Where's Your Book Today?

That's what people always say to me at work, if I don't have a book or my PDA or my eBookwise Reader with me at lunch. I love to read and I guess it's obvious. So many books, so little time...and so much dust in my apartment.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

"Dime Store Magic" by Kelley Armstrong

At this point in the blog, it might be obvious that I'm trying to "catch up." I've been reading these books all week, but didn't post anything until today.

Another thing to mention, I may be falling victim to my "too-many-books-in-the-same-genre" dissatisfaction. I normally try to rotate through genres when I'm reading, to keep from developing a sense of boredom with the genre or from comparing one book to the last.

"Dime Story Magic" is my least favorite of the "Women of the Otherworld" series so far. I gave it a 3 rating. This review will contain spoilers to "Stolen," so if you plan to read the series and haven't read that far, you might want to skip this post.

This book is written from the point of view of Paige Winterbourne, a 23-year-old witch who was introduced in "Stolen." Paige and her mother had been kidnapped, along with Elena, by the paranormal collectors. When they arrived at the compound, they discovered it already held a 13-year-old witch, Savannah, who'd been kidnapped with her mother, Eve. Eve had been a strong black-magic witch, and the paranormal collectors killed her the day they captured her because they couldn't control her.

Ruth's mother had also been killed, but she made Paige promise to take care of Savannah and take her back to their Coven to continue in her witch training.

So book 3 opens with Paige and Savannah, trying to learn to live together, and a Coven which is strongly reluctant to take in the child of a black-magic witch.

Suddenly, Paige is served with legal papers. A sorcerer claiming to be Savannah's biological father wants custody and is willing to fight dirty to get her back. Turns out, her father is the CEO of the "Nast Cabals" - which are described as something like a cross between a huge, multi-faceted corporation and the Mafia, only with sorcerers and other paranormal beings, rather than evil humans.

When Paige refuses to comply, her life gets...complicated. Way complicated. And the once-again ineffectual witches Coven turns its back on her.

Enter, Lucas Cortez, youngest son - and bastard son - of the CEO of a rival Cabal. He has turned away from the cabal life and is working as a lawyer for people who are being oppressed or pressured by the cabals. He is a rebel with a cause, but he looks more like Clark Kent than James Dean. In the midst of this, Lucas and Paige develop an instant attraction to one another. Quick, oh yeah. But is it real? What Paige must decide is, is he who he claims or is he really working for the cabals?

Paige is still as immature and whiny as she was in "Stolen," which is probably a big reason why I had such a hard time enjoying this book. She makes about every TSTL heroine move there is, constantly putting herself and Savannah in danger. That alone doesn't make a move TSTL - sometimes you do what you have to do. What makes it TSTL is when it's done out of bullheadedness, rather than planning.

It's embarrassing to admit it, but I was so annoyed with Paige, I don't remember - only 5 days after finishing the book - the big resolution. It was big and over-the-top, that I remember, but I don't remember specifics.

So, should you read it? If you like the series enough to keep going, I'd say yes. There's stuff that happens in this book that's built on in the next one. And let me give you a hint - the next book is much better than this one!

"Stolen" by Kelley Armstrong

"Stolen" is book 2 in Kelley Armstrong's "Women of the Otherworld" series. If you've been following this blog, you know I've already read book 1, as well as three online novellas set in this world.

"Stolen" is once again told from Elena's point of view, just like "Bitten." In "Stolen," however, Elena discovers that her world has expanded to include vampires, shaman, witches, sorcerers, demons, half-demons, minor deities, and more. Turns out, there is an Interracial Council of paranormal beings who meet to discuss issues in the paranormal community, but the werewolves had split from the group long enough ago that no one alive remembers when the belonged.

Elena is shocked when she is tricked into meeting two witches, Ruth and Paige Winterbourne. They want to get representatives of all the paranormals together to talk about rumors of a rich human who appears to be capturing and collecting data on paranormals. Soon, however, she and the two witches learn from first-hand experience how true the rumors really are.

The compound where the paranormals are being held is a combination of high-tech and supernatural security. The scientists are a combination of too-clinical detachment and over-the-top fanaticism. And Elena scrambles to find a way to escape.

I had a hard time finishing this book. I gave it a 3.5 rating overall, but I was disappointed with it.

After thinking about it, I decided that I really wanted this series to be more of an "ensemble" style series, where all the members of the Pack got equal "airtime." I think if I could have warmed to the idea that this was going to be mostly about Elena, I might have liked it better.

The time spent in the compound just seemed to drag on forever. And the two evil scientists (as opposed to the just-too-clinically-detached scientists) were so over-the-top they were almost cartoonish. Plus, as the reader is introduced to one new paranormal character after another, you can't help but wonder if the whole point is to create opportunities for sequels.

Elena pulled a real TSTL romance-heroine moment and it was what got her captured. Her attitudes about Clay notwithstanding, she's usually smarter than that. So it felt more like a plot-device than something the character would actually do.

Finally, the young witch, Paige Winterbourne, is childish and whiny. She was even harder to like because I knew she was the "narrator" for book 3, and I was dreading reading it even before I finished this one.

The witches on the council were portrayed as doddering and ineffectual. And we're introduced to more gender-specific paranormal abilities. In "Bitten" we learned that only boy werewolves are ever born, and the human women they impregnate are disposable.

In "Stolen", we're introduced to the concept that witches are sorcerers are separate races. Sorcerers are always male, and almost always evil at worst, self-centered, heartless, money-grubbing CEO types at best. Witches, on the other hand, while portrayed as fairly ineffectual, also have all the healing magic.

Then you've got the demons, who seem to all be male. They also breed with women of other races, but their offspring might be male or female. However, only the boys get any of the fathers' supernatural abilities.

It does make you wonder what's going on in the author's mind, doesn't it? Does she have "issues" with men? Or is she trying to mirror the seeming advantage that males have in the natural world (strength, size, etc.)?

"The Ravencliff Bride" by Dawn Thompson

I decided to take a quick break from my Kelley Armstrong bookfest and try a just plain romance. I was intrigued by some sample pages I'd been emailed as a part of a "romance book club" from my local library. A quick look at Amazon.com showed it had a high rating (4.5) and the first few reviews were favorable, so I thought I'd give it a try.

I wish I hadn't. I gave this book a 2 on my rating scale.

"The Ravencliff Bride" is an historical romance, which isn't my first choice of genre when looking for a romance. It also hints at being a paranormal romance, which is what intrigued me...there may be more out there, but it was one of the first I'd come across that combined the two.

