Posts Tagged With: Romance

Winter Reading List 2017

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Finally a blog entry, right?  Work has gotten insane on me.  One of our own went out on disability to get her knee replaced (surgery went well, and recovery is too – yay!), but we’re all doing a little backfilling to pitch in. Couple that with all the beginning of the year crazy and the cold Brian shared that just won’t go away, and it’s a miracle I’ve been able to write at all.

Which is to say that blog entries might be sparser (once a week and irregular?) until March.  We’ll see how it goes.

It’s more than time for the winter reading list. The students came back last Monday and I’m officially late.  So, here’s all the things I’ve read since the fall, and what I thought of them.  I know… I did say there would be less book reviews in the new year.  I’m still mostly holding to that.  But I also said the Reading List was something that would stay.  This one wins the award for most books ever (if that’s an actual award) with 53.

I hope you find something to like in this batch.

 

Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart by Sarah MacLean – I’m basically in love with this woman and consider her books to be the best thing ever.  I have never seen Informed Consent in a romance novel, and not only does MacLean do it, she does it so it’s SUPER hot.  Basic rule for all the MacLean books that follow?  READ THEM NOW.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater – Beautifully written, but I just couldn’t get into it.  For some reason, I just felt like I had read this book before.  It didn’t offer me anything new.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater – Again, a very pretty book with not a lot of exciting things to offer.  I decided not to continue with the series after this one.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean – A runaway in the wrong (or right, if you like super hot guys) carriage trope, only this one is done remarkably well.

A Scot In The Dark by Sarah MacLean – It’s like if the naked celebrity selfie problem went 17th century on us.  Crazy well done.  And who doesn’t love a lady who ultimately saves herself?

A Rogue By Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean – A marriage of convenience novel in an illicit gaming hell.  He’s trying to keep her “pure.” Sign me up, please!

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean – Another in the gaming hell series, and just as good as the first.

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean – This one might actually be my favorite of all the Lord of Scoundrels series.  The lady the duke supposedly killed turns up alive, and of course sparks fly.

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery – A comfort read that I’ve memorized parts of, and don’t read often.  It’s such a gem of a book, and I think I got more from it this time than I did as a teen.  She’s saying important things about women and relationships in this one.

Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover by Sarah MacLean – OH so good.  I love the secret that is the premise of this book, though I won’t spoil it for those who are planning to read the others.  And who doesn’t like a newspaperman hero?  I ALWAYS do.  My FAVORITE of the Lord of Scoundrels.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – I’m probably a horrible person, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I think it’s because Kvothe annoyed the CRAP out of me, and I didn’t want to spend any time with him.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede – I don’t know why I keep returning to this book, because it really isn’t my favorite – it’s too long a timeline and too rambling to be About anything.  But Wrede’s world and alt-history is SO fascinating.  That’s what I go back for, I guess.

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer – This hilarious book is all letters back and forth as the two girls confront separate problems in the country and in town that ultimately end up being related.  Combines Wrede’s awesome alt-history world with regency romance and is perfection.  Bonus points?  It reads like it was fun to write.

What Matters in Jane Austen by John Mullan – I think this book is for people who aren’t history-buffs and totally crazy about the Regency.  I learned a little bit, but not as much as someone else might have.  Also, I felt kinda “meh” about it.  I struggled to get through it, though ultimately was glad I did.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare – A couple of mystery lovers tryst in a room that both the Hero and Heroine happen to also be in, and they’re blamed.  Now they have to get married, which seems like a hardship but really isn’t after all.  It was definitely a solid novel, but not a favorite or anything.

That Scandalous Summer by Meredith Duran – It’s a marriage of convenience novel, where the hero needs the heroine’s money to keep a hospital he runs open.  I read it all the way through, but ultimately didn’t feel it was great.

Someone to Watch Over Me by Lisa Kleypas – I actually hated this book.  It was basically the plot of “Splash” in 18th century form, but it got a little rapey and awful in there.  I wouldn’t recommend.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase – Oh, so great.  The heroine is trying to pry her brother away from the hero’s terrible influence.  She’s super-smart, he’s fairly oblivious, and things are basically perfect.  I would 100% recommend this novel.

