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Friday, October 07, 2005

September 2005 Books

This is the last of the catch-up on the book lists. Here's what I read in September:

  1. ***** Rogue Warrior _by Richard Marcinko. Autobiography. Interesting, fun, readable. Warning about the prolific cursing if it bothers you.
  2. **** The Sword of Shannara_ by Terry Brooks. Fantasy. Finally finished reading this one with the boys. It does have a LOT of similarities to LOTR, but it's more readable.
  3. **** The Last Bride _by Sandra Landry. Time-travel romance. Hah. The exception that proves the rule. It's got ghosts. It's got reincarnation. And the time-travel ties them together. But it works. The ghosts & reincarnation are PART OF THE STORY. And it doesn't go off on long boring tangents about something that happened to some dead people who nobody cares about because they were thoroughly unlikeable. Er. Speaking of tangents. Anyway. The heroine's reaction to the time travel was great--very realistic. I had a question or two at the end, which is why it didn't get an extra half star, but all in all, a good story.
  4. ****½ Sacred Sins_ by Nora Roberts. Romantic suspense. Tess's bleeding heart-ness made me want to *smack* her upside the head. I suspect, though, that Nora just didn't get the balance quite right for me--I think she took it for granted that we'd realize Tess cared about the victims, but it wasn't that evident to me.
  5. Taking Care of Business:
    **** "Driven" by LuAnn McLane.
    Heh. Did this make anyone else think of Jenny Crusie & Bob Mayer? (though the main things didn't fit--they're not in a romance, he approached her for a collaboration; the details do: Maui, romantic comedy, tough guy) Cute story, though.
    ***½ "What Happens in Vegas" by Patricia Ryan. The 3½ stars is deceptive. The first half of the story is ho-hum dull. Some bimbo-y chick acting dumb and some dull guy playing blackjack. Then we find out that the sleazebag owner of the casino wants her to find out how the dull guy keeps winning, but I still don't care. Then... there's a VERY hot sex scene. An example for the next time there's a conversation about taking sex scenes out of context. This one works out of context--it probably works BETTER out of context, because I really didn't care at all about these characters. And no, it's not in the details, it's in the way she writes about the details. *sigh* I wish more authors understood that. So maybe 2½ stars for the story itself, but that sex scene bumped it up a star.
    **** "Brushstrokes" by Toni Blake. Cute story. Matchmaking grandma sets up artist granddaughter with commitment-phobic bar owner by getting him to hire her to paint his bar. She ends up painting angels on his ceiling, & he keeps trying to tell her to quit, but he can't bring himself to. Points for inventiveness in the sex scenes.
  6. **** The King Is Dead _by Ellery Queen. Mystery. Classic locked-door mystery, and a take-over-the-world conspiracy along with it as an added bonus. Fun stuff.
  7. ****½ Lady Whilton's Wedding_ by Barbara Metzger. Regency romance. Written in omniscient POV, which is highly unusual, but very cool. Reminiscent of Arsenic & Old Lace _with a dead body that keeps disappearing, and some hilariously bumbling petty criminals. This would make a fabulous movie.
  8. ***** Local Custom_ by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. Science fiction. Thanks, JenB! Oh, this is fabulous, wonderful, excellent--somebody get me a thesaurus, would you? Loved it. It says "science fiction" on the spine, and it is s.f, but it's also a damn good romance--better than a lot of books that say "romance" on the spine. No pulled punches, nothing easy for these characters, and the premise of a cross-cultural romance is done so incredibly well, as the characters have to become aware of the assumptions they make because of their cultures. Also, it's a little thing, but it made me smile that the heroine is 6 foot tall with brown skin, and the hero, well, it doesn't say how tall he is, but he is shorter, and his skin is gold, IIRC. I'm so tired of heroines who are described as being about 1/4 of the hero's size, and who are glow-in-the-dark pale, so this was just a little extra. Must go find more books by Lee & Miller.
  9. ****½ An Enchanted Affair _by Barbara Metzger. Regency romance. Again with the omniscient POV, though it's not quite so pronounced as in the previous one. Another unusual Regency, in a different way from LWW. The heroine in this one can see fairies, which makes people think she's odd. She's an heiress, her parents die, & her greedy uncle takes over, alternately punishing her and ignoring her. She routinely escapes to the "haunted" woods, but this is threatened when the impoverished duke who owns them decides to sell the timber. She proposes marriage to him as beneficial to both--saving her woods & getting her out from under her uncle's thumb, and paying off his debts. Surprisingly complex for such a short book (228 p.).