Our heroine, Sara, has been saved from a wretched existence - and likely total ruin - in a debtors prison when she receives an offer of marriage from the son of a man who was a friend of her late father. She's puzzled by the offer, but honest enough to know her future looks dim indeed if she doesn't accept. She's swept off for a "proxy marriage," never meeting the man she marries until she is taken to his home.

The hero, Baron Nicholas Walraven, is a brooding, distant - and of course, physically gorgeous - man with a secret. He offers Sara a friendly marriage of convenience - no touching or sex, thanks - as long as she agrees to one thing...she must trust him entirely and not ask questions. Not that he extends the same to her...he offers no explanations, or none that make any sense, for the odd things going on in the castle. And she - naturally - becomes determined to ferret out all the secrets and force her husband to take her into his confidence.

Sara is that quintessential TSTL heroine. Don't know what that means? It's romance-reader shorthand for "too stupid to live"! This is the heroine in the horror movie who you just know is going to die within 20 minutes of the opening credits because she does just about everything to put herself in the path of the slavering evil maniac.

Nicky tells her not to wander the castle - which is in disrepair in sections and which is riddled with dangerous secret passageways. Does she listen? No, not even on the first night. Not even after being trapped in one of those secret rooms for more than 24 hours.

Nicky tells her to stop propping her door open because there's a dangerous animal roaming free in the castle. Does she listen? No, not after being attacked by Nick's drunken steward. Not even after seeing a murdered servant who'd been attacked by said dangerous animal. And she does nothing by whine and moan about Nick's posting servants outside her door when she refuses to listen.

And when he tells her to stay away from the beach because the tides come in fast and may strand the unprepared? You don't even have to read any further, do you? You just know there's a scene where she almost drowns.

To be fair, Nick's not all that bright himself, hero-wise. Despite the fact that he's figured out he's got himself one persistent, inquisitive bride, he never gives in and just tells her what's going on. Even when he does - because she's basically already seen the thing he's feared most - he doesn't give her all the details. Nick is a man in anguish, a man fighting his nature...oh, that brooding hero at it's ultimate! He's so lonely. And he'll tell you. Over and over again. Oh, woe is Nicholas for he has a secret and he is so lonely.

Okay, I know I'm being sarcastic - I generally love tormented, wounded heroes. But this guy needed to be thumped on the head a time or two.

And despite everything - despite his boorish behavior and her flighty rebellious behavior - they both fall head over heels in love (and lust) with each other, pretty much from the get-go. I just could never figure out why.

One of the reasons I don't read a lot of historical romances is the stress on the clothes. I've come to recognize certain phrases: breeches, reticule, corset, chemise. (And thanks to Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion for the reference, because I certainly had no clue the first time I read a historical). I swear, though, if I had to read about Sara's "sprigged muslin gown" one more time, I would have screamed. Isn't the point in books like this to set the scene and then get on with the story? I don't seem to remember getting elaborate clothing descriptions in contemporary romance.

Finally, I thought the language used was very "purple." I've already mentioned purple prose in a previous post, so I won't go on about it again. But let me post a sample, just so you can see what I mean.

This is a little section right after Sara meets Nicholas for the first time:

"Good," he said. "I want this to be a pleasant association . . . for the both of us."

How he towered over her. Those riveting eyes, wreathed with dark lashes that any woman would envy, were even more alarming in close proximity. They were hooded now, devouring her in the candlelight, making her heart race. He smelled clean, of the sea, with traces of tobacco, and brandy drunk recently. Combined with his own - almost feral - essence, the effect was intoxicating. She drank him in deeply, extending her hand.

If this little construction had been used sparingly, I might have forgiven it, but this book was littered with it! "How he looked in those tight breeches!", "How his eyes burned into hers!" How this just makes me want to throw up.

I wanted to like this book. The sample pages made me think I would. And, as I said before, I usually love those tortured hero-types. But I just couldn't make myself care about these characters. The only thing that kept me reading to the end was that I was curious about how the big mystery would be resolved. And that's the main reason this book got a 2 instead of a 1 - the author did manage to snag my curiosity enough to get me to finish the book.

So, my recommendation is to pass this book by. If you absolutely must try it, I'd get it at the library before spending your hard-earned money.

Kelley Armstrong's online fiction - part 1

I discovered Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series sometime after the fourth book was published. When I was looking online to find more information, I found her website where she offers short stories and novellas about the characters!

So, having read "Bitten," the first book in the series, I was excited at this extra glimpse into some of the characters' backstory. What's especially nice about these online freebies, in my opinion, is that they're written solely for the readers. The stories focus on specific incidences from the characters' lives, especially expanding on what we readers already knew from reading the novels. They weren't written with stand-alone publication in mind, so you don't get a lot of rehashing of old plots to make sure new readers can keep up.

In addition, some of these stories finally give you the men's point of view. "Bitten" is narrated from Elena's point of view. As I read through the series, each of the books comes from one of the women's point of view. (I know - duh! - it is "Women of the Otherworld." But I didn't really catch that when I started reading. I thought it was more an ensemble cast at first). Writing in the first person limits what readers can know to what the narrator knows and what she thinks she knows. It's strongly colored by her perceptions, and in my opinion, both Elena and Paige (she narrates books 3 and 4), are a bit...petulant...in their interactions, at least in the beginning. So I found myself wondering what was really going on in the heads of men.

I'm making an effort to read these with the print books in the order they would have been published. As I said above, they seem to expand on things mentioned in the books, and I think I'll be less confused if I can read them in order.

So first I read "Bitten," which was released in the US and Canada in September, 2001. According to the website, the online fiction began a result of some reader polls in 2002, beginning with two novellas in 2003. I think the second novella was written after the second book, "Stolen," but I read it and the third one first. Chronologically in the storyline, they all happen before "Bitten."

Online novella: "Savage" (rating 4 out of 5)
This is Clay's story. It explains how he became a werewolf and how Jeremy came to adopt him. It really does help to understand why Clay acts the way he does. I didn't find him entirely likeable in the published books, and this gave me enough background to be more forgiving of his foibles. It also offers a better look at Jeremy, who in the books can be a rather Spock-like character.

Online novella: "Ascension" (rating 4 out of 5)
This is the story of Jeremy's rise to power in the Pack. He's not a typical werewolf, preferring discussion and cooperation to brute force. That's not to say he's all "brains over brawn"...it's more that he's more proactive than reactive. We also get to see how the Pack interact, especially with the relationships between Jeremy, Clay, Antonio, and Nick. If I hadn't read this or Savage, I might have written off the Pack as a bunch of mysogynistic brutes, to be honest.

