31 January 2012

Dragonsinger (Harper Hall Trilogy, Book 2)


Masterharper Robinton has now taken Menolly to the Harper Hold Craft Hall to be an apprentice, his apprentice. The dragonrider who transports them tells her not to worry, there's nothing to fear from Harpers. Little does he know. Menolly and her nine fire lizards create quite a stir at the Craft Hall, and while she quickly makes some friends, she just as quickly makes some enemies. She feels very lost and is still unsure if she really belongs there.

One thing I still have a little trouble with is equating the Menolly from the Harper Hold books with the Menolly we met in the Dragonriders trilogy. Of course between Dragonsong and Dragonsinger, she's grown quite a bit as a person, slowly coming out of her shell and becoming  a little more confident, so I imagine we'll see more of that transformation in the third Harper Hall book.

I looked forward to every interaction Menolly had with Sebell, since we already know from the first trilogy that they become a couple. I'm a romance reader at heart, and had to keep reminding myself this is not a romance book, and it won't play out that way! One of Menolly's first friends is Piemur, who we also met in the Dragonriders trilogy, and he was a fun character to get to know.

While I think I did enjoy Dragonsong more, this was still a satisfying story, and I'm eager to continue the trilogy.

(I received this book through BookCrossing.)

28 January 2012

A Novel Seduction


I finished this book several days ago, but have mixed emotions about it. I wanted to love it. I've read three of Ms. Cready's other books. I enjoyed Aching for Always. I loved Tumbling Through Time. I absolutely adored Seducing Mr. Darcy, which is now part of my Permanent Collection – and I rarely keep books permanently. And so I expected to, and wanted to, love A Novel Seduction.

Ellery Sharpe is the book critic for Vanity Place magazine. She's kind of a literary snob, who looks down very disdainfully on romance novels (I can only imagine what she'd think of a Harlequin). She writes a scathing review of the memoir of Bettina Moore, the head of a very successful romance publisher. Bettina is not happy about that. And since it turns out she is sleeping with Ellery's boss, he is not happy. To appease Bettina, he assigns Ellery a story – about romance novels and how wonderful they are. Cue Ellery gagging.

Axel Mackenzie is a freelance photographer, who sometimes works on pieces for Vanity Place. He is also Ellery's ex. He's trying to buy a brewery, his dream, and the boss is willing to double his salary for the romance piece if he can get Ellery to write the perfect article. Challenge accepted.

I liked the characters very much, especially Axel. Their breakup a few years ago is still fresh in both their minds, and they both have secrets. Ellery had her reasons for initiating the breakup, and Axel is still a little confused about what went wrong, though he did find out Ellery's secret but never told her so. The story is enjoyable, amusing, cute.

But I had two problems. First, all of Ms. Cready's other books have involved time travel. The heroines find themselves transported to another time. A Novel Seduction did not have any time travel in it. For the first third of the book, I kept waiting for that, and I was disappointed when I realized it wasn't going to happen. So I know that shouldn't affect my feelings for the book, and really it's a minor issue, which I probably would have gotten over.

My bigger issue: I love Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. Love love love it. It's my very most favorite book ever. I've read it twice, and in 2007-2008 I read the entire series practically back to back. For those of you who don't know, it's about Jamie, a Scottish highlander, and Claire, an Englishwoman who inadvertently travels back to Jamie's time. In A Novel Seduction, one of the romance books Ellery is introduced to is called Kitlander. It's the story of Jemmy, a Scottish highlander, and Cara, a modern woman who inadvertently travels back to his time. There are several discussions about Kitlander, and Ellery begins reading it, and all the scenes that are mentioned parallel scenes from Outlander.

This book, and Kitlander, are an ode to Outlander, and in the Acknowledgments Ms. Cready thanks Ms. Gabaldon for writing the book that made her fall in love with romance novels. A Novel Seduction is a tribute to Ms. Gabaldon. I get that.

Some time back, I read a blog post by Ms. Gabaldon wherein she talked about how she hates fan fiction. It was an inflammatory post that caused a lot of discourse among fans of her books, and the post was later removed from her blog. I personally do not read fan fiction, and cannot understand why anyone would. When an author writes such wonderful books, with such wonderful characters, why would you want to read stories about those characters written by someone other than the author? And why would an author want the general public to take her characters and create their own stories? If I remember correctly, Ms. Gabaldon equated that to stealing, and I can see her point.

So while reading this book, with Kitlander, I kept thinking about Ms. Gabaldon, and wondering if she would approve, or disapprove. It's not fan fiction, it's not her characters, but it's characters based on her characters. And so I felt a little...guilty for reading. Which marred my enjoyment of this book.

So I still have mixed emotions, and I'm just not sure overall how much I like the book. I mean, I liked it. I did. But I've never read a book that made me felt guilty for reading it. And I don't like that.

And I want to go back now and read Outlander again, for the third time.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. In fact, I pre-ordered it.)

17 January 2012

The Forgetful Bride


Harlequin Romance No. 3166

First line: "Not unless we're married."

Those words are spoken by eight-year-old Caitlin. Her brother's best friend, Joe, age ten, wants to see what it's like to kiss a girl, but Cait believes girls and boys should not kiss unless they're married. So she insists the boys go through a pretend ceremony first. All for a quick peck on the lips.

