Thursday, December 04, 2008

Somewhere I'll Find You, by Lisa Kleypas

Ordinarily, Lisa Kleypas is one of my go-to authors for romance novels set more or less in Britain's Regency era. This book, however, had so many problems that I can't actually say I loved it. I wanted to love it; I wasn't bored by it; but it just didn't hold together when everything was said and done.

The premise of the book is quite interesting: Julia Hargate and Damon Savage were married as children to fulfill their parents' respective needs: Damon's family needed money, and Julia's father wanted her to be a duchess. Julia, being a 21st-century heroine, bitterly resents her father's machinations and so runs away to become an actress. Meanwhile, Damon has been searching for Julia to address the issue of their marriage, but he has a mistress who claims to be pregnant with his baby, and he's deep in lust with the hottest actress in town, our own Julia under a stage name.

Kleypas's setup is flawed from the start, because she herself seems uncertain about whether or not this arranged marriage would hold up in a 19th-century court of law. Since the characters also seem to waffle back and forth on the issue, the average reader is likely to be thoroughly confused. The solution that Julia is presented with toward the end of the book has little impact because several hundred pages of uncertainty are summarily dismissed with a firm, unequivocal answer. It just doesn't work. Kleypas should have given the reader some insight into her research on the issue, for clarity's sake. If she didn't research it, she should have, because this detail was integral to her plot.

While Julia is a thoroughly modern heroine, Damon really ought to have been used in a medieval romance. Once he figures out that Jessica the actress is Julia his wife, he spends the rest of the book ranting about how she needs to give up her career and focus on him. He was so positively primeval that I really began to wonder if his name was actually Gaston. Julia and Damon allegedly fall in love, but the circumstances of this development are extremely murky, because they never DO anything together. What is the basis of this great romance? He hates her career and she can't imagine life without the theatre in it. The solution to this conflict is eminently predictable and completely unsatisfying, despite Kleypas's best efforts to force readers to accept it. It just doesn't work.

Yet another flaw is the "other man," Julia's boss at the theatre. It's a big mistake for an author to make another character more compelling than the heroine. I spent much of the book waiting for Kleypas to turn Logan into the real hero of the book, and while it seemed like that might happen, Kleypas opted to pick the humdrum route. This is clearly a case of the characters and plot wanting to go one way, with the author forcing them down a different path, much against their will. Logan's devotion to the theatre and his pragmatic approach to love and life invited a turnaround in the name of love. His interests and Julia's dovetail perfectly, and it would have been far more satisfying for Julia to have humanized Logan through her love and their mutual interests. Logan made such an impact before Damon even showed up in the novel that he shouldn't have been thrust to the side. Kleypas could save the situation by giving Logan a book and true love of his own, but the likelihood that it will still feel forced, because readers are still likely to think that this book didn't end as it should have. Alternately, Kleypas could have let Logan have Julia and come up with another heroine for Damon, but Damon just didn't hold up as a hero in his own right; he was more a type. All the ingredients are there, but the execution fell short.

Just for the heck of it, can we have a moratorium on the use of Savage for the hero's name? It's been done to death, done unto cliche. Let it go, already, authors!

Finally, and this actually has very little to do with Kleypas, I deplore the lack of capable editing at most publishing houses. While I would like to believe my favorite authors are cognizant of basic rules of grammar and turns of phrase, I know that that's why we have editors. I'm especially disappointed by the number of times the pronouns I and me are used incorrectly. That's Grammar 101, people. And when there's a mistake on the back of the book (in this case, combining the heroine's real first name with her assumed last name), it's even worse.

I almost always rate books an 8 or a 9, but I give this one a 6. I'll always remember it, but more for what it could have been than for what it actually was.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


I've read a lot of YA books this year. The Twilight series was really good, and I'm waiting for the movie nearly as eagerly as my middle students are. I just finished the third book in Marianne Curley's Guardians of Time trilogy, and I must say, I'm actually disappointed with the ending, which was quite abrupt and deeply unsatisfying. I must find out if there's another book, because there were so many loose ends that I can't believe she doesn't plan to write any more about this group of people.

