2/28/11

1st Annual March Madness starts tomorrow!


Some people might think of March as the month for basketball tournaments and St. Patrick’s Day, but starting this year March will be known for a celebration of historical romance readers and writers.

From Tuesday, March 1st through Thursday, March 31st, come interact with some of your favorite authors, meet new ones, and enter to win 40+ prizes as Ashley March hosts the 1st Annual March Madness Blog Party at www.ashleymarch.com/blog.

2/26/11

Recipe: Swiss Alps Martini

In honor of the "lovely" weather outside, I give you my go-to drink recipe: The Swiss Alps Martini

Ingredients:
1 part Vodka
1 part White Creme de Cacao
1 part Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
1 part Half and Half

Shake the ingredients over ice and pour into chilled martini glass. (I sometimes swirl some chocolate syrup in the glass before pouring)

2/25/11

Anyone for Roasted Groundhog?

If I could get my hands on that fibbing Punxsutawney Phil, his precious hide would be mine.

Early Spring? Um...not here. In fact, winter has decided to get a delayed start. Two weeks ago, it was in the 60s.

This is what it looks like today:


My car is under there somewhere.



My deck. I had a path shoveled. The new snow buried it.


I have re-shoveled the path. The snow on either side is now hip deep.

The power has been off and on for the last few days. I'm reading, but not getting much blogging done.

I hope the rest of you are somewhere warm.  Preferably with a tropical drink complete with little umbrella in your hand.

2/23/11

Borders bankruptcy sending customers fleeing to indies? Doubt it.

I've blogged about my antipathy towards independent bookstores before. And the recent tweets on Twitter.com encouraging everyone whose local Borders are closing to choose indies have evoked a Pavlovian response in me.

Instant irritation with a "No Effin Way" close behind.

Even though my "local" Borders is 75 miles away. Even though I only shop there 4 or 5 times a year. Even though that store is staying open (for now). I am—almost irrationally—angry that indies seem to be gleefully celebrating the toppling of the big box chain. And I am all the more determined not to shop at an independent bookstore.

Indies have, by and large, created a culture of literary elitism that by its very definition limits its market. And, at least in my experience, they rarely carry what I read. Want proof? Take a look at the bestseller lists of regional bookseller associations. It's littered with literary fiction, mysteries, non-fiction. No romance. So I'm not about to seek out an indie bookstore (often located out of the way) just to have them order in books I'd like to read since they can't be bothered to carry them in stock and then have the salespeople sneer at me when I stop by to pick up my order. I will just transfer my book buying budget even further onto the internet. Or shift a greater percentage to ebooks. Or just shop at Barnes and Noble.

And, at least amongst romance readers, it's pretty clear I'm not alone. Not alone in experiencing sneering booksellers. Not alone in finding a hostile retail environment in independent bookstores. And not alone in scoffing at suggestions that I transfer my Borders book budget to a segment of bookstores that treats me and my fellow romances readers with disdain.

Borders bankruptcy is bad for readers. Romance readers in particular. And it is anything but positive news for indies. Even if they mistakenly think that they have something to gain here. They'd gain a lot more by reaching out to romance readers the way Borders does. By carrying books I want to read. By encouraging a love of ALL books, not just those they deem intellectually worthy.

2/18/11

Review: Unveiled by Courtney Milan

Format: Mass Market
Pub Date: January 25, 2011
Publisher: HQN (Harlequin)
FTC: Digital copy received from publisher through Netgalley

This is probably one of my favorite historical reads of the last six months. And Ash Turner is one of my favorite historical heroes—ever.

"You matter. You are important." Who doesn't find that sexy?

Both Ash and Margaret are incredibly self aware. It's something I've noticed in Courtney Milan's writing before. And while some may find it off-putting, I find it fascinating. I like that Ash knows his personality flaws but cannot see beyond his immediate goals to the consequences of his actions. I like that Margaret realizes just what it is about Ash that attracts her. And that she clearly sees to the root of Ash's ability to charm people, but allows him to charm her anyway.

I had a few quibbles about Ash (even though he is swoon-worthy). Sometimes, he seemed just too good to be true. As if Milan was making him so wonderful to counterbalance the havoc he wreaked with his push to become the duke. He is egalitarian, honorable, loyal to his family, gentle with Margaret. All we needed was him rescuing a battered puppy and an unrelated orphan or two to complete the picture. Still... all of those patient, honorable traits are precisely why Margaret falls so deeply for him.

