Monday, December 31, 2007

Read in 2007

Interesting to no one but me...

I'm going to be making some changes on the blog tomorrow, and I'll be getting rid of my "Read in 2007" list on the sidebar. So for posterity, I'm going to paste it here. I'm having a quiet New Year's Eve. It's 11:00pm and everyone else is asleep. I literally just finished my last book of 2007, and it was great. I'll be reviewing Deep Magic by Joy Nash at TGTBTU. I'll link when it's up. I have a review of Scions: Resurrection by Patrice Michelle up over there now.

Without further ado:

* Deep Magic by Joy Nash
* Scions: Resurrection by Patrice Michelle
* To the Victor Go the Spoils by Sherrill Quinn
* Mistress on Trial by Kate Hardy
* Upon the Midnight Clear by Sherrilyn Kenyon
* The Six Month Mistress by Katherine Garbera
* Holy Smokes by Katie MacAlister
* Blame it on the Dog by Amy Frazier
* Coulda Been a Cowboy by Brenda Novak
* Back to Haunt You by Kate Hill
* Fairyville by Emma Holly
* Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr
* Virgin River by Robyn Carr
* Demon of Her Dreams by Sherrill Quinn
* Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas
* Boundless by Dean, Dee, Galace
* Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward
* The Farmer Takes a Wife by Barbara Gale
* A Family of Her Own by Brenda Novak
* Howl at the Moon by Christine Warren
* Darkness Rising by Cynthia Cooke
* Driven by Eve Kenin
* Measure of a Man by Bonnie Dee
* Big Girls Don't Cry by Brenda Novak
* Father Material by Kimberly VanMeter
* Accidentally Expecting by Michelle Celmer
* Dangerous Lover by Lisa Marie Rice
* Familiar Stranger by Michele Hauf
* One More Time by Claire Cross
* Ghosts and Roses by Kelley St. John
* Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
* Starkissed by Lanette Curington
* Raintree: Sanctuary by Beverly Barton
* Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair
* The Strength of the Pack by Jorrie Spencer
* Pregnancy of Passion by Lucy Monroe
* Lady Strumpet by Gia Dawn
* Demon Moon by Meljean Brook
* Mistress for a Weekend by Susan Napier
* Fortune's Forbidden Woman by Heidi Betts
* Power of Two by Patti O'Shea
* Double Trouble by Claire Cross
* Beyond The Edge by Susan Kearney
* No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong
* No Rest For The Wicked by Kresley Cole
* All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris
* Talons: Kiss Me Deadly by Shannon Stacey
* The Demon You Know by Christine Warren
* If Angels Burn by Lynn Viehl
* Step into Darkness by Naomi Bellis
* Talons: Seize the Hunter by Michelle M. Pillow
* Persecuted by Lisa Childs
* Deadly Affairs by Brenda Joyce
* Realm Immortal: The Stone Queen by Michelle M. Pillow
* Realm Immortal: Faery Queen by Michelle M. Pillow
* Realm Immortal: King of the Unblessed by Michelle M. Pillow
* Anything for You by Sarah Mayberry
* Wolf at the Door by Christine Warren
* Blood Secrets by Vivi Anna
* Rock Star by Roslyn Hardy Holcomb
* Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward
* Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi
* Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair
* She’s No Faerie Princess by Christine Warren
* The Scorsolini Marriage Bargain by Lucy Monroe
* The Bought and Paid For Wife by Bronwyn Jameson
* Jack Riordan’s Baby by Anne Mather
* Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield
* My Sunshine by Catherine Anderson
* Guilty Secrets by Laura Leone
* Breaking Point by Suzanne Brockmann
* Demon Angel by Meljean Brook
* Man in a Million by Jessica Bird
* Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Do you see the tumbleweeds?

Man, I've been neglecting this place! Well, I haven't been reading too much either. I debated whether or not to give up, but I'm not ready to yet. So hopefully I shall be back to blogging (and reading) form soon. Just wanted to say Hello and thanks to anybody who is still dropping in. Hope your holidays went well. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Mistress by any other name...

would not be half so interesting...