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase – Love this novel, too. It’s an already betrothed but fell for someone else totally unsuitable trope, where the hero falls for his fiancé’s dressmaker.  Unique, though, because there’s genuine affection between the hero and his fiancé, just not romantic love.  So great, I kept picking up her books.

Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase – Dressmakers #2, and it features a delightful heroine who sneaks into all the Ton parties to report on the latest fashions.  So great.  Would recommend.

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese O’Neil – Totally hilarious and disgusting (in a good way) in every way.  Ever wanted to be a romance heroine?  This will cure you.  And leave you laughing.

The Young Blood by Erin Satie – I loved this book a bunch.  It was well written, and the murder scene was horrifying while still serving the story.  It lost a few points for me for deus ex machina balloon rides, but all in all I would recommend.

Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas – I was out of stuff to read, and so I DID go back to the Bow Street series, despite my reservations.  This one was better than the last, but still not that great.

Secrets from the Eating Lab by Tracy Mann – Such a cathartic and helpful read.  I’ve read a ton of books and evidence about how diets don’t help, but Mann takes it farther and tells you how to live healthfully at any size.  Finally a course of action that won’t kill me!

Romancing the Beat, Story Structure for Romance by Gwen Hayes – Very helpful as I was planning my Nano novel this year, which was a romance.  And a quick read, which was also nice.

The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman – Oh, I love this man so much.  I got a little bogged down in the section that’s all commentary on comics and things because I don’t read that genre, but otherwise it was magical to read his thoughts on things.

Red Rose by Mary Balogh –   I hated this book completely, was 100% turned off by the way she treated her disabled heroine, and didn’t finish it.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – I loved this book so much that I started my own project this year.  I’ve almost totally dropped it 3 months in, but I did change several significant things that seem to be really helping me feel better about myself.

Geoducks are for Lovers by Daisy Prescott – I mean, it was the usual contemporary beach house romance, complete with wishy-washy reason for the couple to stay apart.  But it was well written, at least.

The Rogue by Katharine Ashe – While I really loved the tension between the hero and heroine, I also felt like the book was missing something.  Maybe because it’s #4 and they’re not as stand-alone as everyone hoped?

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt – The plot was pretty great, really, as was the hero and heroine traveling through the slums after a secret.  I think I can’t give it full marks, though, because of a needless almost-rape.

His Mistress by Christmas by Victoria Alexander – Uh, no.  This book annoyed the CRAP out of me because there seemed to be no reason at all for the two not to at least schtup each other, and they didn’t.  And it was repetitive.  I read about 75% of the way through before I gave up in disgust.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig  – Maybe the best Christmas book I read this year.  An intrigue with puddings, silly and not too smart but still drool-worthy men, and much Christmas goodness.  Hot, but no sex.

Oh Horrid Night edited by Amber Newburry – This is the book I’m in!  I had a fun time reading everyone else’s stuff, which was oh so creative and very creepy.

All I Want for Christmas is You by Nora Roberts – it was fine, but nothing to write home about.  The kids were cute, the romance just fine.  I have nothing to criticize.  But, I also have nothing to praise, really.

Married for Christmas by Noelle Adams – I actually liked this book quite a lot.  The fellow in the relationship was a pastor, and so I thought it might be sickly religious.  Not so, though.  And very solid, with plenty of hotness and a story line that seemed natural.

A Christmas Kiss by Elizabeth Mansfield – A sweet holiday romance in which the spunky and awesome heroine falls for the father of the house, who’s mad at himself because he thinks she’s engaged to his son.  Sweet.

A Family for Christmas by Noelle Adams – It was written well, but I felt like this missed the mark for me.  They were both missionaries, and for some reason I didn’t feel like I really identified with them, though the writing and story were both solid.

Twas The Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries – A cute and steamy novel about a man and his estranged mother.  The guy falls for his mother’s companion after she tricks them into reconciling.  He was a little too creepy at first, but I ended up liking it.