I'm reading A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN right now. This is one of those classics that I've just never gotten around to before. I'm not very deep into it, but I think it's going to be one of those head-smacking, why didn't I read this sooner kind of books.

I was pretty excited to see that they were making a TV series of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, but I just can't figure out why there's so much sex in it, because I truly don't remember that from the books. Maybe it's just HBO and their need to titillate, but I think the show would have done just as well without it. On the other hand, I would still love to see Kim Harrison's books made into a series.

This hasn't been the greatest of reading years--only 143 books so far, with about six weeks of reading time left to reach my minimum goal of 185 books for the year. I'm sure I can do it, but it's a little disconcerting that even with the large number of YA books read, the total isn't higher. More disappointingly, my total pages average will be well under 300 pages per book. Sigh.

Suzanne Collins, author of the Gregor the Overlander series, hooked me with her latest book, THE HUNGER GAMES. Given the results of the latest election and the recession that seems likely to escalate into outright depression, the premise of the book is not nearly as far-fetched as it might have seemed a year or so ago. After catastrophic civil war, what used to be the United States has been regrouped into twelve districts, ruled by a thirteenth district which conquered all of them. In most of the districts, poverty is rampant and hunger a very real part of everyday life. Each year, each district must submit one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in a reality show where the participants hunt and kill each other. The show's producers intervene to stir things up if the show gets too boring. The last one standing is showered with wealth and privilege. I devoured this book, staying up late into the night when I could hardly keep my eyes open because it was such a compelling story and the characters so interesting. I thought I would die when I got to the end and discovered that it was first in a trilogy! And since the book just came out last month, it will be ages before the next installment! AARGGGHHH!

Another YA book in a similar vein is SURVIVING ANTARCTICA: REALITY TV 2083 by Andrea White. In this one, with a similar socioeconomic condition, a group of teens must recreate Robert Falcon Scott's journey to the Antarctic. This book took a lot more swipes at politics and TV than THE HUNGER GAMES did, but it had many elements in common with that book, too. Both are highly recommended.

Well, that's about it for the moment. Drop me a line and tell me what you're reading these days. There's always room for more books on Mt. TBR!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer Reading

I figured being on vacation for most of the month of July would give me the opportunity to get lots of reading done, but that proved not to be the case. I've only read five books so far this month (more or less) and finished listening to one audiobook.

The good news is, I finally got a copy of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and bombed through it in less than two days. I've just started the sequel and will go directly on to book three as soon as possible. I've got about a week to read nine or ten books so my July goals will be met. I don't mind being off by a book or two, but half a dozen or more is just downright unacceptable.

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Respectable" Reading

So I'm thinking today about an incident that occurred a couple of summers ago. I had brought a romance novel to church with me because I had gotten there early and had to kill time until children's choir started. Someone approached me to ask about my book, which I put away before she reached me because I knew what she would say about romance novels. I was right--she wrote a whole blog entry about me, sniffing at my reading choice and just generally being very unkind about it.

Fast forward to today. I'm busy adding books to my shelf at Shelfari (MUST recommend that site to anyone who wants to feel better about giving their books away--you can still have them on a shelf and look at them whenever you want to!), and it occurs to me that the format of a book makes a big difference in people's attitudes. If you read a paperback romance, there are oodles of people who will feel perfectly free to look down on you for it and snipe about your plebeian preferences. Put the same book in a trade paperback format and charge five or six bucks more for it, however, and suddenly it acquires this veneer of acceptability. Like, if you paid that much for it, it must be worthy?!

Anyway, I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced anything similar. If you have, feel free to jump in and comment here, because I would love to see what others think about this issue.

Plagiarism in the Romance World Again!

Since it came out lo, these many years ago that Janet Dailey had cribbed entire chunks of Nora Roberts' books, I have not bought another Janet Dailey book or allowed her books to be in my house. I've been very regretful about that, because there were some of Dailey's books that I really liked (mostly in her Harlequin Presents Americana collection).