I have to admit, I am always drawn to books with the word "mistress" in the title. And there's no dearth of them over at Harlequin. I think it's right up there with "baby", "bachelor", "tycoon", "millionaire" and "virgin" for words used most often in a title. [I'm just geek enough to love it if someone would do a statistical breakdown of Harlequin titles.] I am not certain what is so compelling about the idea of a mistress. My understanding of "Mistress" is that it is a woman with whom a married man is having an affair, or in the more historical sense, a woman who is set up in a house with accounts and such, in exchange for which she provides her "protector" with sexual favors. So what's the appeal? Infidelity isn't often an interesting subject for romance, and the idea of a "kept woman" in this day and age seems unreal. I'm sure it happens, but really, get a life! Get a job. Unless the guy provides a 401K and dental. And certainly, it seems as though some of these books aren't too clear on what it means to be a mistress.

For example, I recently read Mistress on Trial by Kate Hardy. I have no idea how the mistress thing comes into play, other than the fact that the hero and heroine are sleeping with each other. I bought this on the basis of the excerpt and because it's and "opposites attract" premise, with a stuffy lawyer and artsy chick. But it was quite a pleasant surprise, and lived up to the excerpt. Leo Ballantyne starts out as a typical Presents hero, glowering and making nasty assumptions about the heroine based on half-assed info. Rose Carter, a vintage clothing dealer, makes quite a few assumptions herself. But in the second chapter, he calls to apologize! The two realize they maybe have got it wrong. As they find they have more in common as they think, they both fight their attraction to each other, thinking that the differences are too big to overcome. There are no big misunderstandings, no contrivances, just two confused people head over heels. I particularly liked Leo, who went after Rose with the same drive that made him so successful. He even says "I love you" first. It almost seemed to real, lacking that entertaining but ridiculous element of unreality that many HPs have. I'm giving it a B, and I'd recommend it to those who are leery of HP. I'd definitely read her again. Note: It is veddy British, and some of the language and legal stuff is different from the US.

On the other hand, much is made of the heroine's "mistress" status in Katherine Garbera's Six Month Mistress. [Look at this cover. The guy is supposed to be suave, sexy businessman. But to me, it looks like the former fat girl with her best buddy (and co-president of the drama club and art society) at the prom. He's grabbing her chin like, "No, no, no, sweetheart. If you eat one more cocktail frank, you're going to bust out of that fabulous dress. Then you'll never get that adorable jock." I love teen movies.] In exchange for billionaire Jeremy Harper's help, the struggling Bella McNamara agrees to be his mistress for six months. There's a legal contract and everything. It ain't no thang for Bella, who has been into Jeremy forever. Jeremy has wanted Bella for years as well. So why doesn't he just ask her out? Well because his dad was happier with his mistresses than with his wife, so Jeremy figures that's the way to go. Whatever. Being mindful of her feelings, Jeremy lets everyone assume they are girlfriend/boyfriend, keeping the true nature of the arrangement secret. Again, why not just make her your girlfriend? Jeremy's kind of a bonehead. I loved the bit where Bella hesitates opening one of his gifts in front of her assistant, because the gift one gives a mistress is probably different from one you give a girlfriend. The possibilities abound--is it trashy lingerie? A feather boa? Birth Control? Silly contrivances aside, this was a fast read which would probably appeal to people who like these kind of books. Bella was quite a good heroine. Too bad Jeremy seemed monumentally clueless at times. A C+. Eh, real or fake mistresses, I'm sure I'll keep reading 'em. I guess "Fuckbuddy on Trial" or "Six Month Girlfriend" just resonates differently.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

And the Winner is...

Image from Someecards. [Man, I love that site!]


Jennie wins the Harlequin Holiday Prize Package, which includes Mistress on Trial by Kate Hardy (Harlequin Presents, Doing Ireland! by Kate Hoffman (Harlequin Blaze), For the Sheik's Pleasure by Annie West (Harelquin Presents), Restless Wind by Aimee Thurlo (Harlequin Intrigue), Accidentally Expecting by Michelle Celmer (Silhouette Special Edition), Coulda Been a Cowboy by Brenda Novak (Harlequin Superromance). FWIW, I read my copy of Mistress on Trial, and it was quite the pleasant surprise.