What A Lady Needs for Christmas by Grace Burrowes – This was one of my FAVORITE Christmas novels this year. It features a Scot, a train escape, an awesome wardrobe, and a precocious daughter.  I didn’t want it to end.

Three Nights Before Christmas by Kat Latham – The heroine is an ex-con and a train engineer, and watching her story unfold was great.  Especially because her brother and the hero are such funny guys.  Plenty of Christmas goodness, too.  Also, the ugliest sweater EVER.

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan – A VERY cute tale that made me want to at least explore reading the rest of the series.  Plenty of skiing and coziness, along with a mean mother and a teen to adore.

The Duke and Miss Christmas by Amelia Grey – I got REALLY angry with the hero in the first chapter and refused to read the rest of it.  The verdict is a resounding No.

Wallbanger by Alice Clayton – Oh, I love this book so much.  I was skeptical because of the title, but the hero and heroine are both so quippy, and they both have a hilarious posse of friends, and it’s hot all the way through.  Yes please.

Once Upon a Highland Christmas by Lecia Cornwall – Another one of my favorites this year.  The villagers are such well-written characters, and I loved the Lady and Lord, and the way gossip traveled.  They both stubbornly held to marrying others beyond the point of reason, but I still think it worked.  Would recommend.

The Undervalued Self by Elaine Aron – This was an interesting read, and I think it was good for me.  The difference between ranking and linking situations, and how we rank when we should link sometimes, has been very helpful.

A Bad Boy for Christmas by Jessica Lemon – I was not really a fan of this one.  Eventually things get kinda sweet, but the hero in the beginning is a little creepy about his need to “protect” the heroine and it never quite recovered enough for me.

How A Lady Weds a Rogue by Katharine Ashe – This book had all the good parts of an amazing novel, but it somehow didn’t grip me.  I found my attention wandering even as I enjoyed it.  I recommend?  I gave it 4 stars on Amazon.

Seducing Mr. Knightley by Maya Rodale – downtrodden and shy advice columnist known as Dear Abigail reverses things and asks her readers for advice on how to seduce her crush.  Which happens to be her boss.  Nothing to do with Jane Austen (closer to Never Been Kissed, the movie), but features a newspaperman.  Yum.

Grin and Beard it by Penny Reid – It’s the 2nd book in the series, but it’s OH so good and can stand alone.  National Park ranger and movie star fall in love.  She has an amazing career, is Latina, and also a size 14 and totally sexy.  So is he, bear-trapping and all.  It sounds cheesy, but it’s really not.  It’s perfection.

Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid – I read the book above and HAD to read the entire series.  This one is technically part of the “Knitting In The City” series, but it features their sister and is also considered Winston Brothers 0.5.  A sad book since it features the death of the MC’s mother, but also a beautiful love story.  And you HAVE to love that gaggle of friends.

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid – The 2nd book in the series.  Two hometown haters fall in love when the girl mistakes the guy for his twin and things get hot.  Full of sassiness, too.  I almost said this one was my favorite so far, but I don’t think I can, really.  It’s impossible to pick.

Beard Science by Penny Reid – I was worried about this one because I don’t really think of Cletus as being romantic.  But he definitely is.  And this book may be the funniest yet because the heroine is so great.  She’s smart but sheltered, so it’s an interesting combination with Cletus’ slyness.

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Christmas Romance, Nano Wrap-Up

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Hello! As promised, it is December 1st and I am back with a vengeance. Well, maybe not a vengeance. But with bells on. I have problems sustaining vengeance, and I never have problems sustaining glee.  I miss blogging when I don’t do it.

Today I’m going to write about Christmas romance novels, after I tell you that I won Nanowrimo. Yay me!! That’s number 6. This year was easier than last, mostly because I planned better and didn’t freak out when I got stymied after writing the beginning. I just went on to write the middle and end in no discernible order whatsoever like I usually do. No existential crisis about it first this time. Now if I can just get some of those rough drafts finished, I’ll be feeling even better about myself. That’s a task for next year.

The verdict on subject matter?  I think I’m capable of writing a romance novel.  Now we just have to figure out if I can edit one.  Brian has refused to be a beta-reader on the grounds that he’ll never be able to keep a straight face.  Fair enough.