Online novella: "Beginnings" (rating 4.5 out of 5)
This is the story of how Clay and Elena first met and fell in love. Clay is a visiting professor where Elena goes to school, and he's pretty much drawn to her from the beginning. Because of his previously reclusive nature, though, he doesn't really have a clue what's going on. It makes for some funny and tender scenes. This novella takes you right up to the bite which changes both their lives forever.

The short stories were written in 2005, some before and some after book 4, "Industrial Magic," was released. I will probably read them all after, just to keep things simple.

If you liked Armstrong's published books, these are definitely worth checking out. And for those of you who haven't tried ebooks yet, these are a great way to get a taste of reading electronically. Armstrong offers them in three formats: HTML (web page), PDF (Adobe Acrobat), and PDB (eReader). The eReader format is my chosen format for encrypted ebooks and can be read on any Windows, Unix or Mac computer, or Pocket PC or Palm handheld. I believe it can also be read on certain "smart" phones, as well, although even I think that screen my be a bit too small for long periods of reading!

Friday, April 28, 2006

"Bitten" by Kelley Armstrong

Have you discovered the paranormal or urban fantasy genres? Vampires, werewolves and other shapeshifters, fairies (the fae), witches, the djinn (genies, to most of us), time-traveling druids, Greek gods and goddesses, and more?

I actually discovered the paranormal genre in erotic romance, so at first I was a bit ambivalent about it. The vampires and werewolves are often so "alpha" they seem almost abusive to me. I really don't get the appeal of the domineering hero (the current buzzword is "dominant" - oh, swoon!). If we came up against this behavior in real life, we'd be taking out restraining orders...but I digress.

I'm hooked on these genres at the moment, so you'll probably see a lot of them show up on this blog.

I finally began reading Kelley Armstrong's "Women of the Otherworld" series. The first book, "Bitten," revolves around a 30-something woman, Elena, who became the world's first known female werewolf 10 years earlier when she was in college. She was "turned" by her then-fiance, Clay, who was afraid that his werewolf brethren (his "Pack") wouldn't allow him to keep his human lover.

Elena has been trying to live apart from the Pack, still struggling with her feelings of betrayal at Clay's actions and the loss of her dreams of a normal, human, family life. Those dreams were very important to Elena, who lost her family while she was young, and had spent her remaining childhood in a nightmarish succession of foster homes.

Elena is summoned to the Pack homestead by the Pack "alpha," Jeremy, who was also Clay's guardian and the man who helped her survive the physical and emotional conversion from human to werewolf. Rogue "non-Pack" werewolves, known as "mutts," are threatening the Pack and its members, and Elena is needed to help track them down.

She agrees to help but is adamant that she's only back with the Pack for as long as it takes to solve the problem, then she's returning to her human life. It doesn't matter that Clay wants her back. It doesn't matter that the Pack is the only sort of family she's ever had. It doesn't matter that her human life is based on a whole bunch of lies as she tries to hide her werewolf nature. Clay took away her dreams, so fooey on the lot of them.

My favorite scenes in this book are those that describe the Pack behaviors when they are in wolf form. There's such a sense of play...I kept thinking "This author must have dogs!" I could see the wolves as they jumped and ran and nipped at each other, picturing an apartment I once shared with two humans, three dogs, and two cats. Of all the werewolf fiction I've read, this was the only one that I remember gave me such a strong sense of the doggie-ness of the wolves (as opposed to only imparting a sense of the predatory hunter, which is also strong in "Bitten").

I enjoyed this story. I gave it a 4 out of 5 on my very subjective scale. But it's a story with problems, in my opinion.

It was obvious throughout the book what Elena's feelings were - both for Clay, and for Jeremy and the rest of the Pack. Her continued whining and arguing got old fast, especially since in general she's a strong, self-assured woman. Because of that, the "tension" between her and Clay and the question of how their relationship would be resolved felt forced. This isn't an uncommon problem in romantic fiction...the "big misunderstand" is too often one that is patently fabricated or just left to run on for too long.

I also got bogged down in werewolf mythology/science. Armstrong's werewolves are a blend of traditional myth and Armstrong's twist on the tale. The condition is still transferred by a wolfbite. Werewolves are still able to live in human or wolf form. But they aren't the slavering mad creatures controlled by the changes of the moon, nor are they any more susceptible to silver than anyone else. And in Amstrong's universe, only male werewolves are born. From an evolutionary point of view, I wonder at the likelihood of a species' continued existence if it can only make males during reproduction.

The human mothers, when mentioned at all, are entirely disposable and inconsequential...in fact, the boys are taken from their mothers and raised by the male wolf Pack members. Female werewolves can only be "made", and the conversion process is so harrowing that few humans survive it. Unspoken is the thought that women are less likely to survive it than men, so Elena is the "only" female werewolf.

I kept being pulled out of the story to think about the logistics of that. The werewolf saliva infects the open wound created by the bite and - whammo! - the conversion begins. I'm sorry, but Elena and Clay had been "sucking face" for weeks before the big dramatic moment. They were physically intimate, and it seemed they liked it a little ... rough (in a totally good kind of rough way). They'd already been swapping body fluids for some time. And most of the other werewolf guys were total sluts! In all of that swapping of body fluids, no other woman was ever infected?! It hardly seems possible. But hey, maybe the werewolf has to be in wolf form for the bite to convert a human to werewolfiness.

Then you've got the whole "woman are inconsequential" feeling with these guys. One of the recurring themes in the books is the werewolves' utter ruthlessness when protecting the Pack. "Mutts" are killed with almost nonchalant regularity and Pack members are trained in how to properly dispose of the bodies and any physical evidence. But when the book mentions that werewolf children (well, boys, since there are no girls) are raised by the Pack, it's glaringly silent about how that happens. You are almost forced to assume the women are killed when their "usefulness" is over. The only mothers mentioned are self-centered and indifferent as parents.

As I mentioned earlier, I did enjoy this book. I'll read the next one (and, actually, have already read the next one...but that's for another blog). It probably wouldn't be the first book I'd recommend to someone wanting to try out urban fantasy, but for those of us who want "more, more, more" of the genre, it's yet another twist on the werewolf legend and worth the time to read it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

"Seraphim" by Shelby Reed

I'm cheating a little today. I've been reading Kelley Armstrong, and still can't figure out how to put my thoughts into words. So I'm recycling a review I posted to the eBookLove chat list last October.

Shelby Reed is one of my favorite eBook authors, and I'm hoping - if anyone actually ever discovers this blog and finds it useful - that I can turn a few new people on to an author who is very much worth reading!