Email me at dempseymurphy at optonline dot net with your mailing address. Thanks to all who entered. They were a funny lot.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sticky:Have a Harlequin Christmas!!!

Image courtesy of Some ECards.

Having a contest, scroll down for new stuff.

If you don't get emails from Harlequin, let me tell you to go there now. They are running a Twelve Deals of Christmas Thing. Today's deal is 80% off of their Bargain outlet. Shit's like 95 cents each. Got me thinking, since I went on a Harlequin mini-binge over the weekend...

Many readers are probably like I used to be, thinking that Harlequins are full of secret babies, sheiks, passive women and other cliches and anachronisms. Perhaps you are slightly intrigued but unsure whether or not to spend your hard earned money on something that has "Mistress" in the title for no apparent reason. Well, you're right about the fake mistress, the overbearing men and the lack of condoms, but categories can also be very readable. Given their short length, they're the perfect quick fix, making it easy to try something you wouldn't normally.

In honor of the holiday season, I am going to give away a prize pack of new and gently used Harlequins. Here's your chance to experiment with category romance. The package includes:

Mistress on Trial by Kate Hardy (Harlequin Presents)
Doing Ireland! by Kate Hoffman (Harlequin Blaze)
For the Sheik's Pleasure by Annie West (Harelquin Presents)
Restless Wind by Aimee Thurlo (Harlequin Intrigue)
Accidentally Expecting by Michelle Celmer (Silhouette Special Edition)
Coulda Been a Cowboy by Brenda Novak (Harlequin Superromance)

All you have to do is comment and tell me about the worst present you ever got, for any occasion. One lucky commenter will be randomly chosen on December 15th. C'mon you know you want'em.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I've joined the Crusade!

Sigh, ugh! Tootie won Top Model. I think I'm hung up on her Tootie hair. She would've been so much prettier with, say, a flattering cut. Anyhoo, it was a pretty boring season (excuse me, cycle) altogether. At least I have Project Runway to keep me going. And perhaps, someday, The Office will be back.

Given the lack of appealing tv viewing, I was keen to hop on board the North & South train. If you've been by Ramblings on Romance or Sula's Space, you may have noticed a lot of posts devoted to this 2004 BBC miniseries. No, it's not the one with Patrick Swayze and Lesley-Anne Warren, as I first suspected. This is an adaption of Elizabeth Gaskell's 1855 novel about the industrialization of England. As soon as I read a little bit, I knew I had to watch it. I lurve BBC miniseries. There is nothing like beautiful people in beautiful costume swanning about lavish settings. Plus there is always restrained, yet smoldering passion. Good times, good times. One of the best things about becoming involved with blogging was finding like-minded souls. People who become obssessed with things like this or The Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea miniseries etc.

Okay, the show. North and South centers on Margaret Hale, the daughter of a country vicar who uproots his family to Milton, an industrial city in northern England. The dark, dingy city full of mills is nothing short of complete culture shock, and Margaret's low opinion of the area and its people is cemented when she meets John Thornton, a local mill owner. Thornton happens to be disciplining one of his employees for smoking. By beating the shit out of him. John Thornton is a self-made man who saved his family from poverty. Although he is wealthy, there is a great social divide between the two. Their deepening and changing feelings for each other are challenged by a union strike which tests the city and everyone's way of life.

North & South not only thrilled the romantic in me, but also the English major. This is a very interesting portrayal of a changing society. Margaret represents the traditional aristocratic way of life. Even though her family is not wealthy, she obviously has family and social connections, and she has that air of superiority. Her way of life is the best, and she assumes that those "in trade" lack the sensitivity that she has. John Thornton represents the more modern way. He had to work for money and position, and doesn't hesitate to hold on to what he has with whatever means at his disposal. He is honest and blunt, and basically kind, but he lacks the eloquence and refinement that seem important to Margaret. It's idealism vs. pragmatism, naivete vs. cold-hard experience, the ivory tower vs. down in the trenches. Margaret seemed overly harsh and kind of bratty at first, but she's definitely a product of her upbringing. And there is a third force here, personified by Nicholas Higgins, which is threatening to both of their ways of life. We see the beginnings of the working class attempting to take some power for themselves,through unionization and striking. Such actions are serious challenges to Thornton's wealth and power and to Margaret's assumptions about herself, Thornton and the workers.