Speaking of Romance Novels… I have been binge-reading Christmas romance novels in the hopes that somewhere there are good ones out there. Here’s a quick list of what I’ve completed so far, and how I felt about it. In order of read-worthiness, in case you’re interested in joining me.  I was pleasantly surprised, I have to say.  After last year, this one could be considered a rousing success.  Several things were very readable, and a few were outright good.

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The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig: There’s no sex in the book, but it still manages to be exactly perfect in all ways. It starts with a Christmas pudding on which a secret message has been written, and evolves into this perfect novel of romance and intrigue that is not only Christmassy, but also sweet. Bonus points for a hero who isn’t very smart but still manages to be hot, quippy, and funny all at the same time. And for Christmas pageants and yule log rituals. This was my favorite read this season.

Married for Christmas by Noelle Adams: A contemporary that’s a little bit religious in nature. I didn’t mind it, though, because it wasn’t rampantly so and it is a Christmas novel. With a pastor as the main character. The two of them didn’t feel goody-goody, they felt like real people in a marriage of convenience, and the issues they were both dealing with were real and serious. It was also the hot and bothered kind, the first one I’ve read this season.

A Christmas Kiss by Elizabeth Mansfield: This one and the above are probably tied for enjoyment.  There’s also no sex in this book, but it ended up being one of my favorite historicals this time around. The premise is that, though a confluence of misunderstandings, the duke’s family thinks that their oldest son is engaged to this girl even though he’s not. And the duke totally starts to fall in love with her, but won’t do anything about it because he thinks he’s usurping his son’s girl. The heroine is AWESOME, and the antics that go on in the house are great. There’s lots of Christmas goodness to recommend it, too. But just know that it’s a lot more sweet and funny than it is hot and bothered.

A Family for Christmas by Noelle Adams: I can’t say exactly why I didn’t enjoy this book at all as much as the first Willow Park book (above), but I didn’t. I think that it just was too far outside my own experience to be relateable. The main character is a missionary who basically just wants to be in India, where she feels her new life is waiting. And eventually she falls in love with her husband and all, like we all knew would happen, but her inner journey isn’t one I identified with. Still, a solid book with lots of Christmas goodness. And I do think it might be the thing for some people. It was well written with a solid story arc.

All I Want for Christmas by Nora Roberts: It’s a novella, so it’s short. And contemporary. There wasn’t really anything I can put my finger on that was wrong with it, but there wasn’t anything extra to be excited about either. The kids are cute, the love interest sweet with the usual “brokenhearted previously” trope to keep the two (very) temporarily apart. It was totally fine. A solid novel with many nice Christmas touches. But honestly, I’ve already forgotten that I read it.

His Mistress by Christmas by Victoria Alexander: I just… I hate to be so disparaging. But this novel rubbed me in ALL the wrong ways. He’s so passive about her that it starts to feel like he doesn’t know what to do with a woman, even though he’s supposed to be this fancy experienced explorer with a girl in every port. She tells him he’s extraordinary every time he opens his mouth in those exact words. They fall in love in two seconds without ever spending any real time together. He’s supposed to come into some big inheritance, which turns out to be his father’s beat up watch and not actually a thing. The sexual tension wasn’t present. While it did have plenty of Christmas trappings, that’s it’s only saving grace. I’d skip.

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Book Reviews: A Little Romance

I’m very far ahead on the reading challenge at this point, but VERY far behind on getting reviews of everything done.  Which means I’m going to review two of the romance novels I’ve read so we can get that out of the way.  I feel like love of romance novels is a personal topic, and I usually don’t review them in detail.  But I pledged to review everything on that challenge list, so…

Before I go full-throttle review, I think we should talk about romance novels.  They are full of cheesy moments, sappy dialogue, silly euphemisms for body parts, and unlikely scenarios.  I consider that a feature of the genre, not a deterrent.  So when I discuss the novels, I think you should know that all of them are typical historical romance fare and are therefore to be judged on a different standard than, say, something by Donna Tartt.

