on audible or buy directly through Blackstone Audio on MP3CD.

    6/18/10

    Trade Paperback books: My least favorite format

    I admit it. I'm a format snob. I'll buy mass markets without a thought. I'll pay hardcover prices for a book I don't want to wait for. But I rarely, if ever, even LOOK at trade paperbacks.

    Why?

    Part of it is the price vs. value proposition for me. Trade paperbacks are still paperbacks. They are not made sturdier (in general) than a mass market paperback. They are simply bigger. And are, in some cases, double the cover price of a mass market. There's no additional value for the increased price.

    The size is also a factor. Trade paperbacks are uncomfortable for me to hold. Hardcovers can generally be rested on my lap. They stay open easier. (Not to mention that they do not suffer the insta-damage of spine creasing that paperbacks do.) Trade paperbacks must be held open. And I have small hands.

    The biggest reason, though, is that I tend to mentally equate trade paperback books with literary fiction. It's most likely a leftover reaction to all of those Oprah books I had to shelve when I worked for B&N, but I don't think of genre fiction when I see a book in trade paperback.

    6/17/10

    Review: Crazy for Love by Victoria Dahl

    If you're looking for a relaxing beach read, this is it. Taking a break from her usual locale in the Rocky Mountains, Victoria Dahl sets Crazy for Love in and around Virginia during the summer.

    Her trademark humor is definitely present. But instead of our heroine having some self esteem or psychological issues, our hero is the one who needs help. Max is a dive supervisor for a treasure hunting crew. And he has a deep, dark secret. He only pretends to be charming to manipulate people into doing what he wants. Not for his own nefarious purposes, really, but out of a never-ending need to protect them from physical injury. In short, he's a pathological worry wart. And yes, it really is as funny and annoying as it sounds.

    Our heroine, Chloe, is trying to enjoy a weekend away from the mess that her life has become. Besieged by the paparazzi due to the actions of her ex-fiance, she and her friend, Jenn, decide to take a vacation to an island that has limited connections to the outside world in hopes that the gossip rags won't find her.

    6/16/10

    Pseudonyms: Fair to Compare?

    It's a common practice to compare a new book by an author to their previous work. But what about when the book in question is written under a pseudonym? Presumably, the new pseudonym is being used to prevent precisely that kind of comparison, but with the "open secret" pseudonyms these days (ie JD Robb/Nora Roberts or Castle/Krentz/Quick) or even the 'writing as' designations on covers, is it fair game to judge a new book written under a new pseudonym by the backlist of another name?

    My own feelings on this are mixed. Clearly, if the books are in different genres, then different expectations and conventions exist. But if my concern is with the quality of writing, I think the writer's experience and past success should play a factor in how harshly I critique. Something that bugs me from a newbie author would probably be treated with more leniency than the same thing by a veteran author. I'm not sure if that's fair, but it's how I think. Writing is a learned skill for most. It's not all just sheer untutored talent.

    What do you think? Is it okay to judge a new pseudonym's work by the backlist of another name? Does it make a difference if the pseudonym is an open secret? Am I the only one who does this?

    Hump Day Summer Movie: Point Break (1991)

    In honor of summer, Hump Day is now Summer Movie Day. And what better way to start than with a beach movie? There are all kinds of beach movies, but when I think of surfer movies, my mind instantly goes to Point Break. This film (now *gasp* 19 years old) features Patrick Swayze in one of my favorite roles and Keanu Reeves in a part that fits him like a glove.

    Contrary to the set up, setting, and characters, though, this movie has a surprising bit of depth to it. Quite a bit of heart. And staying power. I enjoy watching it just as much today as I did back in 1991.


    6/15/10

    Review: McKettricks of Texas: Austin by Linda Lael Miller

    FTC Disclaimer: Digital galley obtained from publisher via Netgalley

    The final book in the McKettricks of Texas trilogy left me deciding that I'm pretty well done reading anything by Linda Lael Miller. Which is a shame. So, this'll be a short and not so sweet review.

    As with the first book in the series, Tate, infidelity plays a large role in the plot of this book. It's one of the few tropes that I despise. With a passion. And this book had perhaps the lamest excuse I've ever heard for cheating. Ever.

    Austin, our hero, broke his then-girlfriend, Paige's, heart because he was scared by what he was feeling and wanted her to break up with him. So, instead of saying "Hey let's break up," He cheats on her with her high school nemisis and makes sure she finds out about it--sadly by seeing them together.

    I'm sorry, but that's a character trait time cannot fix. It's lame. It's weak. It's cruel. And, at least for me, it's unforgivable. Which makes me think the heroine is TSTL to forgive him. And kills the romance completely for me. I'm all for second chances, but sometimes the hero is irredeemable. Austin remains immature, reckless, and pretty well concerned only about himself. Which in my estimation makes him a poor choice for redemption.

    As for the suspense part of the plot...it wasn't suspenseful. At all. And the resolution was horribly unsatisfying. 