But opposites attract, and oh the romance is hot! These are two people who do not want to be attracted to be attracted to each other. But they are, and they fight it, and it's fascinating to watch. The casting and acting was wonderful. Richard Armitage as John Thornton cuts quite the distinguished profile (he is extremely hot). He is fabulous too. You can see all of his conflicted emotions and his struggle to contain them. Daniela Denby-Ashe (as Margaret) is grave, pretty and luminous. She stands out among the dingy surroundings. She is intelligent and blunt and it's easy to see the attraction for Thornton. And the ending! The "train scene." It's anachronistic and unrealistic, but ohmygod they're finally kissing and yay! I re-watched it five or six times.

This was great entertainment. A sexy, sweeping romance set against a fascinating historical background. I've got to give props to the rest of the cast, particularly Sinead Cusack as Thornton's steely mother. I have to re-watch before it has to go back to the library, and I think I must buy it for myself. Count me as a new devotee.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Holiday Happenings...

I was so excited yesterday. My copy of North and South had finally arrived at work. I was already to put the kids to bed early and join the Crusade! Then I fell asleep on the floor while waiting for HBomb to fall asleep (Yes, I have to keep him company until he goes to sleep. Sigh.) I woke up at 1:40 with the passing thought of turning it on, then went and passed out in my bed. I'm starting it tonight and nobody's stopping me.

Anyway, there's some fun holiday related things happening in blogland. First off, stop by TGTBTU for the duodecimal celebration. All manner of readers and writers contributing their romance related lists. While there, check out my review of the fourth Aisling Grey book, Holy Smokes, by Katie MacAlister. Mediocre, but I really liked the first two. For more info, see here.

Then a group of bloggers, many of whom are new to me, are doing an advent event. Each day leading up to Christmas, a blogger is writing about Christmas. I look forward to spending more time reading up on this. To see the what, when and who, go to Marg's blog.

And finally, the ladies of Book Binge are doing a totally awesome contest. They're giving away an Ebookwise! Although I hold out hope of making my IPod Touch into an ebook reader, I really like the Ebookwise device. You just have to complete a holiday meme. See mine after the cut.

Christmas Meme:

1. What is your favorite Christmas romance to re-read each year?
I feel like Scrooge, but right now I can't think of a single Christmas romance I've read.

2. What is your favorite Christmas movie/show?
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It's schmaltzy, but I try to catch Love, Actually every time it's on.

3. What is your favorite Christmas cookie?
Good old chocolate chips

4. When do you start Christmas shopping?
I started before Thanksgiving this year. It actually made my life easier, but now I have to wrap everything.

5. Do you re-gift?
Occasionally, but only if I think the gift is something the other person would enjoy and I have it or similar things already.

6. What is your favorite Christmas song?
I like traditional Christmas music sung by choirs and what not. Otherwise it's Do They Know It's Christmas (Live Aid), Christmas Wrapping (The Waitresses) or The Barenaked Ladies/Sarah MacLachlan version of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen. Last year I bought my first non-classical Christmas Album, One More Drifter in the Snow by Aimee Mann. I like it a lot.

7. When do you get your Christmas tree?
A week or two before Christmas.

8. Wrapping presents: Love it or hate it?
HAAAATE! Thank God for gift bags.

9. Who is the hardest person to buy for?
My in-laws hands down. Thank God for Omaha Steaks.

10. Christmas tree: Real or artificial?
We're thinking about going for a fake tree this year. I prefer real ones, but I'm bad at making them last. And the needles, oy vey.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Some SuperRomance...