That being said, I still look for streamlined language, an interesting and new-ish storyline, and plenty of good description.  I will always maintain that good writing is good writing, regardless of genre.  It’s the stuff that happens in romance novels that I’m not sure everyone would agree on being their thing, not the quality of the writing itself.

Here we go:

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Mine ‘Til Midnight by Lisa Kleypas (a book that’s on fire)

Not only is the book full of fiery, lusty happenings, but their house eventually catches on fire.  It seemed to fit.

I am fairly torn when it comes to Lisa Kleypas.  She does that thing in romance novels where the girl says no way, the guy does it anyway, and then the girl likes it.  I hate to be all “rape culture!” on everyone, but it makes me uncomfortable and is the trope I like LEAST in the genre.  I know that in the Victorian era, women had to be circumspect about their relationships.  But this isn’t a Victorian book.  It’s a modern book, written by modern people, for modern people, that happens to take place in the Victorian era.  I demand that the fiction fit my modern values.  Which means no possible rape scenarios, please, regardless of how much love is between the characters.

It’s all throughout this book, too.  Which made it hard to like wholeheartedly even though I LOVED almost every other aspect of it.  It’s an unusual premise, the family is unlucky and really funny, and the love interest is a hot bad boy.  Bonus points for the fact that he’s Romani, and Kelypas is pretty good (to my untrained eye) at being respectful while still dealing with prejudices at the time.  More bonus points for Beatriz and her pet lizard. Who makes an appearance at the dinner table.  If we are giving kudos for originality, this one has it in spades.

While it was mostly good, it also had a supernatural aspect that I felt was thrown in at the end without enough foreshadowing, and seemed a little silly as a result.

I’m critical, but I read the thing in 1 day and then bought book 2.  So I did enjoy it despite the flaws.  I have now read the entire backlist of Eloisa James and Julia Quinn, so I now have to find a good substitute.  Kelypas is almost in that league for me.  If only she’d cut out this no/yes stuff.

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My American Duchess by Eloisa James (a book no one wants you to read)

This category was the HARDEST for me, because no one has ever cared much what I read.  My parents’ shelves were as open to me as anything on my own shelves, I always got whatever was on my book list for presents at Christmas/Easter/birthdays, and my grandparents used to hand me things that might have been considered too old for me.  Like Damon Runyon at the age of 12. (He’s one of my favorites, but the heavy use of slang isn’t something that’s easy to get into, and it can be violent).  I got my hands on my first romance novels in high school.  No one has ever really cared.

But I needed something forbidden.  Which made me think of the stigma around romance novels.  And here we are…

At this point, I’ve read all of James’ back list.  This one falls somewhere in the middle of the pack for me, although maybe more towards the top than the bottom.  It’s a good, solid romance that has all the things I’m looking for – including an awesome American heroine.  She has a reputation for being flighty after ending a few engagements, and she’s determined to stick her current one through.  Even if he’s the wrong guy, and it’s his twin brother she really wants.  Bonus points for her being from Boston, which is where a huge contingent of my own family is from.

The book features a pineapple debacle, a twist in how the two eventually get married, and much fun along the way.  About ½ of the book takes place after the 2 are already married and attempting to figure things out, so that’s unusual in a romance novel, too.  Although it may not be the best of James, it’s definitely some of the best in the Romance genre.

That’s it for now, although more reviews will follow soon.  Happy reading!

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Spring 2016 Reading List

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Guess what?  It’s a regularly prescribed blog day and I am actually posting a blog.  It’s a small miracle.

The vacations are over, and so is the school year.  All our students graduated last weekend in a blaze of glory.  Which means I should officially share this list so I can start on the summer one, don’t you think?  I do.

And just so you know, I’m usually pretty good about putting things on Goodreads before they get to here.  If you want recs early and not in one giant dump like this, that’s the place to go.