  10. ****½ Thin Air_ by Robert B. Parker. Mystery. I just love the character of Spenser. Quite a lot like Harry Dresden--not surprisingly: Jim cites Parker as one of his influences. A woman is missing, her husband is a cop & friend of Spenser's. When the cop is shot, Spenser goes looking for the wife. Surprisingly complex, and the ending was... different. In a good way. The periodic glimpses into what was happening with the wife were reminiscent of when Nora shows us what the killer is thinking in the In Death books, and I had the same reaction to it: it's interesting, but it takes something away from the mystery, & I'd prefer the book without it.
  11. **½ The Windmill _by Stephanie Gertler. Women's fiction. The usual whiny, unlikeable characters who can't be bothered to actually TALK to each other. About 2/3 of the way through the book, though, the husband's secret/story got mildly interesting, so I'll give it an extra half star for that.
  12. ***½ Housebound _by Anne Stuart. Contemporary category romance. Pretty standard Cinderella story. The heroine's the only "untalented" one in a family of demanding, self-absorbed artists. All she has is the huge old family house that's falling down around her. The rest of the family wants to sell, & the hero's a lawyer who's come to check out the house & make an offer on behalf of his dead wife's father's company. Complicating things further, the heroine is engaged to a man her sister is in love with (& vice versa), and the sister, believing she's lost the man she wants, is after the hero. Oh, and the heroine initially mistakes the hero for her brother's gay lover. Nice story, but nothing exceptional.
  13. **** Hostile Makeover_ by Ellen Byerrum. Mystery. An ugly but nice woman became beautiful via a TV show like The Swan, and now she's a vicious supermodel. She tells Lacey Smithsonian, fashion reporter, that she's afraid someone's trying to kill her and asks Lacey to find out who. She's killed, and Lacey does find out who. Lacey's judgmental mother & sister come to visit & cramp her style. Cute series, but I really cannot understand why Lacey puts up with a boyfriend who spends more time with his conniving ex-wife than with her.
  14. ****½ Home at Last _by Jerri Corgiat. Contemporary romance. Third in the series. This one is the story of Mari, the youngest sister, who tried to derail the romance in the first book. She's a hard character to like--a typical youngest child: self-centered & spoiled, used to getting her own way. An affair with a married man effectively derailed her career, & now she's out of a job, out of money, & pressured by her sisters to stay with her mother who's recovering after a heart attack. She renews her acquaintance with a childhood best friend, Andy, who she remembers as an always-in-trouble drunk. There's also a secondary plot thread about Jon's (from the first book) now-teenage son Michael who's having psychological problems and the effect it's having on Jon & Lil's marriage. I docked this one a half star because Mari was so hard to like, but the writing is superb. The story's all about family and acceptance & blame, and though it has those women's fiction-y themes, its tone (and happy ending) is pure romance. Not a comfortable book to read, but very satisfying.
  15. ***** The Naked Sun _by Isaac Asimov. Science fiction. And mystery. An earthman, a police detective, is sent to Solaria to solve a murder in a place where the robots outnumber the humans thousands to one, and the humans only interact via "viewing" (holograms, kind of like Roarke's meetings). His partner is the robot he worked with before, who's masquerading as a human. A sequel to I, Robot.
  16. **** Dangerous Passions_ by Lynn Kerstan. Historical romance. Actually, historical romantic suspense. 2nd in the series about a secret organization called the Black Phoenix, which recruits people to do undercover work--in this case, to solve a series of murders. I'd have liked this better, except the heroine, who began the book plotting revenge against the hero, persisted in believing the worst of him despite plentiful evidence to the contrary. Argh.
  17. ** The Crossword Connection _by Nero Blanc. Mystery. Blah. Stilted dialogue--heck, all the writing is stilted, the characters act weirdly--without motivation to do so. Gratuitous use of italics. Then there's the character that calls the heroine's fiance "Poly---crates" every single time he uses the name. And it's "deduced" that a golf club could not be a murder weapon because...get this: the victim wasn't wearing golfing clothes. WTF?? And the killer sending cryptic crossword puzzles was just tedious. My impression is that this was *about* the 6 crossword puzzles contained in the book. The story, such as it was, was just filler.