Loved this book. Absolutely loved it. Interesting characters, incredible sexual tension, rich emotional depth, and a blockbuster battle between good and evil. I will read this book again. It got a 5 out of 5 on my very subjective scale.

Just had to get that out before I got started and lost some of y'all to my inability to be concise.

This book is listed as a "paranormal" on the Ellora's Cave website, with a S-ensuous rating. For those who aren't familiar with EC's rating system, this puts the book in a similar category as sensual mainstream romance (think Linda Howard, Susan Johnson, Dara Joy). In my own thinking, I see this as "an interesting and thought-provoking story with some great sexual tension/sex", as opposed to "great sex with a story built around it." So if your main goal is to rev up your engines and then find someone to help blow off the steam, save this book for another day. But if you're looking for a great good-vs.-evil paranormal story that will also set your blood boiling...oh, yeah, this is it. (It's up to you if you want to take a quick break after one or two of the scenes, but you'll definitely want to come back and finish the story if you do).

I can't summarize the plot any better than the blurb from the Ellora's Cave website, so I'm just going to copy it here.

When a masked group claiming to be warrior angels kidnaps Gia Rossi, she believes it's retaliation for her wealthy husband's shady dealings. Squired into a high-tech underground world by her strangely gentle captors and placed under the tutelage of Joachim, their handsome leader, she soon learns that among her lost childhood treasures is a medallion, which places the fate of the world in her hands. Gia's job is simple: locate the relic and lead the angels to it--and somehow, fight the forbidden attraction that fast develops between her and Joachim.

As commander of the angelic warriors, Joachim must protect Gia and, with her help, locate the sacred relics needed to conquer the demon Therides. But Joachim doesn't count on falling prey to sexual attraction when it comes to their beautiful, headstrong captive and soon another battle commences, one between consuming desire for his charge and a weighty sense of celestial duty. For if Joachim and Gia succumb to the fire smoldering between them, it could prove to be the end of both their worlds.

Yet danger makes forbidden passion all the sweeter...

There is so much emotional depth in this story. The main characters are wonderfully, richly, imperfectly human (the angels are said to have much the same emotional life of humans, except they don't feel fear, since that's an animal instinctual drive).

It made me laugh; it made me cry. I could feel Gia's terror when she was taken from her home, her dejection when she saw what her life was made up of, her eventual respect for the guardians she worked along side, her utter despair when she realized that Joachim would eventually have to leave her to return to his duty, and her determination to fight evil in that last, desperate battle with the demon.

And Joachim was so wonderfully noble and conflicted. Strong and weak at the same time as he struggled with the human nature he'd inherited with the body he was placed into. His innocence and wonder at what he was feeling was at times funny and sweet and others, well, it was an incredible turn-on if I must say so!

This is a story with a lot of build up of sexual tension, so when the Gia and Joachim finally kiss - WOWZA! It just...wow. I can't put it into words, but this one definitely has that "zing" factor. I want to talk more about the emotion in the sexuality in this book, but I'm not sure how to do it without giving away plot elements. So, I can only say this book reached me on many levels - not just arousal, not just romance...

I put off writing a review for weeks after I finished the book. My struggle has been with how to comment on the religious aspects of this story. I've finally given up trying to figure out how to say it "perfectly" and hope that I can make my point without managing to offend anyone.

I decided, when I bought this, I would read it as I would any paranormal or science fiction story...the entities described aren't real, the worldview is a creation of the author's fertile imagination, and so on. I chose to ignore that very specifically Christian voice in my ear that wanted to argue theology or the likelihood of an angel acting any given way.

If you come from a Christian background that believes the Bible is more than allegory and parables, you need to be able to treat the concepts in this book like you would science fiction or vampires and werewolves. If you can't, I'd suggest you pass this book by - you'd probably have a hard time with it.

The religion in this book sounds very "Judeo-Christian" in many - but definitely not all - ways. I don't pretend to be a religious scholar, but I believe most of the language (angelic rank names, for examples) are what I would call "Old Testament". So people from Jewish, Christian or Muslim backgrounds will probably have some level of familiarity with the concepts. There is some talk of heaven (and hell, I think).

But the book veers away from Judeo-Christian language with it's concept of "the Creator" (rather than specifically "God", "Jahweh", etc) and reincarnation (the book calls it "cycling"). In fact, this was one of those things that I found a bit confusing in this story. How can the two concepts co-exist? If reincarnation is everyone's future (and past), why is there a threat of eternal damnation or eternal reward? Can you eventually prove to be so good or evil that you finally get to end up in one or the other place? I couldn't tell if this was really an inconsistency in the story, or if it was just my inability to treat the concept like science fiction...so I chose to ignore my questions about this specific issue.

But to get back to the story, I had only a couple very minor...I don't even want to call them "complaints"...concerns?

I would have liked the angels to have been more sympathetic to Gia's emotions in the beginning. You want to think that beings who'd been guarding the world for as long as they had would have some expectation that humans would 1) not believe in angels immediately and 2) be scared out of their wits by being abducted. But Joachim does admit to Gia later in the story that they could have been more sympathetic...so it was addressed.

And, there were a few phrases, especially in the beginning, that some might say were nudging into the "purple-prose" category. I specifically remember "cerulean eyes" being used two or three times. I think Shelby uses richly descriptive language, but it's possible to take the description a little too far into the "eye-roll category". This really wasn't a big problem for me, but I did catch myself smirking at a phrase or two .

So, if you're still with me, if you like paranormal and richly emotional stories...go get this book! I think you'll be very glad you did.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

"Twenty Hours in Boston" by Priscilla Darcy

Have you discovered eBooks yet? I love the convenience of digital books...I am an inveterate collector and over the years I've purchased thousands of books. As you can guess, my apartment is a cramped jumble of bookshelves, bookshelves, books in boxes, books on end-tables...oh, and more bookshelves.

eBooks, on the other hand, only take up space on my hard-drive and my backup CD cabinet. Oh, halleluiah! I can carry a couple hundred of them on a single device (well, a single memory card for my device), so I'm never at a loss for the choice of a book to read.

I read eBooks on my PDA. I read them on my eBookwise reader. And, sometimes, I read them on my laptop. I don't have any problems with the PDA screen being small or having to "turn the page" often. I get engrossed in reading and I don't notice. I do notice, though, when the battery gets low after only a couple of hours.

The eBookwise has a screen just a little smaller than the average paperback, although it doesn't come in color. I wish it did. But what it lacks in hue, it makes up for in battery life. With the right combination of screen brightness and contrast, it can go for 15 hours!