Well, now it turns out that historical romance author Cassie Edwards has done something similar, although her choice of material to copy is much older. Edwards has plagiarized material for her western romances from some text published early in the 20th century. Her publishing house stood by her at first, denying that it was plagiarism, but as the details came out, had to admit that one of their bestselling authors had, indeed, copied entire passages from this older source.

I've seen the text, and it's clearly copied, right down to the word choices. Yes, she made minor variations here and there, but an author of her experience could have not doubt that what she was doing was cheating. Unlike Dailey, who had the chutzpah to copy one of the bestselling novelists in the world and then be kind of huffy about it when caught (including giving a throwaway "apology" that managed to offend many who read it), Edwards ripped her material from a more obscure source, and must have been fairly confident that she would not be caught out.

Unfortunately, the publishing world is smaller than ever due to the internet, and people have access to a lot more material than ever before. It's just crazy to think you can get away with this type of thing in this day and age.

I'm deeply grateful that I've never been a big Edwards fan, having read only one or two of her books. Nevertheless, she will join Dailey on my list of authors who, under no circumstances, will be allowed in my house. What a pity.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Revenge Gifts, by Cindy Cruciger

Cindy Cruciger
ISBN: 0-765-35225-7
Book #08-009

Tara Cole has a successful mail-order business selling an unusual product: gifts for people who want revenge against those who have wronged them. Among her most successful items are lacy pillows stuffed with cat hair (for people who are allergic to cats), boxer shorts guaranteed to set off metal detectors at the airport (for cheating husbands), and Candy-A-Day (a daily chocolate certain to help expand your worst enemy's hips). Tara's friend Kathy warns her that revenge is bad for her karma, but Tara has a pretty good life, even if her house is filled with ghosts who create chaos in her kitchen.

When a very cute guy named Howard shows up, wanting to buy into Tara's business, she's quick to assure him that she works alone, but she can't help being attracted to him. Unfortunately, just about the time Howard enters Tara's life, so does a series of increasingly larger black animals, harbingers of imminent disaster and evidence that someone has laid a curse on Tara. Howard may be attracted to her, but could he also be the one responsible for Tara's change of luck?

Cindy Cruciger has written a charmingly funny romantic suspense caper, redolent with the sizzling heat of the Florida keys in mid-summer. Tara is possibly the most curmudgeonly heroine in the history of romance novels, but her dry wit and acid tongue are hilarious. Tara and Howard (AKA Muffin) are steamy lovers, and Cruciger peoples her novel with other unique characters, such as the improbably debonair but deeply disturbing Darius, demented harpy Miss Good Voodoo, terrifyingly efficient Kimberly Case (Tara's nemesis from her previous job), and taciturn, scary Rique, the cook at Crusty's Bar, which Tara runs for her friend in exchange for free rent and use of a boat. Not to be overlooked are the ghost of Uncle Les, who turns the lights on and off at the most inopportune times, the kitchen poltergeist, who smashes eggs at night, and Zeke the kitten, cuddly and adorable.

REVENGE GIFTS is a perfect beach read, a quick-moving page-turner with something for everyone. This book is highly recommended, and readers will certainly be on the lookout for the next dishy confection from newcomer Cindy Cruciger.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Book Give-away: Nora Roberts audiobook

This week's give-away is a four book audio collection of Nora Roberts' Dream trilogy plus Homeport. These audiobooks are abridged, and the reader generally does a good job (except for little girl voices--hers are ANNOYING). To win this book, all you have to do is comment on this post. If you are the winner (I'll announce this next Saturday), you'll need to send me your mailing info so I can send you your prize.

No one entered last week's give-away, so I'll put Devil in the White City on the swap shelf at work.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Book Give-away for January 19, 2008

Book Give-away for January 19, 2008

Last week's winner was Vicki. I would really like to see more entrants in my book give-aways, but I'm happy to be sending books off to new homes.

This week's book is THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larson. This is an excellent murder mystery set during the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. It's even more compelling because the murders actually happened. If you think serial killers are a modern phenomenon, this book will give you pause.

To enter, all you have to do is make a response to this post. I will choose a winner on the 19th. Good luck, everyone!