    My Grade: C-/D+

    6/10/10

    Review: Instant Gratification by Jill Shalvis

    This is the second installment in the Wilder Brothers trilogy by Jill Shalvis. And I loved it. I read it in one day, shooing the children outside to play so mommy could finish her book.

    As with the previous book in the series, Instant Attraction, Instant Gratification is set in the high Sierras near Lake Tahoe. And, once again, the setting, Wishful, is spot on. But in true Shalvis style, the best part of this book was the characters. They are just so believable. So darn real. Every single character feels like someone I know. And that is nothing short of amazing.

    Stone Wilder is the middle brother. The steady one. The glue that holds the family together. And while he does take an active role in leading some of the trips arranged by the Wilder Adventures company, he generally is the one doing the nuts and bolts running of the company. But lately he's been a bit restless and dissatisfied with being tied to just the company.

    Emma Sinclair is a NYC doctor born in Wishful, but raised by her city girl mother in New York. She arrives in Wishful filled with disdain for the area, and for her father, whose practice she is overseeing while he recovers from a heart attack. When Stone Wilder comes into the clinic, injured and looking like a beach bum, she feels an instant attraction that annoys and confounds her.

    6/9/10

    Hump Day Classic Movie(s):The Blob (1958) and THEM (1954)

    Nothing says summer to me like really cheesy 1950s monster movies.  And nothing says monster movie like The Blob and Them!

    What could be sillier than a rampaging piece of jello? Perhaps giant ants! Both movies are classics. They each have star power: The Blob stars Steve McQueen and Them! has both James Arness and James Whitmore. And they each have a somewhat silly monster.

    One of the reasons I loved the Dreamworks film, Monsters vs. Aliens, is because of the tongue in cheek references to all of the classic horror films I grew up with. My mom watched them at the drive in when she was little; I watched them at home on VHS. These may seem stupid to younger viewers who have grown up with digital special effects, but there's a charm to these movies that just isn't there in more modern CGI extravaganzas.
     

    In Defense of Genre Fiction

    There’s a pervasive feeling of insecurity for me as a genre fiction reader. Despite knowing that I’m in the majority when it comes to my reading choices, I still get flashes of embarrassment when someone asks me what I’m reading. I have to force myself not to be uncomfortable because I like to read romances and mysteries.

    As if reading something light-hearted and conversationally written is somehow “bad.”

    Why do we have this double standard with books? It’s okay to like popular music. It’s okay to like popcorn movies. Romantic comedy movies are not denigrated or made fun of except by the most snobby film critics. There’s no sneer in the voices of movie goers when they say romantic comedy. Sure, popular movies rarely win an Oscar, but most aren’t treated as garbage, either. I don’t feel silly telling someone how much I enjoyed a murder mystery or romantic comedy that I watched in the theater.

    Yet when someone is reading a book, it suddenly becomes an object of ridicule. "Trashy" is probably the most common adjective I hear for romances from non-romance readers.

    6/8/10

    Review: The Burning Lamp by Amanda Quick

    While definitely not one of Quick's better novels, this one did keep me moving fairly briskly through the pages--and did serve up a surprise or two.

    I have several complaints about the novel, but primarily, my complaint rests with the characters. I just didn't enjoy either the heroine or hero as much as I usually do with Quick's books. Normally, the plot is secondary to the characters. The heroine is usually quite well developed. The hero is almost always a broody sort. But in this, I felt like I didn't really know that much about either character. They felt shallow to me. Almost overwhelmed by the paranormal and suspense parts of the book. And that disappointed me.

    6/3/10

    Lover Mine by JR Ward

     This is going to be a short, sweet review because I don't want to try to write a detailed review that avoids spoilers. I'm just too lazy.

    This is absolutely not a book to read as a stand-alone. Too much back story is needed to explain what happened to Xhex as well as the current state of multiple relationships. So, if you have not read the rest of the series, do not start with this one.

    Ward has always been big on the melodrama. She has an almost cinematic style of writing, where actions often speak louder than words. And, given John Matthew is mute, that writing style is even more apparent here. In fact, the lack of extensive dialogue adds to the charm.

    John Matthew definitely feels years older in this book. Which is both weird and necessary. We first meet John Matthew as a skinny pretrans in Lover Eternal (#2 in the series). We watch him develop from a lonely, but almost adolescent, vampire to one who has experienced trauma, seen violence, and been forced to grow up emotionally way too early. Who is still incredibly lonely.

    I could have done without all of the subplots and story archs. It just felt like too much. And, although they do tie with the main plot at the end, I didn't feel like they added any real depth, except for the Qhuinn and Blay scenes. Midway through, I began skimming those side stories.

    Without those scenes, this would probably have been one of my favorite Black Dagger Brotherhood books. I was amazed by how Ward was able to show Xhex as both strong and vulnerable. And the interactions between John and Xhex, their conversations, are probably the most romantic I've read in a long, long time. Bordering on the sappy, perhaps, but while you're reading them, they seriously tug the heart strings.

    My Grade: B+

    Gifts for the Baker