22 April 2011

One Day I'll Read It

The Epic Rat  recently asked, "What book do you have and want to read, but don't?"

I very eagerly awaited the release of An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon. I bought it as soon as it came out, in hardcover, which I NEVER do. I obsessed over it while waiting for it to arrive in the mail. It sits on my shelf, where I lovingly caress it's spine every now and again, as I choose something else to read.

Why haven't I read it yet?

I read the first two books of the Outlander series years and years ago, and then when I finally got around to book three, I decided too much time had passed and I might not remember the earlier books and might be a little lost and I should start from the beginning. So I reread the first book. And I LOVED LOVED LOVED it. This is the Journal Entry I made on Book Crossing at that time (August 2007):

Oh my gosh, what an incredible book! I didn't want to put it down and was so sad when I reached the last page. I know a lot of people love these books, but I've also seen a lot of negative reactions to them as well, so I went into it not sure how I'd enjoy it. It's been so long since I read it the first time (pre-BookCrossing!) that I didn't really remember much, though I must have liked it since I began collecting all the sequels. But this time around I think I really did appreciate it more than the first time.
 Then I reread Dragonfly in Amber. My first Journal Entry (June 2003):
I think I actually enjoyed Outlander better. This one was too full of the politics of the day, which I'm not really into and so it at times lost my interest a little. Just the same, I'm eager to continue the series - however, since these books are so long I'll probably read some others in between.
And after my reread (September 2007):
I think I'm glad now that I waited so long to continue the series that I felt it necessary to reread Outlander and Dragonfly, because this time around this book never, not once, lost my interest even the tiniest little bit. I was enthralled from beginning to end and can't wait to dive into Voyager tonight. I've heard lots of good things about Gabaldon's books, and I've also heard lots of negative things about them. To my mind, she is a genius. Romance, history, mystery, adventure, intrigue, time travel, humor - what more could you want? Oh, to have a Jamie...

I then read the rest of the series in quick succession, practically back to back: Voyager (September 2007), which I did not write a Journal Entry about, other than “I loved it”; then Drums of Autumn (October 2007), about which I wrote:
At first, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book as much as I had the previous books in the Outlander series, simply because the action was now taking place in America and I thought I would miss the Scotland setting and Lallybroch. But soon I found myself not caring after all, and just as caught up in this one as in the others. I enjoyed Brianna's story being added, and was shocked at what Jamie did to Roger, but of course was happy with the ending of the book. I can't wait to dive into the next volume.
Next The Fiery Cross (October 2007), which of course I loved. And finally, after a little lapse in time, A Breath of Snow and Ashes (February 2008), of which I wrote:
What can I say that I haven't already said after reading each and every book in this series? Awesome. Fantastic. Splendid. Why is my life so boring and where is my Jamie? It was with much regret that I read the last page. I'm so looking forward to the next book, An Echo in the Bone, which isn't expected to be published until 2009! And I'm happy to know that Diana Gabaldon says on her web site it will NOT be the last book either!
So that brings us to An Echo in the Bone. Which I know, without a doubt, I will love. And yet, I haven't been able to bring myself to actually read it. Because once I do, it will be over and I'll have nothing to look forward to. Yes, Ms. Gabaldon does say on her website that there will be an eighth book, which she hopes to finish for publication in 2012. So, it's possible that when that eighth book is released I will snatch up my copy of An Echo in the Bone and eagerly devour it, in anticipation of the next book.
And then I'll buy the eighth book as soon as it is released. And it will then sit on my shelf until I can bring myself to read it.

21 April 2011

Altered Beginnings


I started Altered Beginnings on a Saturday morning, and finished it Sunday night. I was caught up in the story from the prologue, and didn't want to put it down.

I'm not a great book reviewer, tending to lean towards "I loved it" or "I was bored". And in the interest of full disclosure, I will state that I follow author Destiny Booze on Twitter, and she gifted me with a copy of this book.

So I'm very happy to honestly say I did love it.

Leigh Lawson was raised in an orphanage for the first few years of her life, then placed with a foster family. We first meet Leigh in the orphanage, then we fast forward to her as a college graduate who has received a graduation party invitation from her best friend in the small town she grew up in. We learn that Leigh left town right after high school graduation, and that the whole town hated her, and apparently still do. We don't know all the circumstances yet of her leaving, and those unfold over the course of the story.

There are two men, her foster brother, Shawn, and a reporter, Jason. We think Shawn is a good guy and Jason a bad guy. Then we are given evidence that maybe it's the other way around. And then more evidence to the contrary, and for much of the book you aren't sure who is the good guy, who is the bad guy, if they are both good guys, or both bad guys. It makes for a roller coaster ride.

The violence in the book is a little more than I'm accustomed to in a romantic suspense story, but it's not gratuitous or presented in sickening detail. It's just there and fits into the world the characters are involved in.

