Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lindsey's Top Ten

Since I will do just about anything to avoid doing homework or studying for my fast-approaching final exams, I decided that I would do my own personal top ten lists. I don't think anyone will argue that the Equal Protection Clause, Hearsay rules of evidence, or a pesky little thing called legal ethics are more exciting than romance novels (okay, and other books, too). Am I right or am I right?

Top Ten Favorite Historical Romances
1. Ransom by Julie Garwood
2. Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
3. Only Mine by Elizabeth Lowell
4. The Wedding by Julie Garwood
5. Winter Fire by Elizabeth Lowell
6. For The Roses by Julie Garwood
7. Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh
8. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orszy
9. Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas
10. Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Top Ten Favorite Contemporary Romances
1. Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard
2. To Die For by Linda Howard
3. Mirror Image by Sandra Brown
4. Over the Edge by Suzanne Brockmann
5. Message From Nam by Danielle Steel (I'm counting this as a contemporary)
6. The Reef by Nora Roberts
7. Matchmakers, a novella from The Invitation by Jude Deveraux
8. French Silk by Sandra Brown
9. Simply Irresistable by Rachel Gibson
10. Love's Encore/Love Beyond Reason by Sandra Brown (I'm a total sucker for '80's romances!)

Top Ten Favorite Non-Romance Novels
1. Possession by A.S. Byatt
2. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
3. Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve
4. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
5. The Power of One by Bryce Courtney
6. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
7. Resistance by Anita Shreve
8. Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen
9. Fluke: I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
10. The Virginian by Owen Wister

And there you have it. Now, I complied these lists just now from memory, so I'm sure there will be other books that come to me later on.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Book Rant: Paranormals

WTF is up with all the paranormals taking over the romance genre? It seems like everytime I turn around some author I read is either writing or raving about a paranormal romance. Right now all I keep hearing about is Warlord and Lover Revealed, about fantasy lands and vampires, respectfully. There is already a genre for that crap, LEAVE ROMANCE ALONE! Vampires are not sexy! Am I the only one out there who feels this way? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

It doesn't stop at vampires, either! Now Christina Dodd is writing a series about werewolves! Oh dear God, when will the madness end?!

I've never been crazy about non-realistic stuff in my romance novels. As I've often mentioned, I hate time travel with passion that will never die. Now, time travel has been around a while. I remember when I first picked up Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor, about a modern day woman who meets a hunky warrior who come from the past. I was like, "okay, I guess I can deal with this," until the characters spent lots of time together, fell in love, AND THEN SHE WENT BACK TO THE PAST AND HE DIDN'T KNOW HER! WTF?! NOT OKAY! I promptly skipped to the end at that point. Other time travel books such as Linda Howard's Son of the Morning and Diana Gabaldon's Outlander didn't tickle my fancy either.

And magic is not my cup of tea, either, which has led to an estrangement between Nora Roberts and myself, because if there's one thing that lady loves, it's magic and ghosts and shit. When was the last time she wrote a trilogy that didn't involve the supernatural? Wait, has she EVER? Her hardbacks usually stay away from that crap, except Carolina Moon and Midnight Bayou, but I didn't like either of those.

Since time travel and ghosts are too much for me, it should be no surprise that I despise vampires even more. Nothing makes me put a book down faster than reading the word "vampire" on the back. Gross! THEY DRINK BLOOD FOR THE LOVE OF PETE! THAT. IS. NOT. SEXY. But the damn books are everywhere. EVERYWHERE!

I read romance novels for fantasy, but not sci-fi fantasy! Real-life fantasy! It's hard enough to believe that men like romance heroes actually exist, and when you throw in magic and paranormal crap, it's even worse. So I wait and pray for the day when this fad runs dry, because I really, really hate it.

Book Review: Shanna

Good lord, I love this book. It is surely in the top three of my favorite historical romances of all time, and it maybe, maybe is #1. Julie Garwood's Ransom is still holding on tight, though.

I first read this book years ago, after reading quite a few of Ms. Woodiwiss's other works. Everytime I would read reviews on Amazon or a place like that, everyone mentioned Shanna as one of their favorites, so I decided to give it a whirl. I can't remember how I felt about it back then, but after rereading it this weekend, me likes it.

Here's a plot synopsis: The book is set in the 1720's or '30's (I can't remember exactly when). Shanna is the daughter of a vastly wealthy merchant who lives on and serves as governor of a small Caribbean island where he grows sugar cane. Her father is a widower who dotes on his only child, but it is his mission in life to see her married and a mother. He wants grandchildren and he wants them now! Shanna was educated in Europe, but when she returns home after turning away dozens of would-be suitors, her father gets angry and gives her an ultimatum: She's to return to England for a year, and if in that year she doesn't find a man from a respectable family (with a good, aristocratic name), then he will find a husband for her.