I bought "Twenty Hours in Boston" at Fictionwise, but it's actually published by a small eBook-only publisher - Scheherazade Tales. So if you decide this book sounds interesting, you're going to have to go online to get a copy. Take a chance - it's definitely worth it!

The official description for "Twenty Hours in Boston" opens as follows:
When two Red Sox fans meet quite by coincidence in Boston, only to watch their favorite team lose, it's going to take more than a few beers to drown their sorrows. But can a one-night-stand heal the emotional wounds of defeat? Or just cause more problems for each other?
I thought this would be a light, innocuous read - fluffy, fun ... but ultimately forgettable. Wow was I wrong.

Oh, yes, this book was fun. The heroine, Aubrey, is a die-hard Red Sox fan. She's also just a little scatterbrained and more than a little impulsive. The hero, Gray - well, he's a little harder to pin down. When we meet him, his a driven Vegas casino-owner, dashing off to fly to Boston to catch a critical Red Sox game. He meets Aubrey at a neighborhood bar, where each has decided to watch the game surrounded by fellow fans. And, as the official description says - when the team loses, well, Aubrey and Gray decide to drown their sorrows in each other.

The next morning, Gray is back in Vegas and Aubrey goes home to New York to her museum curator job. They each find themselves thinking of the other at odd times, but they can't do anything about it. They never got around to exchanging last names. I know it sounds sleazy, but it wasn't. As a Browns fan, I understand the despair you can feel at watching your favorite team manage to throw another promising game down the toilet. It can make you do things you just wouldn't do in the reasonable light of day.

One thing leads to another, and Aubrey finds herself out of a job. She accepts the promise of a job sight-unseen to go to Vegas to paint the portrait of a woman who's memoirs are being published by her best friend's publishing house. Big drumroll...turns out this woman is Gray's mother. Aubrey is quickly embroiled in Gray's family drama, all while trying to fight her attraction to Gray. Once she finds out who he is, she knows she's in over her head...a sweet, one-man woman falling in love with Vegas' most notorious commitment-phobic playboy. And it doesn't help that he decides to turn on the charm to get her back in his bed.

But it turns out Gray is a playboy-with-a-heart-of-gold. He pretty much is the glue holding his family together, and has been since he was a teenager. His family is driving him crazy, but he continues to support them and try to save them from their own folly. His casino is being used to launder illegal money, so he does what he can to find the culprit. And all the while, he's frustrated and bewildered with his growing dependence on Aubrey.

This is a funny story. This is a sweet story. This is poignant story. I loved it. In fact, I gave it a 5 out of 5 on my very subjective scale. For a romance, it was just about perfect. Oh, I have to admit that I raised my eyebrows at a few of the words the hero used to describe his thoughts about Aubrey...she was "delightful", "lovely", and oh, hell, I've already forgotten the other two. But they definitely made me snicker. I grew up with a houseful of boys. I don't think I ever heard one of them describe the women they were involved with as delightful or lovely. Hot, yes. Lovely, no not really. But that's okay. It is a romance novel. You have to suspend a certain amount of disbelief. These are the men we'd like to have, not the ones we will ever meet in the flesh.

But it left me with a smile on my face and the warm-fuzzies filling my heart. That - and how I get there - are why I read romances.

Oh, and just to be up-front...I hang out on and help moderate a Yahoo chat group named eBookLove (for those who love to read digital romance novels). It is sponsored by Scheherazade Tales. But, I read this book for my own enjoyment, and enjoy it I did.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"Dead Beat" by Jim Butcher

Oh, I love this series! If you like Urban Fantasy, you've really got to look into these books.

I discovered Jim Butcher and his "Dresden Files" books only in the last year, so I had the particular joy of being able to gorge on the seven books already published in a fairly short period of time.

I think "Dead Beat" is the best so far. I gave it a 5 out of 5 on my very subjective scale, and looking back, I see I gave five of the books that grade. Did I say I really love this series?

I would strongly recommend that, if you haven't read any of Butcher's world, you start with "Storm Front." Each book build on the previous books, and I can't help but think you'd know you're missing a lot of backstory if you start with "Dead Beat."

Harry Dresden is a private investigator...and a wizard. He's not the only wizard in Chicago, but he's the only one who openly admits it to a cynical and unbelieving human world. To those who have come to know that the things that go bump in the night are frightenly real, Harry offers his services. He works as a sometimes consultant with a "Special Investigations" department of the Chicago PD.

To other practitioners of white magic, Harry is a loose cannon. To the black magicians...well, they either want to turn him to the dark side or they want to kill him. Maybe both.

Harry's world is one in which vampires, werewolves, fairies, zombies, ghouls, and goblins are real. And this is no one-dimension world Butcher has built...there are various Courts of vampires, each with its own method of interacting with its prey. Some of the werewolves are evil, some just trying to get along in the world. The "good guys" might be good, they might be selfish, they might misuse magic to suit their own purposes. And sometimes the bad guys have less than entirely evil motivations. It all combines to make life damned complicated for Harry.

Harry reacts to the world with a combination of wise-ass cynicism and old-world chivalry. I cannot read these books in public without someone sooner or later asking me what I'm chuckling about. Harry's sense of humor is a hoot. Here's a little sample from "Dead Beat" in which Harry is considering a book store owner's request for him not to come return to his store.

"Bock looked at me, his expression a little queasy. He wasn't an easy man to frighten, but he was no fool, either. I had wrecked three... no wait, four. No... at least four buildings during my cases in the last several years, and he didn't want [his bookstore] appended to the list. That hurt a little. Normals looked at me like I was insane when I told people I was a wizard. People who were in the know didn't look at me like I was insane. They looked at me like I was insanely dangerous."

In "Dead Beat," Harry gets blackmailed into looking for something called "The Word of Kemmler." As he begins his search, he discovers that all sorts of other baddies are looking for the same book...and have absolutely no qualms about killing him if he got in the way. Of course, that's pretty par for the course of Harry's life.

As Harry tries to protect his friends and the generally ignorant public from the growing evil, though, he realizes the trouble brewing in Chicago is more than he can handle alone. This is a real growth point for Harry, who has gone out of his way in previous books to try to take on as much as possible all by his lonesome. Of course, the help that arrives isn't exactly what he expects, and only serves to point out how dire the situation has become.

How Harry faces the bad guys will affect his life forever...and it's not clear whether his choices will lead him down that seductive "slipperly slope."

So go get a copy of "Storm Front" and start reading! "Proven Guilty" is book eight in the series - it comes out in hardback next month. I'm already on the reserve list at the library, but if eReader or Fictionwise offer it electronically, I'll probably be too weak to resist owning it now, now, now, rather than waiting a year for it to come out in paperback.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Full Circle" by Paula Detmer Riggs

I don't remember what made me buy this book recently. Someone recommended it strongly and I found it used on Amazon.com.