2/17/11

Review: Wilder's Mate by Moira Rogers

Format: ebook
Publisher: Samhain
Pub Date: March 8, 2011
FTC: Digital review copy provided by the author(s)

I am not normally a fan of historical western romances.  Even though I have liked Moira Rogers's paranormal romances in the past, I was a little leery about this one. Turns out, though, that the paranormal and steampunkish elements in Wilder's Mate helped make this book just different enough to slide past my genre pet peeves.

Strong, silent type is practically a requirement in a western, and our hero, Wilder, fits that stereotype to a "T." But, he's also far more compassionate than most of the other men in Satira's life. Satira, herself, is a far cry from the schoolmarm type of characters who used to so annoy me in traditional historical westerns. She is fiercely independent, her mother was a prostitute, and she is sexually experienced.

As a bonus for me, there's the trademark witty and occasionally snarky dialogue. They didn't pretty up the language to adhere to 19th century usage. Which I actually prefer TYVM.

"I know about full moons and new moons. I'm not a fool."
"So what are you going to do when he starts humping your leg?"
"Ophelia!"
Her friend snorted. "It's a perfectly valid question."

2/16/11

Hump Day Classic Movie: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Maybe it's the storm outside. Maybe it's the whopping 4 hours of sleep followed by the morning power outage. I'm feeling like watching something with a little bit of dark humor. And in hump day movie language, that means Arsenic and Old Lace.

Looking at the cover image, along with seeing the name Frank Capra (of It's a Wonderful Life or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington fame), might give the false impression that this is a light-hearted screwball comedy. In reality, it's anything but.

Here's the blurb:


A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family.

No, really. That's what this film is about. It's deliciously awful. Cary Grant's facial expressions are priceless. And the characters in this wacky film are mood lifters, despite the creepy premise of the film.

C'mon, you know you wanna watch it.

Waiting on Wednesday: Unclaimed by Courtney Milan

 Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book-loving hands on.

Unclaimed by Courtney Milan
Pub Date: October 2011
Format: Mass Market
Publisher: HQN

I just finished Unveiled and am now impatiently waiting for the story of Ash's brother, Mark Turner. October seems a long way away!

The Blurb:
Her only hope for survival...
Handsome, wealthy and respected, Sir Mark Turner is the most sought-after bachelor in all of London—and he’s known far and wide for his irreproachable character. But behind his virtuous reputation lies a passionate nature he keeps carefully in check… until he meets the beautiful Jessica Farleigh, the woman he’s waited for all his life.


Is to ruin the man she loves...
But Jessica is a courtesan, not the genteel lady Sir Mark believes. Desperate to win free of a life she despises, she seizes her chance when Mark’s enemies make her an offer she can’t refuse: Seduce Mark and tarnish his good name, and a princely sum will be hers. Yet as she comes to know the man she’s sworn to destroy, Jessica will be forced to choose between the future she needs—and the love she knows is impossible.

TBR Challenge Review: The Orphan by Stella Cameron

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Publisher: Mira (Harlequin)
Pub Date: 2002
FTC: Purchased myself (no idea where or when)

This month's installment in the TBR Challenge hosted by Super Wendy was a bit of a disappointment.

I've had this book sitting in the TBR forever. I've never read Stella Cameron before, but when I had my online used bookstore, this book and the others in the series were consistent sellers.

After finishing it, I can say that I hadn't been missing much.

This isn't exactly an Ugly Duckling story in terms of traditional beauty, but Jenny McBride is a milliner's assistant. She's living in poverty, dressed in plain clothes that are carefully mended. And the fact that she's attracted Latimer's notice, a man of good family with a successful business, seems like a good thing. But Jenny is proud. And confused by Latimer's attentions. And she's also got a little bit of damsel in distress going on.

2/15/11

Review: The Guy Next Door by Lori Foster, Susan Donovan and Victoria Dahl

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pub Date: February 15, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin
FTC: Digital review copy from Netgalley

I was a little skeptical about a Spring Break themed anthology. Turns out, I was right. Although this collection of novellas did tweak a few preconceptions of mine about how a Spring Break novella could work.

Ready, Set, Jett
Lori Foster's story is the least Spring-Breaky of the three. There's snow. Lots of it. Which is something I'm unfortunately quite accustomed to. As the leading story in the anthology, I found it odd that there is no hint of what most people would expect from a Spring Break story here.  But she does make up for it by setting the tone for the title of the antho. It was also the most evenly paced of the three stories.
My Grade: B

2/14/11

Happy Valentine's Day!

I know many of you out there are Valentine's Day scrooges. That's ok. I agree with you that the holiday is commercialized. And for some provides an excuse to be unromantic the rest of the year.