Now, Shanna's not the kind of woman to be bossed around, especially when it comes to marriage. She's not only a renowned beauty, but is also the daughter of an obscenely wealthy man, so it's important to her that the man she ends up with loves her for her, and not because she's rich. And as a romantic, she has this ideal man in mind, a white knight who will ride up and save her from all her woes. Unfortunately for her, she's about a month from her deadline when she still hasn't found a man who fits the bill. Determined not to be bested by her father, she hatches a plan. She and her guardian/servant bride the gaoler at Newgate prison to show them the list of names from men condemned to die. When she sees the name Ruark Beauchamp, a condemned murderer, she decides that he will be the perfect husband. After all, the Marquess de Beauchamp is a well-known aristocrat in London, so her father will be well-pleased with the name. However, the prisoner is an American colonist who cannot be related to the powerful family, and he's destined to die in a matter of weeks! Shanna decides she will make a bargain with the man - his name in marriage for her money to make his last days more comfortable. The prisoner agrees, but he adds one condition - he gets a wedding night with his bride.

Shanna agrees because she's desperate, even though her new finance looks awful after three months in a dank cell. But more bribing of the gaoler and Shanna gets Ruark out of gaol for a day so that they can marry respectfully in a small country parish. Much to her surprise, her hubby cleans up quite nicely. Much to his surprise, Shanna has him thrown back in gaol before her part of the bargain is fulfilled, and then tells everyone that she was married and widowed within a week.

Not that the above is ridiculous enough on its own, but it gets even better!!! Shanna's father's stewart (who knows nothing of her scheme) is in London with her, and on the day Ruark is to be executed, he goes to Newgate and purchases Ruark from the gaoler. He plans to take him back to Shanna's island and tell her father that he is a bondsman. Apparently it was common practice for Shanna's father to take in bondslaves and let them work off their debts on his island, but the stewart is going behind his back by getting felons and murderers from Newgate. So low and behold, when Shanna gets home to her father's island and tells everyone she's a widow, she's much surprised to see her supposedly dead husband there as a bondsman! Ruark is determined to get her to fulfill their bargain, but he keeps his identity underwraps while he establishes himself as the smartest, hardest working bondslave on the island.

There are many more unbelievable coincidences, but who really cares? It's a romance novel, and this novel is perfection. I have deep, deep affection for romance novels written over twenty years ago, and since this one was written in 1977, it fits the bill. Plus, Woodiwiss's writing is so grandiose that it's just insanely entertaining. I loved Ruark, mainly because he took endless delight in baiting and teasing Shanna until she screamed at him in frustration and annoyance. And even though Shanna often acted like a spoiled brat, Ruark always called her on it, and Woodiwiss acknowledged it by making her eventually grow out of it. Some reviewers have little tolerance for Shanna's wishy-washiness with it came to Ruark, but I thought it was believable. She was a rich, spoiled woman, and she thought he was a poor, murdering colonial! (Although, it didn't take long to become clear from his character that Ruark was no murderer.) It doesn't surprise me that she didn't yield to him mind, body, and soul right away at the beginning. Instead, she gradually learned to let go of her ideals of the perfect man and accept Ruark despite his humble social status. I think it would have been unbelievable if Woodiwiss had her change everyone overnight.

Also, I disagree with one reviewer who said that there was nothing about Shanna for Ruark to be attracted to except her beauty. She was fiesty and yes, it often came across as bitchy, but I can see why it would interest Ruark. He'd tease and push at her, and she'd push right back! She was not boring or uninteresting in the least, and underneath it all she had a good heart. Of course a man would be facinating by a gorgeous, well-dressed woman who walks into his gaol cell and says she wants to marry him! That takes balls!

This book is painfully long, but it works because Shanna's character needs that much time to completely surrender to the fact that she is indeed married to Ruark. Even after she starts sleeping with him (initially because she feels guilty over cheating him of their bargain), she's still hesitant to admit she married a convincted murderer. I think that is utterly reasonable.

Anyhoo, there's more good stuff that happens at the end (and if you couldn't guess, Ruark really didn't kill anyone, and he's not a poor nobody, either). But my weakness for secret marriage plots, the epic saga-ness of it all, and the enjoyable characters makes this book so very, very fun for me to read. And wow, this was a long review for me.

Lindsey's Grade: A+

P.S. There are pirates, too!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Book Review: See No Evil

Eh. That's how I feel about this book. Eh.