So without further ado, here it is.  All the books I’ve read since the spring semester started:

  1. Winning the Wallflower by Eloisa James: I should just say that I ALWAYS enjoy a James novel. This one was quite solid, with an interesting premise.  Would recommend if you like that sort of thing.
  2. No-Where But Here by Kate McGarry: I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t my favorite either, mostly because it sent some of my feminist “no!” alarms off, although gently.  I cared to finish it, but I’m not sure I’ll pick up the next.  Or maybe I will.  I’m wishy-washy about it, and I did like the main character.
  3. Steering The Craft by Ursula K. LeGuin: Oh, so wonderful.  It made me value the art of writing practice all over again, though it reads more like a work book than it does like advice.
  4. A Knot In The Grain by Robin McKinley: McKinley is another I always love. At first I wasn’t so hooked but the stories kept getting progressively better, and the title story is something I’m obsessed with, except that I want it to be a novel and not a short.
  5. Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn: Thought it would have more to do with the Bridgertons that just having a heroine with the same last name, so I was a bit disappointed. But it was a solid story for all that and I’d recommend it.
  6. Pride and Prejudice and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway: Um… no. I don’t know why I even finished this book.  I didn’t enjoy it and I found the conclusion (and most of the novel, to be honest) to be unlikely and unsatisfying.
  7. Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein: I don’t really know what to say about this book except that it’s fascinating and poignant, and important for anyone who has been a girl (I had so many “me too!” moments) or anyone raising a girl.
  8. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: A re-read.  I still loved it, though it didn’t seem quite the captivating masterpiece it did on my first read.  I guess I just wished I cared a little more for Richard and Door at the end.
  9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling: I forgot how good this book is. And it’s honestly the prettiest thing I’ve ever read.  It was so fun to come across all the amazing illustrations while going through.  I basically didn’t come out of my room for a day and a half.  I can’t wait to collect them all.
  10. Chalice by Robin McKinley: I’ve read this book at least 4 times now, and it always leaves me wanting to keep bees in a thatched hut with the man I love. One of my favorites, and officially a comfort book by now.
  11. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I’m glad to find I can read it again, and that I love it as much as I ever did, which is to say obsessively.
  12. Fool For Love by Eloisa James: As James novels go, this one was on the silly side. I still enjoyed it, though.
  13. Poems by Rudyard Kipling: You know, I don’t always love his poetry. But when I do, I REALLY love it, and it was a joy to go through and pull out gems of couplets.
  14. If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Happy by Raj Raghunathan: I learned a lot from this, partially about the importance of practice in writing, and partly about making room for happiness without pursuing it head on. I’m glad I read it, and will be putting some of the suggestions into practice.
  15. Shakespere’s Wife by Germaine Greer: Such a dichotomy of a book. The writing is super dry and academic, but it’s about FASCINATING things.  I’m impatient when reading it and feel like I’m not enjoying myself, but I’m always telling Brian about the neat things I learned with enthusiasm.  I think it’s ultimately worth it.
  16. Duchess By Night by Eloisa James: Nice and satisfying, with a hilarious daughter to top it all off. No outright silly like in some of James’ novels.  Would recommend.
  17. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman: A strange collection of things, some of which I had read before. I went from “So good, I’ll never be this good, I love this story” to “No.  No, no.  No” about them.  My favorite was the Study in Emerald.  I’m not gonna pick a least favorite.  All in all, I would recommend it to Gaiman fans, though I enjoy his novels more.
  18. Once Upon A Tower by Eloisa James: I liked this one QUITE a bit. May be my favorite since the Essex Sisters.
  19. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: The book was really repetitive, and I didn’t care at all about the pages and pages of testimonials that she included, which may be a translation problem? But I did ultimately feel that her ideas were helpful and will put some of them into practice.
  20. Midnight Pleasures by Eloisa James: I generally liked it, but felt like the plot wasn’t tight. I mean, they end up with this mysterious French kid for no real reason and the scepter thing resolves WAY too easily.  It was also sad.  I enjoyed it, but think James has better work out there.
  21. Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott: Strangely, this book speaks differently to me now that I’m a little farther along the path to become a writer. I find that I’m more willing to listen to her advice without saying “yes, but an agent…” and to embrace the actual writing as the thing to fall in love with.  Still balm for my crazy soul.
  22. This Duchess of Mine by Eloisa James: Devolved a bit into farce, but I always enjoy a James novel. I’m slowly working through her backlist until I’ve read them ALL.
  23. A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James: I mean, Villers is my FAVORITE James heroine. I Loved this one, especially his son Tobias.  It was nice to see him get his own novel finally.
  24. Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James: This was one of the first James books I read, and I realized after a while that it’s partially from the perspective of Villers’ son. Which meant that I had to re-read it, of course. It was good the first time, but even better in context.
  25. A Wild Pursuit by Eloisa James: Another farciful one, with too many people at a house party.  I would say it’s good romance, I just think other things by James are better.
  26. Your Wicked Ways by Eloisa James: While I felt like I wish the heroine had a little more backbone, I LOVED all the music that’s in it. Ultimately, this is one of my favorites of hers.
  27. Enchanting Pleasures by Eloisa James: I think James is at her best when her heroines are smart, and Gabby is very smart. Quill is also super-easy to fall in love with as a character, though I feel as if I wish they had a tighter plot to play in.
  28. Why Diets Make us Fat by Sandra Aamodt: Interesting, if sometimes full of dry scientific studies. It makes me fear dieting, and also gives me hope that I can be healthy and a bit chubby.  Wonderful book full of important info.
  29. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray: I don’t know what to say about this one because it seems in a lot of ways like the original Diviners book – zippy, jazzy, a bit heartbreaking, scary. But for some reason I just didn’t care much about the characters like I did in book 1.
  30. Excuses Begone by Wayne Dyer: I tend to take advice from millionaires to ignore money when making decisions with a grain of salt, but I do think a lot of his points were valid. Worth a read, and very motivational.
  31. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater: Holy crap this book is good – Tumblr you were totally right, even if you did ruin one of the big secrets for me ahead of time. My new obsession. Bonus points? All books are out – no waiting.
  32. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater: I usually find sequels to be not as good as the originals, but I’m finding that this one is even better. If that’s possible.  Can’t wait to read the rest of them and will be burning through them the next few days.
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A Troglodyte Cleric Romance