The heroine, Jillian, is the mayor of a small California town and is the mother of a 14-year-old boy. She'd met the boy's father, Trevor Markus, when she was a nurse at an evac hospital for soldiers wounded during the Vietnam War (this book was published in 1989). He left her standing at the altar, never knowing that he was going to be a father.

Unknowingly (and this pushes the boundaries of belief), Jillian has been working with Trevor's company to bring a teenage drug rehab center into her town. The day the center opens, she learns that it belongs to the man who abandoned her ... and he learns he has a son.

This isn't just another category "secret baby" book. For one thing, it was published in September, 1989. We were still watching "Dallas," "Dynasty" had only recently gone off the air, and "LA Law" was still going strong. We were still in our conspicuous consumption mode, and the driven corporate male was supreme . I have some favorite authors who wrote then...Linda Howard, Sandra Brown, Jayne Ann Krentz...and the men were "alpha" males (although back then the romance buzz-words were "arrogant" or "primitive" or "commanding," rather than today's overused "dominant") who took what they wanted. The women gave token resistance, but quickly melted in his passionate embrace. She said "no, no, no" but he made her say "yes" and she loved it. Okay, I think you get the point.

I had to keep reminding myself when this was written, because otherwise, I'd have wanted to draw-and-quarter the hero. He left her humiliated and pregnant 15 years ago, and yet he's bewildered and angry that she can't just "get passed it and let it go." Eek. But when I reminded myself that many of the romances written back then had similarly arrogant (and clueless) heroes, I was able to get passed it.

This book also has a lot of exposition - the author just about beats you do death with the whole loved-her-and-left-her thing - both with flashbacks and pages of angsty introspective from the heroine. I had to force myself to get through the first few chapters, because I remembered the recommendation being so strong.

But once the book started into the action, this was not your every-day romance novel. You've got the whole Vietnam War veteran thing going. Then there's the struggle the hero goes through because he knows he hurt Jillian deeply. And of course you've got the fact that these two just have to look at each other and all the passion flares back to life. But the book also delves into the issue of drug addiction and prejudice against those who struggle with it. While I could see the big crisis moment coming a mile away, it wasn't handled lightly or given a quick, unrealistically perky hopeful ending.

In the end, I did enjoy the book and even had to look at a few of my own prejudices about drug addiction, having had brothers who struggled with it as teenagers and still have issues with as adults. I gave it a 4 out of 5 on my very subjective scale, after allowing for the fact it was published 17 years ago.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Sighs Matter" by Marianne Stillings

I bought this book on the basis of the title alone. Well, almost entirely...I did read the back cover first.

Get your minds out of the gutter. Yes, the cover caught my eye, but I wouldn't have bought a book just because of that cover. As it was, I had to put a bookcover on it so I could read it in public.

This is a silly, fun book with a hunky, protective cop and a heroine who's not a ditzy blonde. In fact, she's a doctor. And never once does the issue of who makes more than whom come up as a difficulty for this couple. Oh, they have their problems - namely, that Claire's not willing to get involved with a cop. So after a hot night of passion, she walked away from our hero (silly, silly girl!)

But he pushes back into her life when it begins to look as if someone's trying to kill her or her eccentric aunt. He tries to keep it professional, but the sexual tension between these too is steamy enough to curl wallpaper.

The book is full of snarky comments, pun-nish humor, and - so far as is possible in a romance novel - men who actually seem like real men. These guys could have been my brothers. Well, they could have been, if my brothers had taken better care of themselves...and stayed on the right side of the law. But that's beside the point.

I'm not going to do a big description - it's late and it wouldn't be worth your time to read what would come from my fingers at this time of night. Read the blurb over on Amazon. But I loved it. I loved the humor and I loved the romance. And I was even a little surprised by the resolution of the suspense plot (just a little, mind you). Overall, I gave the book a 4.5 out of 5 on my very subjective scale.

Taylor and Claire actually met in the book, "The Damsel in This Dress." He's the brother of the book's hero, and Claire's the heroine's best friend. Actually, the main reason I didn't give this a 5 out of 5 was because I kept feeling like I was missing details that I would have known if I'd read the first book. After I went out and bought - and read - the first one, I realized there really wasn't much I missed that wasn't explained in "Sighs Matter," but...

...the big reason why Claire doesn't want to date a cop comes out as a big, dark secret that she's "never told anyone," not even Betsy. But in "The Damsel in This Dress," it comes out that she and Claire have been friends since they were teensie, tiny girls. So Betsy would have known her big secret, because it wasn't really all that secret. In fact, I kept thinking he would have had her background back when he first put her under surveillance. But it was just a little bother, nothing serious. And it certainly didn't take away from the fun of reading this book.

If you're going to read it, you might want to start with "The Damsel in This Dress." I enjoyed that book - not quite as much as I did "Sighs Matter" - but enough to give it a solid 4 out of 5. But it does set the stage. In fact, I learned only moments ago that there's a book that came out between these - "Between the Garden of Good and Evie" - that's set in the same town. Now I'm curious if we see anything of Claire or Taylor in that one, too.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"Between Duty and Desire" by Leanne Banks

After the last few books, I wanted something fairly short and sweet..."fluffy." Since my TBR pile contains at least 200 books, I had a lot to choose from. I reached onto the TBR pile for a Silhouette Desire and took a chance on "Between Duty and Desire."

The hero, Brock, is a Midwestern Marine. The heroine, Callie, is a recent war widow. Callie's husband, Rob, was Brock's comrade in arms, and as he is dying, he begs Brock not to let Callie withdraw from the world. Brock has heard everything there is to know about Callie from Rob - and has retained it all, too. He remembered her favorite color, food allergies, favorite treats - oh, and her PMS survival strategies. Her picture was a ray of sunshine in a dark existence. Okay, are you getting the idea that this was just a bit too sappy?

It took me almost one-third of the book to realize this was written exclusively from the man's point of view. Some of the thoughts seemed on-target, some...well, you could tell a woman wrote this book!

But I'll admit, I found it hard to take this book seriously from almost the beginning. Brock has a flashback of the moment when he and Rob are injured by a land mine, and Rob cries out: "Don't let her crawl back into her hole and hide....Don't let her be a hermit!" Oh, c'mon! I'm sure that's what any Marine would say about his wife as he's dying.