So I read two Harlequin Supeerromances over the weekend. I am finding myself enjoying the line, although, the books aren't necessarily awesome. They are character-driven stories, and they often have out of the ordinary settings, characters and premises. They're a nice change of pace.

Coulda Been a Cowboy by Brenda Novak
Miniseries: A Dundee, Idaho Book
Mini-Synopsis: A football player takes custody of his illegitimate and unwanted son. Trying to stay out of scandal's way and get back into playing shape, Tyler Garnier, accepts a former teammate's offer of a cabin in Dundee Idaho. Now he just needs to find someone to keep his kid out of the way. Frumpy, poor Dakota Brown seems perfect. Although the two seem like total opposites, and Dakota doesn't respect Tyler at first, they strike up an unlikely friendship. And perhaps these two very different people are exactly what each other need.

This is the fourth book I've read by Brenda Novak. She always has interestingly flawed characters and unusual plotlines. However, in the past, I felt that the romance aspect kind of went by the wayside. In CBaC, the focus is firmly on the characters' relationship. Tyler was not nearly as unsympathetic as he could have been. He is singularly focused on his career, and just particularly clueless about how attached he really is to his son, and later his nanny. Dakota is a practical, intelligent woman who has been held back by tragedy and family. I liked the way their relationship developed. They had a nice friendship, and when they got together it was because they really knew and liked each other. The things that held the story back for me were that a potentially huge conflict regarding the babymomma was wrapped too quickly and pat and the fact that Tyler carried on with his "I can't be a family man" schtick for far too long. But still a B. Novak is an author to try.

Blame it on the Dog by Amy Frazier
Miniseries: Singles...with Kids
Mini-Synopsis: A San Francisco artist with a twelve year old son and a rambunctious mutt, finds herself in need of a "dog behaviorist." The trainer's calm, stern demeanor and approach to disciplining animals alternately infuriate and intrigue Selena Milano. Jack Quinn finds himself fascinated by the mercurial Selena, bringing up emotions he hasn't felt since the death of his wife. But will these opposites be tripped up by Selena's need for independence?

This is the first book I've read by Amy Frazier. She has a nice writing style, and I read this book in a matter of hours. I liked the funky SF setting, and the unusual occupation of the hero and heroine. Selena is an installation artist, and Jack rehabilitates dogs and runs a huge rescue center. However the book suffered from an issue that I find happens often in books of this ilk. I'm always attracted to stories with free-spirited heroines and conservative heroes, but that "free-spirited" label tends to mean immature and bratty behavior on the part of the heroine. Selena is no exception. Her insistence on "self-reliance" and fear of losing control over her son, cause her to treat Jack like crap way too many times. I grew increasingly exasperated, and wanted him to cut and run. Jack was a great guy, but not nearly as uptight as you would think. He feel like a ton of bricks right away, and pursued Selena even though she was unpleasant to him. I wished he had a little more fight. When she changed her mind at the end I wasn't positive she wouldn't change it again. This one gets a C+. But I would try this author again, with a different storyline.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Some Christmas Cheer...

I love this song!

Okay, amusing myself. I haven't actually seen this video in years. As I was watching it, these thoughts ran through my head. Perhaps yours too...I wrote some of them down.

It's Bob Geldof! The man, the myth!...Who's that guy? Oh it's Paul Young. He sang "Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you" (as my sister liked to sing it)...Sing it, Boy George!...Why did Phil Collins get stuck playing the drums?....George Michael,back when we thought he was straight...then again, eighties hair and fashion made everyone look gay...Why so unhappy, Sting? Don't want to feed the World?...Sing it Bono!!...Hmmm, lots of people I don't recognize...More Paul Young (he must've been more popular in the UK, he carried this song)...Lots more do-gooding British musicians I don't recognize...Bananarama was awesome...Sting still looks uncomfortable and unhappy...maybe b/c someone's smoking, how rude...I think it's Jody Whatley...heh, one of the other guys from Culture Club...Ok, who the heck is that guy?...and fade.

First snow of the winter. Reading and blogging ahoy!