The heroine is a deputy district attorney named Julia Chandler. The hero is a private investigator named Connor Kincade. The two go back about five years, when Julia threatened to prosecute Connor if he refused to testify against his partner and other police officers. As a result, Connor testified and was essentially forced to resign from the police department because of his "betrayal." So there is little love lost between the two of them.

But when Julia's sixteen year-old neice is the prime suspect in the disturbing murder of her stepfather, Julia hires Connor to get to the bottom of the case.

I generally like romantic suspense because at least the female protagonists do something. They're usually always portrayed as smart and assertive, mainly because they're activity involved in getting to the bottom of the mystery. Don't get me wrong, Julia was no different. But even though I liked both Julia and Connor, and their relationship was enjoyable if not a little rushed, the mystery in this book was totally lame. For one, it was completely unbelievable for me. It was just too far-fetched and bizarre. And second, Brennan showed her cards way too early! There was almost nothing left to reveal at the end except the names of the people behind the crimes, and considering that they were characters that didn't show up at all throughout the course of the book until the big reveal, I didn't really care.

I think I will probably give Brennan another try, though, because I do like her voice and her characterizations. It was just the plot of this particular book that I didn't like.

Lindsey's Grade: B-/C+

Book Review: Lady Sophia's Lover

Well, I finally read Lady Sophia's Lover, probably close to a year after I read it's sequel Worth Any Price, and some time after its prequel Someone To Watch Over Me. It was nice to get back to Lisa Kleypas's historicals, because I really enjoy them.

The basic premise of Lady Sophia's Lover is that Lady Sophia, who was orphaned as a young girl and subsequently separated from her younger brother, is seeking revenge from the magistrate that sentenced her brother to work on a ship as punishment (where he later died). Luckily for her, the magistrate is Sir Ross Cannon, the man who is in charge of the Bow Street runners, and he needs a new clerk/secretary. So she goes and applies for the position and gets it, but her intentions all the while are to seduce Sir Ross and break his heart, and also to steal confidential files and go public with them to humiliate him. The seduction part isn't too hard, because he's drooling over her from the minute he sees her, but after weeks together they both start to have genuine feelings of loooooove. Now what is she to do?

Since I had already Worth Any Price, I knew what the big surprise/conflict at the end would be, but that was okay because I still liked it. It's pretty rare for me that Kleypas doesn't write a hero that I don't like, and this book was no different. I really liked Sir Ross because he was the perfect mix of real man and nice guy. Sophia was enjoyable as well, and I'm glad that Kleypas didn't make a huge affair about how Sophia would deal with the fact that her feelings for Ross began to change. She gave it little attention, but at the same time it was completely believable for me, especially because she began to change her opinion on him based upon things other than the fact that she was sexually attracted to him.

Lindsey's Grade: B+

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Book Review: Sugar Daddy

I liked Lisa Kleypas's debut in contemporary novels more than the reviews over at Dear Author did, but at the same time I didn't enjoy it near as much as I enjoy her historicals.

Now, Kleypas's is a gifted writer, regardless of whether she's writing contemporaries or historicals. In fact, this book (which was set in Texas and heavily influenced by Texan culture) reminded me a bit of Sandra Brown's earlier work. And I also enjoyed the way the book eventually set itself up - with the heroine, Liberty, torn between two men, one from her past and one from her present. But I wasn't particularly fond of Liberty, which not surprisingly held me back from really enjoying the book. I have a few theories on why this was:

As they point out at Dear Author, Liberty was kind of like a Young Adult book heroine. I personally think this is because Kleypas spent a lot of time with her character as a child and teenager. Basically, we grew up with Liberty, and I've never been fond of books that do that (Susan Elizabeth Phillips's Hot Shot and Honey Moon come to mind as examples of books with that plot device that didn't sit well with me). I don't know what that is. Maybe it just makes it hard to separate the child from the women, especially when there is little time given to showing us how Liberty matured and grew up.

Also, this book was written in first person, and that's a little difficult for me to enjoy in a romance novel. It worked for Jude Deveraux in the contemporary novella from The Invitation, but that's pretty rare. Oddly enough, I felt like the first person ploy actually made me know Liberty less than I would have had it been in third person.

Long story short, I was unsatisfied with this book.

Lindsey's Grade: B-

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Book Review: Ashes to Ashes

After finishing Tami Hoag's Prior Bad Acts, I decided to re-read Ashes to Ashes since I'm at home on Spring Break and the book was just sitting there on a shelf waiting for me. After all, the main characters from Prior Bad Acts first showed up in Ashes to Ashes and, luckily for me, I remembered ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT THE BOOK. Seriously. Nothing. I only knew the Prior Bad Acts characters were in Ashes to Ashes because Prior Bad Acts told me so. It's a little disturbing, but then again, I own Ashes to Ashes in hardback and it came out in 1999. So that was about eight years ago, and I think it's understandable if I've forgotten.