I often write little essays and sketches of moments that I put away and then find later.  I was sifting through the files the other day, and found this one. It made me laugh, and then I read it to Brian and he cracked up and said I should post it.  I thought, since Valentine’s Day was yesterday, that I would.  So here you go:

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Sometimes he’s just so handsome sitting there that I can hardly help myself.  That’s how it was last night, he sinking into the plush couch in our living room, leaning forward, typing on his computer screen.  I have never been able to resist a writer.  He was only writing a new Dungeons and Dragons module, but it didn’t matter.  The greatest urge came over me to rub my face on his face.  There is something so compelling about the way he pushes his hand through his hair and leans back, lithe and deliberate.  When he realized I was watching, he looked up at me with a smile and made a place for me to sit next to him.

I tucked my head under his chin, and he took my glasses off.  He rested them on the pile of books next to him on the couch.

“How are you?” I asked, and then I kissed the underside of his chin.

“The module’s going well, I think,” he said.  He launched into an explanation that I hardly heard.   I could see every blade of stubble on his five-0-clock shadow, his long eyelashes, his deep brown eyes.   His jaw is so perfect, the pointed shape of it that gives him that crescent of a smile when he grins.  I thought about what his hair would feel like through my fingers; soft and stubbly in the back, until I rake a whole fistful of it near his crown, soft and longer.  He will roll his eyes back in sheer bliss if I do it, but I don’t want to interrupt him.

“I have the three main guys all written,” he said.  He held up three fingers.

I smiled, and then I leaned forward and kissed the third finger.

“No, no… you just kissed the Troglodyte cleric,” he said.

I grinned, nodded, and then kissed him near his ear.

“They have a stench, you have to make a fortitude save to get near him.”

I kissed him on his cheek.

“You can’t just go around kissing Troglodyte clerics you know,” he said.

I kissed him on the mouth, and when I pulled away we were both laughing.

“I’m on a roll tonight,” he informed me.

“I know you are,” I said.

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Valentine Reads

It’s that time of year again.  And if it’s anything I’ve learned from all the reading I’ve been doing, it’s what’s good in the romance department.  Looking for a good book with a happily ever after?  Try one of these.