  18. **** Rebellion_ by Nora Roberts. Historical romance.
  19. **** Someone to Believe In _by Kathryn Shay. Contemporary romance. I usually love Kathryn Shay's books, but the heroine in this one was just TSTL, IMO. The whole last couple chapters I just wanted to whack her upside the head. ARGH. The conflict between the h/h was fabulous, but it would have been SO much more effective if she hadn't been so stupid.
  20. ****½ Brazen Virtue_ by Nora Roberts. Romantic suspense.
  21. ***½ The Abducted Bride_ by Dorothy Mack. Regency romance. In a case of mistaken identity, Amy is drugged & abducted by the hero, who believes she's his errant wife. He chalks up the changes in her, and her insistence that she's not who he thinks she is to the fact that in the short time they WERE together, his wife changed dramatically, culminating in her running off with another man. He thinks it's just more of her scheming, though he's puzzled about what she thinks to gain. It's plausible, but there were times I thought Amy was just a little too accepting of the situation, & too quick to forgive in the end. And there's a thread of her brother spying in France that didn't quite go anywhere. Of course, part of that could be that it's such a short book.
  22. *** Pawn of Prophecy_ by David Eddings. Fantasy. Hmmm. I'm still not quite sure what I think of this. It's very obviously The First Book In The Series, and things happen, but nothing's resolved. I really have to reserve judgment until after I read the next one.
  23. ***** Third Time Lucky_ by Claire Cross. Contemporary romance. This was a re-read because Berkley reissued it as a trade paperback & sent it to me, and I didn't remember it well enough to write something about it. After I'd read a little way, I remembered it just fine, but then I WANTED to finish reading. Twice before, Nick has come into Phil's life and changed it for the better. Twice before, he's left without a word. Now he's back, asking for her help.
  24. ***** Night Fires_ by Karen Harbaugh. Paranormal romance. A female vampire in the French revolution whose mission, given her by her priest as atonement for killing the men who'd turned her into a vampire, is to save those who would be killed. She meets up with an English assassin, and they join forces. The tone of this book is much more... real, gritty, honest... than the usual vampire romance. I think it's because we really see the deep-down emotions of the characters.
  25. Twin Peaks_ by Susan Johnson & Jasmine Haynes.
    * "Wedding Surprise" by Susan Johnson.
    Contemporary romance. OMG, this was horrible. The "heroine" (and I use the word loosely) has sex with the twin brother of the guy she's been lusting after for months but hasn't worked up the guts to talk to yet. She finds out it was his twin, goes back & has sex with the twin again, then a couple of hours later hooks up with the "hero." When the hero finds out, he's angry, which makes her even more angry. He ends up apologizing, but she never does. Gak. Ick. Yuck. I loathed this woman. 100 pages, and probably a good 50% is sex scenes, but they're pretty dull, even though the rest of the pages are the heroine telling her best friend how good the twin is in bed (whereupon the friend decides to check it out for herself). Did I say yuck already?
    **** "Double the Pleasure" by Jasmine Haynes. Contemporary romance. I think I figured out the reason for the first story. Berkley's using Susan Johnson's name to sell this book, in hopes that it'll get Jasmine Haynes, who's a much better writer, noticed. Not sure it'll work, though, if everybody quits reading after that first horrendous story. Anyway. Secretary (admin asst) is in lust with her boss, but, well, he's her boss, so she doesn't do anything about it, until a woman calls to say she can't meet him at a bar, so the heroine decides to meet him there, posing as her twin sister. Kind of a simple plot, but it works, we get some nice emotions from the characters, and boy, does this one look great when compared with the first one.
