Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Year in Books 2009

I'm stealing the idea of posting all the books I read in 2009 from Jen. By my count, I made it to fifty-two, so one book per week!  I would feel a lot better about that if the majority of them weren't easy-to-read romance novels...

1. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
3. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
4. Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley
5. Les Liasions Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
6. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
7. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters
8. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
9. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
10. Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
11. Run by Ann Patchett
12. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
13. Mistress of the Monarchy by Alison Weir
14. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Graham-Smith
15. The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti
16. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
17. The Trial of Queen Caroline by Jane Robbins
18. Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change by Stephen Kinzer
19. The Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne
20. Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan
21. Let It Be Love by Victoria Alexander
22. A Visit From Sir Nicholas by Victoria Alexander
23. Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
24. Seduce Me At Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas
25. Indiscreet by Caroline Jewel
26. Scottish Brides Anthology
27. Memoirs of a Scandalous Red Dress by Elizabeth Boyle
28. Confessions of a Little Black Gown by Elizabeth Boyle
29. The Untamed Bride by Stephanie Laurens
30. Mastered By Love by Stephanie Laurens
31. Temptation and Surrender by Stephanie Laurens
32. First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh
33. Then Comes Seduction by Mary Balogh
34. At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh
35. Seducing An Angel by Mary Balogh
36. A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh
37. Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown
38. Vision In White by Nora Roberts
39. Black Hills by Nora Roberts
40. Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts
41. What Happens In London by Julia Quinn
42. To Beguile A Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
43. To Desire A Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt
44. True Love and Other Diasters by Rachel Gibson
45. Written On Your Skin by Meredith Duran
46. This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James
47. A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James
48. By Love Undone by Suzanne Enoch
49. Always a Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch
50. Blue Smoke and Murder by Elizabeth Lowell
51. Death Angel by Linda Howard
52. The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Random Romance Reviews

I thought I'd write a quick blog to review the books I read over the Christmas holiday.  First up: Believe by Victoria Alexander.  Now, Alexander is a writer I enjoy.  I am almost always pleasantly surprised after I read one of her books.  So even though Believe is a re-issue, her name alone was a selling point for me.  Another selling poing was the cover.

Come on, is that or is that not a holiday-themed cover?  I bought this book because I wanted to read a Christmas story.  BUT THEY TRICKED ME!  This was a freakin' time travel book.  I hate time travel!  The only Christmas stuff that was involved was that it was Christmas time when the heroine travel back to King Arthur's court.  Yeah, that's right.  And who is the hero, you ask?  Galahad.

I got about halfway through this book before I quit.  The heroine's use of modern language and Galahad's acceptance of it was too much, but also I was just bored.  Time travel is dumb, authors.  Stop using it!

Next up, A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh.  This is another re-issue by an author I like.  There's nothing wrong with this book, per se, but it didn't appeal to me.  The heroine is a prositite who becomes the mistress of her favorite client, the hero.  Strangely, the fact that the heroine was a prositite didn't bother me much at all, but the fact that the hero was not very smart did bother me.

I guess I'm just really stuck in romance novel cliches, or maybe I'm just enforcing my own view of what is attractive onto the story, but I like the uber-capable manly hero.  For instance, in one scene the hero is struggling to keep his estate books, and when the heroine looks over his shoulder, it takes her about five minutes to figure it out.  It takes the hero two hours, though.

There's nothing wrong with that, really, but I guess I just didn't think that there was a whole lot else about the hero that made up for that.  The heroine disagreed and saw beyond his weaknesses, but she's a better person than I am, I suppose.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is another favorite author.  Her books always seem so effortless written.  But I do have one complaint: she really seems to like writing about famous people.  Think about it!  Pro football players/owners/agents, pro golfers, computer moguls, first ladies, and actors.

That last group is my least favorite.  I know actors are real people with feelings and problems, etc, but I just can't relate to these characters.  I especially dislike it when she writes about child actors grown up, people that have always been famous.  That is who What I Did For Love is about.  The heroine and hero are both actors.  In fact, they rose to fame as teenagers when they started in a hit sitcom together.  It ran for eight seasons until the hero's bad-boy behavior brought the show to an end.  Georgie, the heroine, grew up to marry an action star, but he left her a year later for a glamorous do-gooder actress.

Yes, it is a blatant rip-off of Brangelina.  The similarities were impossible to miss, and I found myself getting annoyed at how pitiful Georgie was portrayed.  The last thing Jennifer Aniston needs is someone writing a romance novel based off her life that portrays her as a insecure, baby-hungry lady.  (Even though in this book, the Brangelina couple does not come off well.)

Anyhoo, Georgie is so sick of being pitied in the tabloids that when she accidentally marries her former co-star in Vegas (after they're both roofied) she begs him to remain married to her for the good press.

And you can guess what happens next.  Again, there was nothing wrong with this book, and I found it really entertaining to read, but I just couldn't bring myself to care about the problems these famous beautiful people have.  Everyone has problems.  I don't like it how romance authors try to endear famous characters to us by showing up how fucked up their lives are.  It never really works out, though, because the authors can't make them too messed up, otherwise they're unlikeable.  But to me, they're unlikeable merely because they're so privileged (and don't seem to acknowledge it).

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Thoughts on Re-reading

I am not really a re-reader of books.  Well, let me add a caveat to that.  I am not really a re-reader of non-romance novels.  I can re-read my favorite romance novels again and again and again.  I probably read my favorite romance novel, Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss, once a year.  Stephanie Laurens and Julie Garwood are two more authors I like to re-read.

But for some reason I never seem to pick up my other favorites more than once.  I got to thinking about this recently when I watched the film adaptation of A.S. Byatt's Possession, my favorite contemporary work.  I read that book at least eight years ago and haven't read it since.

This made me think about why I read the books I read and why they become my favorites.  Stephanie Laurens and Julie Garwood write fun stories that I like to revist, just like I like to re-watch fun movies like Bring It On and Anchorman.  Books like Possession appeal to me for different reasons. 

I have always been an avid reader, but for most of my life I was a very one dimentional reader.  Growing up I read Sweet Valley High, etc., and then I moved into romance novels and read those almost exclusively.

But something changed when I read Possession.  Even though it's been years, I can still remember how awed I was by the writing.  Not just the plot or the characters, but the actual writing of the book.  I think that was the first time that I became consciously aware of good writing. 

And for some reason, I don't have much of a desire to revisit those kinds of books.  It's like Brokeback Mountain; I loved that movie, but I just don't want to see it again.  In both cases, my first exposure provoked a strong emotional reaction.  I wonder if maybe I don't re-read or re-watch because I'm afraid of diluting that memory in some way.  Does that make sense?

I thought I'd write one this because lately I've been thinking that I do need to re-read some works that I haven't read in years.  For instance, I watch the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice so much that I was turned off by coldness and arrogance of Darcy and Elizabeth in the BBC version.  It made me realize that I need to re-read the book in order to accurately remember what it's about.  Maybe I should made a resolution to re-read all of my favorite books that were adapted as films in order to keep the purity of the book in  mind.  I guess I'll have to add The Power of One, Atonement, Wuthering Heights, and Cold Mountain to that list.