Ashes to Ashes is set in Minneapolis, and the plot revolves around a serial killer that is killing women and then setting their bodies on fire to be found in public places. The press has labeled the killer "The Cremator." Lovely.

Kate Conlin is a former FBI agent that left the Bureau five years before to move back to her hometown of Minneapolis to become a victim/witness advocate. The first two bodies that are found burned were prostitutes, but when a third body believed to be the daughter of a local billionaire is found, everyone stands up and pays attention. Kate is called in to work with a young woman who supposedly saw The Cremator dump and light up the third body.

John Quinn is the most famous FBI criminal profiler around, and because of the billionaire's influence, he's called in to participate on this case. And as fate would have it, he and Kate have a history together from her time with the FBI. A sexy history. Do do dooooo.

I liked this book, just like I like all Tami Hoag books. She's a great mystery writer, keeping me interested while still holding back a lot. Seriously, I have read this book before and I STILL didn't know who the killer was. That's a good mystery. Either that or I have early onset Alzheimers.

I would like to read the "sequel" (not really a sequel, just her next book with the same characters) Dust to Dust, but even though I'm sure I've read it before (I remember a little more about this one) and I'm also rather sure that I own it, I can't find it anywhere. It's disappeared, much like a lot of my books do. I suspect that a certain sister of mine "borrows" books and loses them/throws them away/loans them without permission/steals them. But hey, innocent until proved guilty, right?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

One Sentence Book Reviews

I've read a lot of quick, paperback books since the last time I posted a real review. So this one is just going to serve the purpose of getting me caught up.

Prior Bad Acts - A good book with a sexy cop, but a telegraphed ending.

Merger of Fortunes - This book was as bad as the cover model's outfit.

No Safe Place - I liked the romance aspect, but could not have cared less about the mystery.

Dead Shot - It was nice to see a heroine that had some major flaws because it made her more believable, but the whole premise of the book was just too out-there.

Tongue in Chic - Well, this was not nearly as horrific as Trouble in High Heels, but still (as always with Dodd books), something just felt "off" about it.

And Then He Kissed Her - This historical romance actually lived up to the hype I had read about it.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time - As usual, Kane's hero and heroine are absolute paragons in every aspect of their lives, but the romance in this book was as boring as the mystery.

How to Abduct a Highland Lord - This book was incredibly simplistic, but for some reason, I still liked it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Book Review: Prior Bad Acts

I'm reading Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag right now. Generally she's an author I enjoy, even though she's a little dark so I have to take her in small does. The plot of this book is best summarized as this: a mother and two children are killed in a really horrifying, disturbing (so disturbing I wonder about Hoag's imagination) manner; the police arrest a suspect; suspect is charged with murder; the prosecution tries to enter into evidence the suspects "prior bad acts" such a larcency, indescent exposure, being a Peeping Tom, etc; the judge refuses to admit the evidence; the police and the community go apeshit over the judge's ruling; the judge gets beaten up in the parking garage on the way to her car.

Okay, so maybe this would seem like a thrilling and exciting read to you, but I'm taking Evidence right now, so it's causing me some problems. The first problem I have with the plot of the book revolves around Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), in which character evidence, as a general rule, is excluded. And "prior bad acts" is character evidence.
Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith.
So I'm kind of wondering how Hoag really expects us to believe that this judge's ruling would be SO controversial that it would cause prosecutors and seasoned cops to lose their minds. THE RULES OF EVIDENCE PRETTY MUCH DEMAND THAT SHE EXCLUDE THE EVIDENCE. It's just beyond my imagination that a prosecutor is that upset over the ruling when it was his job to argue that it should fall under an exception to the general rule.

This is really bothering me. In case you can't tell.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Book Review: the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon 2003 , 226 pgs.

"Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic."

Having the narrator be autistic and tell this particular story is what makes this book OUTSTANDING.

It was very emotional, humorous and thrilling, a combination that is difficult to accomplish for many writers. Not only do you feel for Christopher there is also a lot of empathy surrounding his parents and those trying to help him.

Kim's Grade: A Simple, kind and fun to read.

Anyone interested in reading this let me know, I'll mail it to you!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Book Review: Bangkok 8

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett 318 pages, 2003.

Murder, Buddhism, karma,
methed up snakes,
drug trafficking,
more Buddhism,
transsexuals wanting revenge,

Kim's Grade: C+ wasn't too bad for a mystery.