I'm neither a fan or a hater. I celebrate it with a few extra smooches for my sweetie or my kids. I break out the heart shaped cookie cutter for extra special PB&Js. And I don't turn down any chocolate or flowers that might come my way (although this year's gift was the complete series of the Powerpuff Girls on DVD). But the house isn't overcome in shades of pink and red and there are very few hearts in sight.


So, for those who celebrate and those who don't, I wish you happy Monday/Valentine's Day. I hope it's better than mine. I woke up to snow, wind, and 2 downed sections of fence. :)

2/11/11

Review: Zombie Cupcakes by Zilly Rosen

Format: Paperback
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Pub Date: February 15, 2011
FTC: Digital copy received for review from Netgalley

I love cupcake and decorating books. And I really, really love Halloween. Even gross Halloween decorations. I have a brain mold for making floating brains for punch bowls. I have severed limbs that look all bloody. But even *I* was grossed out by some of the projects.

The designs are exactly what they claim to be: zombie themed. But I found the designs on some to be a bit uninspired. Others, I found just too gross to contemplate.

The book's design is quite cute, though, and it is stuffed full of zombie trivia. It's also small enough and cheap enough to make a great gag gift. I don't see many people actually using this. Even on Halloween.

I have to admit, I'm a little confused about the release timing of this book. I think it would have a larger audience around Halloween.  Although...those with a weak stomach would do best to avoid entirely.

As a cookbook/decorating book, I'd give it a C-. As a gag gift or unique gift idea for the zombie lover, it gets a B+ from me.

2/9/11

Waiting on Wednesday

WoW is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine. It highlights books we can't wait to get our greedy, book loving hands on.

Unbearable Lightness of Dragons by Katie MacAlister
#2 Light Dragons series
Published by NAL 
May 3, 2011

I am thoroughly addicted to Katie MacAlister's dragon series. I had mixed feelings going into the stories about Baltic, but the first one was laugh out loud funny. MacAlister's dragons aren't shapeshifters, really, and are incredibly sexy. Baltic can't quite match Drake from the Aisling Grey series, but he's a hoot to read about. (Plus...yum...look at that cover)

From Goodreads.com
Even an ancient dragon can learn how to multitask…

Ysolde de Bouchier is a woman beset with trials. The dragon part of her buried deep for centuries is still making itself known, but in ways that just don’t make sense. She’s continuing to have visions, but now they involve events she wasn’t present to witness.

As if that isn’t enough, she’s caught up in a tangled web of plans that seem to grow more complex each day. Not only does she have to work out peace between her Light Dragon mate Baltic and the weyr, she also has to free his friend, convince an archimage to lift the spell controlling her magic, figure out what it is that the First Dragon expects her to do, rescue a half-dragon damsel in over her head, and once and for all clear Baltic’s name of murder charges that continue to plague him.

No one told Ysolde that dragon love would be so hard…

Hump Day Movie: Fools Rush In (1997)

And, the second "date" movie that my husband will voluntarily offer to watch is...

Fools Rush In starring Selma Hayek and Matthew Perry.

Ok, granted, Salma Hayek is a large reason that my husband will watch this movie. She's gorgeous. But the main reason he doesn't grumble is because this is a funny, sweet movie. The humor is well done without making the romantic parts trite or sappy.

The scene where Matthew Perry's character comes home after spending the day with Hayek's family completely plastered on tequila and with a butt full of cactus spines is classic.

I think this one got such poor reviews upon its release because Perry was at the height of his Friends popularity and critics panned him because of it. That, and the Hollywood film elite don't like anything romantic that doesn't end with a body count. *blows raspberries*

What romantic movies (if any) will the guys in YOUR life watch without grumbling?

2/7/11

Brian Jacques Dies at Age 71

BBC News reported that Brian Jacques, author of the very popular Redwall series, died over the weekend.

When I first heard the news on Twitter via Publishers Weekly, I admit it: I cried.

I had never heard of the Redwall series when I was young. The first book, Redwall, was published in 1986, but it wasn't until a decade later, while taking a Children's Literature course in college that I discovered the magic of Brian Jacques.

The premise of the books sounds so silly. Furry rodents and other creatures in a medieval like setting having battles, eating yummy sounding food, and going on adventures. But Jacques managed to put so much heart into his books. They are truly moving, very engrossing, and timeless.