Twenty years later, Caitlin is a successful stockbroker, desperately in love with her boss, who pays no attention to her at all and seems to be completely oblivious to her feelings. The office is being remodeled, and in saunters the owner of the construction company - Joe Rockwell.  He seems delighted to see Cait again, and announces to everyone within earshot that she is his wife, which embarasses her to no end. In fact, Joe embarasses Cait several times with his teasing, and I felt sorry for her. He kind of reminded me of an ex who used to say stupid childish things, and I almost cringed for poor Cait. But at the same time, I often laughed out loud.

I also cringed over Cait constantly whining to her best friend Lindy about her boss and how to get his attention and make him fall in love with her. I wanted to hit her over the head and shout at her to give up already. But I guess we've all been there at some point in our lives.

And the plot twist towards the end, that came out of the blue and surprised Caitlin so much? I saw it coming from practically the beginning of the book, so I was disappointed that she was so blind. But then, I guess love will do that to you, right?

This is the first book I've read by Debbie Macomber. I know, hard to believe. She only has a million books out, and I actually have a handful of them in my TBR pile. Overall, I enjoyed the book and I can see why Ms. Macomber is so popular.

(I purchased this book at library a book sale.)

15 January 2012

The Dark Hunters, Vol. 1

Story by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Adapted by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Claudia Campos with Glass House Graphics and Groundbreakers Studios
Adapted by Bill Tortolini

This isn't the first graphic novel I've read, but I've only read three or four in the past. I haven't really gotten into them, and when I received this one I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. However, I enjoyed it much more than I anticipated.

I'm glad that I have already read the Sherrilyn Kenyon book it's based on (Night Pleasures), as like a book to movie adaptation, a lot gets left out. The book has a 13+ rating on it, and the novel got pretty steamy at times, and all of that got left out. Completely. There are a couple of kisses here, but that's about it.

Anyway, I liked it enough that I think I do want to get Volume 2 now.

(I received this book through BookCrossing.)

13 January 2012

Dragonsong (Harper Hall, Book 1)

Anne McCaffrey

First line of Chapter 1: Almost as if the elements, too, mourned the death of the gentle old Harper, a southeaster blew for three days, locking even the burial barge in the safety of the Dock Cavern.

Like the third book in the Dragonriders trilogy, Dragonsong is focused on one character, Menolly, who also appeared in the first trilogy. Menolly is the daughter of Sea Holder Yanus and has lived at Half-Circle Sea Hold all her life. Yanus is a very no nonsense type, who expects every man, woman and child to do their duty to the sea hold. Menolly loves music, piping, singing, writing her own tunes. But girls are not supposed to be Harpers, so her parents do not encourage her interests.

Petiron, the Harper for Half-Circle Sea Hold, has passed away. While waiting for an opportunity to send news to the Harper Hall and for a replacement to arrive, Yanus grudgingly allows Menolly to take over the children's teachings. After all, someone has to continue that job, and Menolly is the only person capable of doing so.

Petiron had sent a couple of Menolly's original songs to Masterharper Robinton, but did not tell him her name or that she is a girl. An answer has come, but since Petiron is gone, the sealed envelope has been put up, to be opened by the new Harper when he arrives. Meanwhile, Menolly injures her hand while cutting up fish, and learns that she'll never be able to play her pipes again. When the new Harper arrives, Yanus insists that everyone allow him to believe that a fosterling boy took over the teaching, and has now returned to his own home.

This was a wonderful character study about young Menolly, as she copes with her injured hand and her feelings of being an outsider in her own home. It seems the more Ms. McCaffrey wrote about her planet of Pern, the more she began to emphasize the characters, letting us really get to know them and become vested in their stories. I'm quite eager to start the second book in the trilogy.

And I very much would like a fire lizard!

(I received this book through BookCrossing.com.)

11 January 2012

Follow Your Star


Around October 2002, my mother gave me a box of Lucy Walker romances – 16 slim, yellowed paperbacks, that she had held onto for years and years because she loved them so much. She had decided it was finally time to let them go.

The first one I read was The Gone-Away Man, and I enjoyed it, describing it as “A little more sophisticated than some of the romance novels I've read”. I then, unfortunately, gave two or three of them away to someone else who liked the author. And then I read another one, and was hooked. Nine years later I still haven't read all of them, and have purchased a few more on Amazon (where they are sometimes ridiculously priced for used books), and am savoring them here and there.

This weekend I read Follow Your Star, which was first published in 1963. Like all of Walker's books I've read so far, it was set in the Australian Outback.

Rosemary Bentley is a young girl left homeless and penniless after her guardian, an uncle, dies. Her aunt died several years ago, and Rosemary has lived more or less as a servant, waiting on her uncle, not allowed to go out or have friends over or really even have friends. Now she's learned that her aunt and uncle never legally adopted her, and that her legal name is still Kylie Brown – her aunt called her Rosemary, and Bentley was their last name.

When she sees Brad Coulsell through a window, she is intrigued by him. He's come to the home to discuss business with her uncle's executor, as he and her uncle had some investments together. She does not meet him that day, but through the executor he offers Rosemary Bentley a position as companion to his mother at Rock Hill Cattle Station. Kylie decides to shed her old life, and going to the hiring agent's office, she applies for the position as Kylie Brown. Next thing she knows, she is traveling to the station and settling in with the family, who are unaware of her identity. But unbeknownst to her, Brad is trying to find Rosemary Bentley.

Lucy Walker's books are all sweet and quaint and fun to read. The writing is just fantastic, with passages like this:

Everything else was tidy except Kylie's shoes which stood at an angle to one another, the toes touching and the heels not playing neighbours, like two naughty children caught unawares playing truant from the cupboard.

I love a lot of the stuff that is being written today, but they just don't write 'em like this anymore.

(I purchased this book through Amazon.com.)