But Brock goes to find Callie - and treats her like any military operation. It is funny to see this man try to figure out what would get a woman's attention and help her heal. More than once, he despairs that it's so much easier to help a man ... get a beer, watch a ballgame, get laid. Problem solved. (Of course, we all know men really aren't that simple if their hearts are engaged, but it is a funny stereotype).

This wasn't really a bad read. It was sweet. It teased at being a "sexy" read - it is in the Desire line - but I didn't think it was anything stronger than many other "normal" romance novels I've read. Maybe I've just read too many Ellora's Cave stories, but I just didn't get that "tingle" while reading the naughty bits.

And speaking of the naughty bits - yeesh! At one point, the book actually says: "He found her swollen nubbin of femininity and rubbed it with his thumb." I'd be the first to concur that there's a lot of unnecessary crudeness in romantic erotica, but that was just too much. I'm sure the author's intent was not for me to break out in a fit of giggles when I came to that line. One of my favorite websites to visit - Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels - has a fun column about just such purple prose.

My grade: 3 out of 5. It was a romance, it was a quick read, I got my HEA.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

"Blind Alley" by Iris Johansen

I was actually reading this at the same time I was reading Kellerman's book. I don't normally do that, and it was interesting to note the very different styles the two authors have. Kellerman wrote lush descriptions of the world her characters inhabited. Johansen tells her story almost entirely in dialogue and in the heads of her characters.

"Blind Alley" is the eighth book in a series that began with "The Face of Deception," the story of Eve Duncan and her protector, Joe Quinn. Eve is a forensic reconstructionist - she uses a combination of science and intuition to recreate faces when skeletal remains are all that is found of a victim. Some of the books in the series are "spin-offs" about characters peripherally tied to Eve.

I just loved the first two books in this series. Strongly liked the next two. And have only read the remaining four because I keep hoping that something of the "magic" of the first two might resurface. Not yet, I'm afraid. On my very subjective scale, I give it a 2 out of 5.

Over the course of the series, Eve and Joe have married and adopted a streetwise orphan, Jane. As seems required in many of these suspense series, Eve is having difficulties trusting Joe (seems like romance-turned-romantic-suspense writers just have to keep throwing in that conflict between "love interests"). I much prefer the evolving relationship of the married couple in J.D. Robb's novels to this kind of forced tension. I always want to ask these men why they put up with such on-again-off-again woman!

This book begins what appears to be a transition from Eve and Joe, to Jane, who's now 17 years old. However, judging by her actions, conversations, and thoughts, she's 17-going-on-40. I understand the idea that a kid found surviving on the streets at 10 years old might have an "older soul" than other children her age, but you'd think 7 years off the streets might have softened her a little. Nope.

In this book, Jane becomes the focus of a serial killer named Aldo who believes she is the reincarnation of a Herculaneum woman who apparently died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Jane has begun having dreams of being a woman named Cera, who's trying to escape a smoky, dark tunnel. Joe and Eve and drawn into the mystery by "Mark Trevor" who claims to be with the Scotland Yard, when women in their area, who bear a resemblence to Jane (and Cera), are murdered.

Cera's story begins to come out in a series of Jane's dreams (flashbacks?) and claims made by Trevor, who never really explains the source of his knowledge. There are parallels to characters in the Cera story to Trevor - Cera's untrustworthy new lover, Antonio - and Aldo - an unnamed killer hired by Cera's Roman version of a sugar daddy to murder her.

You expect when reading about serial killers to be creeped out by the murderer and the gruesome ways he finds to kill and humiliate his victims. But I actually found it harder to deal with the budding attraction and foreshadowing of future romance between 30-something Trevor and 17-year-old Jane. Can you say "ick"?!

Despite that and the fact that the whole plot is convoluted and unbelievable, I couldn't put this down. I just had to see how it ended (although at least a part of that was "please-don't-let-this-turn-into-a-love-story-between-Trevor-and-Jane"). I would like to see Eve and Joe settle into a more comfortable relationship - and yes, I'd love to see Eve finally find her first daughter and "bring her home." That's why I keep reading this declining series. What can I say? I'm a romance reader first and foremost, and I want that happy ending, dammit!

And, I suspect I will eventually read the follow-up to this, "Countdown." Jane's going to be old enough that Trevor can't be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, so I expect the foreshadowed relationship will come to fruition in that book. Plus, the book is set around an archeological dig, and I do tend to enjoy stories with that setting. But I'll be picking it up at the library.

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Straight into Darkness" by Faye Kellerman

A friend at work introduced me to Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series many years ago. I loved the look into a world I'd never seen before, and enjoyed watching the evolution of the relationship between Peter (cynical, rather agnostic LA cop) and Rina (devout orthodox Jew). In fact, I find that the mysteries I enjoy most are those that are strong in the character development of the investigators and their partners/friends. I don't tend to read mysteries just for the mystery.

I haven't read the last couple of Decker/Lazarus books, though, because the series has become flat and repetitive. It had jumped the shark, so to speak. The focus moved off Decker and Lazarus, and more onto Decker's grown daughter, who is--well--whiny and uninteresting. And very white-bread America. She wasn't what "hooked" me into the series.

I noticed "Straight into Darkness" on a display at the library and was pleased to see a standalone book from Ms. Kellerman. The book is set in Munich, Germany in 1929. Kellerman's notes on the back cover and in the introduction, as well as her orthodox background, led me to think this would be mostly about the coming Holocaust and the treatment of the Jews. I had expectations...but for the most part they were unfounded. This is a murder mystery, with a series of female victims, that in many ways just happens to be set in a Germany that was heading for World War II.

Because it wasn't anything I expected it to be, I'm not sure how I feel about the book. It seemed a bit gratuitous to set a book in this time in history and not have it be specifically about the war, about Hitler, about the mistreatment of millions of Jews and Gypsies, homosexuals and intellectuals, and so on. Oh, they were mentioned and were a part of the story. But I tried to think how I would feel if someone wrote a thriller about a serial killer in New York City who just happened to be murdering women on September 11, 2001. Something about it just seems wrong.

But if I don't think about that, I found it an interesting book. Kellerman writes richly descriptive prose...and I found myself immersed in a world where horses and automobiles still shared the roads, where having indoor plumbing and electrical wiring were a sign of people having money, or that they lived in a newly constructed building to have such "luxuries."

The story is told from the point of view of the detective (inspektor) investigating a series of murders. He's hindered by things that hinder us today - a desire to have a scapegoat, a politicians demand to placate the masses and avoid panic, an ambitious boss who isn't always supportive. He's also hindered by the political and societal climate of the time.