(I originally read this book in June 2010 and wrote my review for Amazon at that time.)

20 April 2011

The Sultan's Bought Bride


Harlequin Presents #2418; The Princess Brides.

Publisher's Synopsis: Princess Nicolette Ducasse refused to let her sister marry Sultan Malik Roman Nuri of Baraka. So she traveled to his faraway kingdom to tell him the wedding was off, never expecting that Malik would be one seriously sexy sultan! Resisting him would be hard. 

But Malik made it clear that if they shared a bed the wedding was on. He was a modern monarch in many ways -- except when it came to his bride!

As much as I enjoy Harlequins, some of the titles just make me cringe. Like this one. And frankly, this is one I probably would never have bothered to pick up, except for the fact that it's by Jane Porter and I love her contemporary books. So I've been collecting her Harlequins. And I really, really liked this one.

Princess Nicolette is determined to never fall in love again and never marry. Never let a man rule her. Sultan/King Malik Nuri has never felt the desire to marry and start a family, until an assassination attempt is made on his life. Then he realizes he needs an heir.

Nicolette's sister had a horrible first marriage, but for the good of their poor country, and her young daughter, she has agreed to an arranged marriage with Malik. Except Nicolette is determined to prevent her sister from another arranged and loveless marriage, while at the same time formulating a plan to use King Malik to get her sister's young daughter away from her deceased father's family, who won't allow her out of their country.  So she dyes her hair brown and travels to Baraka to meet Malik, pretending to be her sister. Her plan is to pretend to go along with wedding planning, convince Malik to hold the wedding in her mother's home town of Louisiana, and once her sister and niece are safely in the US and can be hidden away by family there, she'll break off the engagement, leaving Malik at the alter. 

Malik has not met Nicolette's sister in person, but even so it's harder to pretend to be her sister than she anticipated. As Princesses, they are well known, and while Malik has a reputation as a playboy, Nicolette has her own reputation. So it doesn't help when Malik makes disparaging comments to her about her "sister" Nic. Of course, Malik has his own secret, as we learn long before Nic does. Nicolette is a strong heroine, who is used to being in control of her own life, and the author does a really good job portraying her fear and frustration as she realizes that she is very quickly losing control of everything to Malik.

As with any Harlequin, you know there will be a HEA. But Ms. Porter provides a twist at the end, that almost threatens that HEA, and that I was not expecting. Porter's heroines are always strong, intelligent, likeable women, and her books are quick and easy to read, with  a little humor thrown in.

(I received this book through Book Mooch.)

17 April 2011

Lady of the Lake

Elizabeth Mayne

A so-so read. I think the book could have used a little more editing. For instance, at the end of chapter 8, an evil character stumbles upon a young boy, a prince, who she wants dead, and they scuffle. The last two lines read: "...she made certain the gamely limping atheling of Leam was her captive forever...She saw to it that he broke his neck." So I'm gasping, thinking that she has just killed the young prince. The I turn the page, and lo and behold, the scuffle is interrupted and the prince is saved. And yet it said "he broke his neck!".

Okay, maybe that's a small thing, but it just really irritated me. There were other times when a chapter or section would end, and the next one would start and I would feel like something got left out.

Anyway, in the end of course I still enjoyed this light romance, but not enough to bother seeking out anything else by this author.

(I purchased this book at a library book sale in October 2009. I read the book and wrote my review in November 2010. )

16 April 2011

The Eternal Highlander


First sentence:  Untroubled by the cold, Cathal MacNachton watched the shadowy figures emerge from the depths of his keep and disappear into the thick, mist-shrouded forest surrounding Cambrun, hiding it from prying eyes.

Publisher's Synopsis:  Cathal MacNachton and Connall MacAdie are cousins bound by far more than blood ties and the rugged Highland landscape their clan calls home. The ancient curse of their ancestry has fated them to live by night with an unquenchable thirst that neither can tame. The only thing that can save their souls is marriage to Outsiders -- mortals whose untainted blood will weaken the curse in their children and break the chains of fear that have made their clan  a breed apart.

Bridget Callan and Eva Caxton are the women who will shape the clan's destiny. Marriage to these strange and mysterious men will rescue each of them from desperate circumstances -- and draw them into a web of danger, desire, and intrigue...

I bought this book because I adore Lynsay Sands, but I'd never read anything by Hannah Howell. Ms. Howell's story, Nightriders, is the first of the two stories, and I went into it with anticipation.

I enjoyed the story. I did. It was a little bit of a different take on vampires. In fact, the word "vampire" is never used. Cathal MacNachton, the hero, is a laird who is a "halfling" - his father, a Nightrider, married an Outsider, as normal mortal people are called. The Nightriders no longer feed off humans, and Cathal wants to breed out the undesirable traits from their bloodline. But more importantly, he wants to breed, period. There hasn't been a child born to his clan in twenty years, due to excessive inbreeding. So when Bridget Callan, an Outsider, falls into his life, he decides she will be a suitable bride. Though she, of course, is not at first convinced.