If His Kiss Is Wicked, by Jo Goodman

Jo Goodman
ISBN: 0-8217-7777-7
Historical Romance
Book #08-006

Emma Hathaway has made a comfortable home for herself with her uncle, Sir Arthur Vega, and his daughter, the lovely Marisol, by making herself useful in her uncle's painting studio and being something of a companion/servant to her cousin. When Emma is asked to meet with Marisol's lover, the result is nearly fatal: Emma is kidnapped and beaten severely. Battered from her ordeal and in despair at her family's disbelief that she is still a target, Emma seeks help from the mysterious Restell Gardner.

Restell has made a name for himself by helping people solve problems of scandalous proportion. With a combination of cunning and finesse, and an ability to barter favors for information and other intangibles, Restell's unique skills are oddly suited to resolving Emma's issues. As he gets to know Emma, Restell finds himself captivating by her dry sense of humor, her beauty, and her strength. Amidst attempted murder and romantic intrigue, Restell and Emma are drawn into a passion that threatens to consume them.

Jo Goodman always writes with sureness and sensuality, and her talent does not fail to keep things simmering in this romantic mystery. The relationship between Emma and Restell is beautifully depicted, and








the fact that they are married halfway into the book gives the romance an extra shimmer of tenderness. Much of the charm of this book is in the development of the trust and affection between the hero and heroine, and for these particular characters, nothing less than matrimony would have been acceptable. Being husband and wife allows Restell and Emma the freedom to explore their growing attraction without guilt or furtive measures tainting their pleasure in each other.

As always, Goodman's supporting cast are three-dimensional, fully believable characters in their own right. Goodman is skilled at layering information in her plots and then peeling it away in just the right increments to move the story forward without revealing too much, too soon. Readers will realize early on that nothing is as it seems in the Vega household, but red herrings and a complex plot will keep readers guessing right up until the final chapter. Marisol, the motherless beauty pampered by her adoring father, is jealous of Emma's closeness to Sir Arthur, yet she depends on Emma to make their lives more comfortable. Sir Arthur, crippled and unable to paint as he used to, relies on Emma to manage his social life as well as his artistic commitments. Marisol's fiance, Neven, was once attracted to Emma before he settled on her cousin, but his management of Sir Arthur's finances is suspect. Restell's family, whom we've met in previous books, are as warm and engaging as ever.

IF HIS KISS IS WICKED is yet another treasure from autobuy author Jo Goodman. Although the title is a bit random, the story delivers everything Goodman's readers have come to expect from her. This book is definitely a keeper.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

This week's winner, and next week's giveaway

This week's winner, of Emeril's Louisiana cookbook, is toyhabilitation. Congratulations!

My next giveaway is an audiobook, abridged and on cassette. The book is Hot Six (the sixth book in the Stephanie Plum series), by Janet Evanovich, read by Debi Mazar (who does a really good job of it, by the way). I bought it from my library's discard shelf, so it's been through some handling, but it played fine and was a fun listen during a recent trip to Memphis. All you have to do to be entered is to comment on this blog entry. If you'd like, you can email your address to me at with a list of your reading preferences, and you could win a random book from me, as I tend to pass my books along as soon as I've read them.

Good luck, everyone!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Book Give-away

Last year I tried giving books away, but it turned out to be kind of hard to get people's addresses, and then things got away from me. I'm going to try giving books away again this year, every week, and I'm going to be switching up genres and books.

I'm also going to be doing random mystery give-aways. If you're interested in one of these, email me at with your address and a list of your favorite genres and authors. I will not give your address to anyone, and I will not bother you with email; all that will happen is that you might get a random book from me. All I ask in return is that you make a journal entry at for any book(s) you might receive from me--there will be a sticker inside the book cover with directions on how to do the journal entry.

The first book give-away of 2008 is an Emeril cookbook. I don't have it right in front of me, but it's a Louisiana cookbook, autographed by the author. The dust jacket has been taped where it ripped down the front, but otherwise, the book is in good condition.

If you would like to be entered into the drawing for this book, please leave a comment on this post. Feel free to look around my blog and check out some of the sites I go to regularly, too. Good luck--I hope each of you will have a year filled with good books and all the things you love best. Check back on Saturday to see who the winner is!