    ****½ "Skin Deep" by Jasmine Haynes. Contemporary romance. Ah-ha! Finally checked the author bio. Jasmine Haynes = J. B. Skully, whose Max series Miki liked so much. The heroine in this story is the twin of the heroine in the previous one. She's been having phone sex with the hero for 2 years, and finally meets him in person. Like the first story in the book, there's a LOT of sex, but this time, there's a point to it. Like the characters in Lisa Valdez's Passion, this heroine can only connect through sex. She's been burned once before (and it's not the oh, my high school boyfriend stood me up--I can never trust a man again, which makes me roll my eyes. It's reasonable for her to feel that way.) Pretty much the story is about the difference between dominant (which the hero IS) and domineering (which he isn't, but the ex who hurt her was). Some really great scenes about the nature of control in a relationship. And, as a plus, the hero is shorter and balding. He's not a troll--he's got a good body, but he's not the usual 6'5" with flowing locks. Just a really good story. It's a shame these two got classified with a dull story like Johnson's, because sex is all that one has going for it. These have an actual story. *sigh* Another author on my to-look-for list. Darnitall.
  26. **** Touch Me_ by Lucy Monroe. Historical romance. Heroine is raised in the West Indies, and is a partner in a shipping business. Another twin--her father accused her mother (wrongly, and illogically) of infidelity, & took their baby boy away from her as soon as he was born. He didn't know about the twin sister, so the mother hid her so he wouldn't take her away too. Heroine has to go to England to discover who's been embezzling from her uncle's company, & meets the hero when she takes passage on his ship. It's Regency era, but unusual, because Thea isn't high society, even though everyone's trying to get her to be. Theme about fathers, as the hero also has an issue with his father.
  27. **** In from the Cold _by Nora Roberts. Historical romance.
  28. ****½ First Dance _by Karen Kendall. Contemporary romance. This has got to be my favorite kind of romance--the romantic comedy with some depth to it. Heroine's a divorce lawyer, hero's also a lawyer. She practices in Manhattan, he practices in Fredericksburg!! (this has something to do with why I liked it so much, but not everything. But OMG, did I get homesick while I was reading this! Particularly when they took a trip to San Antonio. *sniff* Where was I? Anyway, we have semi-opposites, but they discover they're not as opposite as they think. And she has relationship issues that aren't just treated as an obstacle to the romance then dispensed with--they're dealt with honestly. He has issues, too, with his ex-wife, so he's not the supernaturally perfect hero, either. Completely a joy to read. It's actually 3rd in the Bridesmaid series--KK wrote the first & 3rd, other authors wrote the 2nd & 4th. I will be buying the 1st one, & the 4th came in my September/October box, but will probably look for the 2nd one used.
  29. ***½ Charmed & Dangerous _by Candace Havens. Paranormal romance. A little uneven, but fun story about a witch who works freelance, protecting the prime minister & a sheik from magical threats. There's a love triangle between the witch, the sheik, and a warlock. The sheik's too good to be true, and some of the confusing/mysterious things didn't get explained (maybe they got saved for the next book?). It's written pseudo-diary style, a la Bridget Jones, but flip-flops between note-taking style (leaving out the subject of sentences, & other incomplete sentences) & a more regular narrative style, which got a bit distracting. Still, it was a first book, and it was fun. Probably not worth buying in trade size, though, which is what it is currently.
  30. **½ First Love_ by Julie Kenner. Contemporary romance. 4th in the series that includes First Dance, above. At one point, this was down to one and a half stars. I'm so glad I read the Karen Kendall story first, or I'd never have worked up the interest to read it from this book. Part of the problem is that in a series of 4 books about the women in a wedding, the last one was the one about the bride. So we never saw what initially attracted the h/h to each other, how they met, or even why they're so much in love that they're getting married only a month after they met. And we never end up seeing it. The whole story is about the problems they have with the wedding. Her father is a 2-dimensional, stereotypical nouveau riche cut-rate motel king from New Jersey, tacky, belligerent, fill in the blanks. His whole purpose is to get her to call off the wedding because the groom's father wouldn't sell some property to him 15 years ago. And there are a zillion other things that go wrong with the wedding. And I think they're supposed to be amusing, and make us root for her, but I'm stuck back on wondering why the heck I should care. The first 2/3 of the book is: this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens... kind of like a little kid telling you about their day in excruciating detail. FINALLY, there's some conflict, near the end of the book, and the h/h actually have to work at something besides the mundane details for a change. It's a good conflict, but it's too little, too late.
  31. **** The Tombs of Atuan_ by Ursula K. LeGuin. Fantasy. 2nd in the series that started with A Wizard of Earthsea. Think I liked this one better. Hope that's not just because the protag is female. The wizard from book 1 ends up trapped by the heroine in this one, a priestess for the Old Ones.

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