He's not a particularly likeable guy. He and his fellow cops stole money from one of the victims' homes. He cheated on his wife, but had little respect - and possibly even battered - his mistress. And stereotypically, he's a workaholic and isn't as available for his family as he could be.

And yet, in other ways, he is an honorable man. He won't back down when his boss demands he name a scapegoat - the Jewish husband of one of the victims - as the killer. He is vocal in his disgust with the politics of the Nazis. He makes an active effort to counteract the propaganda his teenage son is hearing in school. And he truly wants to solve the murders.

It was uncomfortable in some ways for me to be rooting for him. I want my heroes to be more--well--heroic. And yet you do find yourself rooting for him. You want him to solve the murders. You want him to beat the clock and get the bad guys and prove his cynical boss wrong.

With most mysteries, I either figure out who the bad guy is within the first couple chapters, or I feel there was no way I could have figure out who the bad guy was. This book was in the second category. I actually had to look back to the beginning of the book to see if we'd even met the murderer before the big reveal. (Yes).

So do I recommend it? Well, um, yeah, I guess. On my very subjective scale, I put it at 3.5 out of 5. More of a B- than a C+. The descriptions are lush. The look into life in the late 20s was fascinating. The historical context was thought-provoking.

But the stereotypes seemed harsh: All the cops are somewhat unethical. All the Germans seemed to harbor hatred for the Jews and other minorities. All the men cheat on their wives or think it is acceptable to do so. And if part of your enjoyment of a good mystery is trying to solve it yourself, just give it up. You're not going to be given enough information to do that until the end...and it'll be out of the bad guy's own mouth.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"The Devil You Know" by Liz Carlyle

I seldom read "historicals" - I tend to get frustrated with the preoccupation with balls, ballgowns, and a bunch of gossipy old biddies (also known as the ton). And I've never been a big fan of stories where women are treated like property. But every now and then, I get a taste for losing myself in another era.

Yesterday I finished "The Devil You Know" by Liz Carlyle. This was the first time I'd read anything by her and I enjoyed it. On my very subjective scale, I gave it a 4 out of 5.

And before I go any further - please remember I don't read this genre with any regularity. So I have no real clue about the book's geography or history or even fashion, except what I could take from context. So, for example, if I call something "country" and it turns out it would be considered "town", please don't write and complain. I understand that regular readers of historical romance often become experts in the where's and why-to-for's of the genre...I'll freely confess I am not.

I'll admit up front, the Prologue almost made me take the book back to the library unread. The language was flowery and obscure, especially compared to the more relaxed writing later in the book. It seemed she was trying to sound like a 19th century writer...until the heroine comes upon the hero in the garden taking a leak in his host's shrubbery! I don't think I ever found that particular topic in Jane Eyre.

Our heroine, "Freddie" - that's Frederica, of course - has returned to the family's country home after a disappointing "coming out" season in London, hoping to take up with the comfortably ordinary boy-next-door she left behind. It turns out, however, that he is being forced into a marriage with a cousin (or risk disinheritance). Freddie decides - with all the melodrama of youth - that this means she'll never marry. So maybe, just maybe, she ought to get a taste of what she won't be getting.

Enter our hero, Bentley. Bentley's a rake, a rogue, a scoundrel...okay, he's a man-slut. And as far as my limited exposure to this genre, he's definitely the worst I've ever read about! He's a friend of the family, known to Freddie most of her life. And he happens to be handily nearby when Freddie has her little melt-down and decides to have a little fun before she shrivels up and dies on the shelf. Oh, he makes a few weak attempts to put her off, but...hey, he is a scoundrel. He can't be expected to be strong in the face of such temptation.

Naturally, Freddie gets pregnant and has to admit to her horrified and protective family that she's been ruined. And she has to admit to seducing the scoundrel, because otherwise the family wants to blame poor ordinary boy-next-door. After a little will-she-or-won't-she, Freddie finds herself married to Bentley and facing an uncertain future.

And before you accuse me of giving away all the book's secrets, I haven't told you anything that isn't on the Amazon.com website blurb.

Turns out, Bentley is one of the more tortured of romantic heroes. (Did I mention that I'm an absolute sucker for tortured heroes?) And Freddie, who has her own share of insecurities and just plain youthful inexperience, has to help him face his past if they're ever to have a chance at a relationship, rather than just an arrangement.

While I thought some of the secondary misunderstandings were a bit contrived (always a risk with romance, with the story's conflict often built around a Big Misunderstanding) and drawn out a bit too long, I loved how Freddie supported Bentley and tried to understand (and ultimately exorcise) the demons that drive him.

I will definitely be looking for more from this author...when I'm next in the mood for a historical.

And so it begins...

I don't know how this will work out - or if anyone else will ever read it! - but it seems the thing to "do" these days is have a blog. So here's mine, for better or worse.

I read almost every day. I can finish most category-length romances in a day, most mass-market paperbacks in two or three. So I read a
lot...and sometimes I wish I could read faster! So many books, so little time...and so much dust in my apartment. Eek.

I read a lot of romance, but the sub-genre might be sci-fi or paranormal or romantic suspense. I've been a bit obsessed with a genre called "urban fantasy" (I've also seen it called "speculative fiction," although I think that could be used in a broader sense). I just love these "alternative universe" stories set in our world...if only our world included magic or fairies or werewolves or trolls.

I used to read a lot of suspense/thrillers, so I tend to keep up with a few favorite authors there. I might even pick up something more along the line of "pure" sci-fi or fantasy, but the story really has to be character-driven for me to enjoy it. I just get lost (and not in a good way) in books with copious descriptions of technological advances, arcane magiks, or convoluted political machinations. And you never know what else I might pick up, if it catches my eye. I have horrible impulse control at the bookstore - whether brick-and-mortor or online.

Given my tastes, I certainly don't think I'm a book snob. Pure pulp fiction. Sometimes, I find myself absolutely immersed in a book, with characters I want to know more about even after the story is finished...but I'm embarrassed to admit it because the logic is weak or the writing overly flowery. And yet, I still want to read more. Guilty pleasures, I guess.

So I thought I'd share my opinions about the books I'm reading. I'll try to be honest about what I liked in the book...and what I didn't. Maybe sometimes I'll talk about themes in stories I've been noticing or those little things that drive me crazy (like the overuse of the word "revel" in romance novels. Or "writhe." Or "thrash." Or...make me
stop!) And I expect I will blather off and on about my love for - and frustrations with - ebooks.

You might agree with me. You might not. That's more than okay. I just want to be able to give my opinion honestly, instead of monitoring myself on chat lists where the authors might visit.

So if you've found your way here - welcome! I hope you'll find something to interest or entertain you.