Bridget has a secret of her own, which we, the reader, are not privy too, though it was fairly easy to figure out, long before Cathal did. But their banter and eventual coming together was enjoyable.

It was the dialogue that about did me in. Not what the characters said, but the way they said it. I realize that the author was striving for authenticity in her characters. But there were just too many verras, and dinaes, and willnaes, and kens, and weels, and the like. It interrupted the flow of the story for me. An example of the dialogue:

"Ye dinnae belong here"

"Nay? Why shouldnae I be here? I am nay upsetting the horses."

"Dinnae play the fool. Ye ken what I mean. Ye should leave Cambrun."

I did love this line though: "I recently decided that I best take ye as I dinnae seem to want anyone else to have ye."

A brief scan through Ms. Sands' story leads me to believe that her characters' dialogue will be similar, but I'm hopeful it will be easier reading. However, I'm setting the book aside for the time being to read some Jane Porter books that I've now promised to a Book Mooch member.  So my review at this time is only for the first story in the book.

(I purchased this book at Half Price Books.)

08 April 2011

If The Shoe Fits


I LOVED this book! After the first few pages I thought it was going to be just another typical chick lit book, twenty-something heroine trying to focus on a career and find Mr. Right, though I'd had high hopes becasue I love Stephanie Rowe's Immortally Sexy series. My hopes were very well met, and the more I read the more I got into it. The writing is breezy and amusing, and while on the surface the description above does fit, underneath is a deep story (and this may be a bit of a spoiler so don't scroll down if you hate those)

about a group of friends still dealing with their emotions and life after the death of one of their own five years earlier.

And usually with a typical chick lit (or typical romance) you know who the heroine will end up with in the end, but our heroine here had three sexy men in her life, and I was kept guessing until pretty close to the end as to which one would be the true love. And when I decided it was one guy, it turned out not to be him!

(This book was given to me in August 2008 by another member of BookCrossing. I read it and originally wrote this entry in December 2010)

05 April 2011

The Silver Boat


First Sentence: Dar McCarthy sat on the granite step of her mother's rambling, gray-shingled house, listening to the surf break beyond the pond.

Publisher’s Synopsis:  From the beloved New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice comes a heartwarming yet heart-wrenching portrait of three far-flung sisters who come home to Martha’s Vineyard one last time to say good-bye to the family beach house. Memories of their grandmother, mother, and their Irish father, who sailed away the year Dar, the oldest, turned twelve, rise up and expose the fine cracks in their family myth – especially when a cache of old letters reveals enough truth to send them back to their ancestral homeland.

Transplanted into the unfamiliar, each sister sees life, her heart, and her relationship to home in a new way. But how do they let go of a place that contains the complicated love of their imperfect family?

The novel is a season on Martha’s Vineyard; a mission to Ireland; a memorable cast of friends, including one wildly off-the-grid Zen genius; passionate love in the surf; and three very different sisters whose lives are filed with beauty, sorrow, and deep love they’d never been sure they could trust. A novel as timeless as the sea on which it’s set, and Luanne Rice at her very best, complete with her singular talent for capturing a family in all its flawed complexity. 

My Thoughts:  This is the first book by Luanne Rice that I’ve read, though I see her name all the time, and  have three of her other books in my To Be Read pile. So I was looking forward to finally experiencing her writing. Unfortunately, I was not overly impressed. I had trouble getting into the story, and found it sort of dragged and at times my attention tried to wander. With some authors, the writing just flows across the page, but that’s not the sense I got here, and I had to make myself concentrate on the words.

It was also pretty depressing, which, given the subject matter, is understandable – Dar and her sisters are packing up their childhood home in preparation of selling it after their mother’s death. Those scenes took me back to my own two sisters and I, along with our mother, packing up my grandmother’s belongings after she passed away. So I did relate a little. There is also a subplot about Dar's nephew Pete, trying to straighten out his life and stay sober, and those scenes kept me riveted. I have a daughter who is in recovery, so I could definitely relate there.

Once the sisters traveled to Ireland in search of answers about their father, who sailed away when they were kids and never returned, the story picked up for me. I would have liked to read more about their trip and their father.

I think part of my problem with the sisters was that when reading about them, I felt like they were young women, who have not experienced life yet and matured. I don’t remember their actual ages being mentioned, but I believe they were closer to forty than to twenty. They just didn't seem to act like it.

There are a few sex scenes, nothing graphic of course, between Dar and her boyfriend, Andy. I don’t have a problem with sex scenes, but I didn't feel they were particularly well written and could have been omitted without any effect on the overall story.

I will probably try this author again, as I know she is very popular and beloved by many readers. So I’m hoping that this particular book was just a miss for me and I’ll enjoy her others more.  I didn't hate the book, I just didn't love it. 

(I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.)