These are a perfect example of books that transcend genres and age groups. To some, they are written for children. But these are full length novels that I quite often found shelved in the adult fantasy section. My personal favorite is not Redwall, but Mossflower. I haven't reread those in a long time, and I know a few of the series is available on audio. I think it may be time to introduce these books to my own children.

I am a little heartbroken that there will be no more Redwall adventures. But I am so grateful that Brian Jacques left us the rich legacy of his stories. For those who haven't read his stories, I highly recommend them.

2/4/11

Falcon at the Portal [audio]: "Good Parts" version

I've already read the entire Amelia Peabody series from start to finish. Several times. I even have the Amelia Peabody companion book. In short, I'm a wee bit obsessed with the series. Just a smidge.

I had been working my way through Barbara Rosenblat's fab narration of the audiobook versions.  And then I reached Falcon at the Portal. Anyone who has read the series knows the significance of that. For those who haven't read the series, let's just say a major character acts out of character and FUBARs  the romantic story arc from the last few books.

I got about halfway through it. Then...I stalled. Not because I hated the writing. Or because I didn't want to find out what happens. I already knew what came next. But because I just didn't want to suffer through what happened again. Once was enough. In fact, the first time through Falcon, I pitched the print book against the wall. Literally.

So...I decided to skip to the last 20 minutes of the book. There's still some angsty stuff there. But the hit me in the gut emotion was skipped. And, cowardly though it seems, I'm glad I skipped. Because the next book, He Shall Thunder in the Sky rocks! And I don't have the cloud of depression and annoyance following me around that came from my 1st reading of Falcon at the Portal.

What about you? Are there any keeper books that you reread but only the "good parts?" Any books that you'll stop reading just before an emotionally draining scene? Or am I just weird? (Don't answer that last question.)

2/3/11

Review: Sweet as Sin by Inez Kelley

Format: ebook
Publisher: Carina
Pub Date: January 31, 2011
FTC: Received for review via Netgalley

I haven't read an Inez Kelley book before, but I will definitely be checking for backlist and future releases after finishing Sweet as Sin.

I've never been fond of sex scenes that had food in them. They just seemed messy rather than erotic. But the scenes at the bakery with Murphy and Livvy are some of the most erotic, sensual scenes I've ever read. Especially the luster dust. *fans self* I'm not really a fan of explicit scene after explicit scene in books, because so often it seems as if the sex overwhelms the romance. But the scenes in this book are both explicit AND incredibly intimate. Emotionally charged as well as hot. And that was a wonderful surprise.

2/2/11

Waiting on Wednesday: Quicksilver by Amanda Quick

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted over at Breaking the Spine.  It highlights books we just can't wait to get our greedy, book loving hands on.

QUICKSILVER by Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz)
Book Two of the Looking Glass Trilogy
Hardcover
On Sale April 19, 2011
The Blurb:
Virginia Dean wakes at midnight beside a dead body, with a bloody knife in her hand and no memory of the evening’s events. Dark energy, emanating from the mirrors lining the room, overpowers her senses. With no apparent way in or out, she is rescued by a man she has met only once before, but won’t soon forget....


Owen Sweetwater inherited his family’s talent for hunting the psychical monsters who prey on London’s women and children, and his investigation into the deaths of two glass-readers has led him here. The high-society types of the exclusive Arcane Society would consider her an illusionist, a charlatan, even a criminal, but Owen knows better. Virginia’s powers are real — and they just might be the key to solving this challenging case.
This is part of the Arcane Society series (and 2nd in the Looking Glass trilogy) that spans Jayne Ann Krentz's three names and genres.  I haven't read the first one in the trilogy yet, but plan to before April.

Hump Day Movie: The Cutting Edge (1992)

February makes me think of Valentine's Day. And Valentine's Day makes me think of date movies. And date movies make me think of the very few movies that are both romantic and don't give my husband a case of the dry heaves. There are really only two movies, and The Cutting Edge is one of them. Even though it is about figure skating.

Usually, I stick with classic movies on Wednesdays (although, cripes, this movie turns 20 next year) but what the heck. This is one of those romantic comedy/drama movies that taps into a ton of stereotypes but somehow works anyway. Critics didn't love it. They didn't hate it. And I think the film found much of its audience when it went to video.

There are a few scenes that make me cringe with their cheesiness...especially the workout scenes. But the peppy banter, the underlying sweetness of the film, and DB Sweeney make this film a favorite of mine. Hubs just likes the humor. "Finger painting?" And I think he has a thing for Moira Kelly's expressive doe eyes.

For the other movie my hubs admits he likes, check back for next week's hump day movie.

Gifts for the Baker