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Romantical:

The ones in this category have swoon-worthy romance, but are PG rated:

  • Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell – Lincoln hasn’t got it all figured out. Which is why he moves in with his mom and takes a job reading company emails for suspicious or banned content.  But when witty Beth and Jennifer’s correspondence keeps getting flagged, Lincoln finds himself fascinated and then falling for one of the girls (who don’t know they’re being monitored).  Hijinks ensue, both heartbreaking and hopeful.  I ended up falling as much in love with the book as I did the characters.
  • Dear Mr. Knightly, by Katherine Reay – Sam gets a scholarship to her dream college, practically a miracle for a foster kid in and out of shelters her whole life. The only catch?  She has to write to the donor, addressing him as Mr. Knightly, and tell him about her life.  She befriends a former professor and his wife – both childless and happy to have her around.  She also gets close with charming Alex, an alum of the writing program she’s in.  And then there’s the identity of Mr. Knightley… which all become an amalgamation of a surprise ending.
  • Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale – When Charlotte’s husband leaves her for a woman named Justice, the only thing she wants is to leave her kids with the step-family, her American worries behind, and have a dream vacation in a recreation of Austen’s England. But things aren’t right in Austenland.  There are money problems, and people are disappearing.  Is it part of the ambiance, a planned story line; or is it real?  And what about the cute guy who’s supposed to be her “brother?”

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Historical:

Another bunch of PG reads that are set in history, and not today.

  • Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart – 1940s? 1960s?  Linda takes a job as a governess in a French Chateau and soon learns that there is a plot to end her small charge’s life.  It is impossible to tell who is in it and who is out, and she must put aside her only chance at love amidst a very lonely life to make sure the small boy is safe.  Casinos, fast cars, moonlit balls, beautiful forests, and much Peggity all combine to make this book magical.
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen – This one gets much less attention than some of Austen’s others.  But you have to feel sorry for poor Anne Elliot as she’s attempting to save her crazy family from themselves when she can’t even save herself.  She listened to bad advice, and now she has to watch her one true love court another.  Until an accident proves that they might still be suited to each other, and still in love.  Plus, you know, bonus points for hunky Captain Wentworth.
  • A Tangled Web by L. Montgomery – 1920s. When Aunt Becky leaves her coveted jug to an unnamed person – to be revealed a year after her death – it sets off all sorts of crazy happenings amongst her Dark and Penhallow cousins on Prince Edward Island.  Love stories of the entire clan entwine, untangle, and mix in ways they never would have if that infamous jug hadn’t been at stake.  It’s a little trite, but it’s FULL of hilarious characters, and one of my favorites.

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Fantastical:

For books that are full of fantasy, but still have happy endings:

  • Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell – Yeah, but she’s my favorite! At a wizard school in England, Simon Snow is trying to find out what happened to his roommate and enemy, Basilton Grimm-Pitch, while also fighting the Insidious Humdrum (who shares Simon’s face) with the help of his friends Penelope Bunce and Agatha Wellbelove.  The dead start to appear, the magicless spots start to spread, and the only thing that’s certain is that Simon and Baz are enemies.  Whether they want to be or not.
  • Stardust, by Neil Gaiman – In the town of Wall, a star falls in the night sky. Tristan tells his true love, Victoria, that he will bring it back for her.  But when he journeys through faerie to find it, he realizes that stars there aren’t at all like stars here, and she’s not a lump of metal but a beautiful woman.  Tristan isn’t the only one who is interested in finding her, though, and together they must escape a band of murderous brothers and an evil witch (among others) to get back to the town of Wall.
  • Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede – It’s regency England, and cousins Cecelia and Kate are forced to spend the season alone when Kate goes to London and Cecelia must stay home. But when Kate refuses to take a drink from a chocolate pot at the royal convention of wizards, and the liquid burns through her dress, they’re both suddenly thrust into a scheme in which the life of a powerful magician is at stake.  But with their society debuts coming up, and dresses and beaux on the line, deadly magic is just one of their concerns.  Bonus: it reads like it was a blast to write.

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Hawt:

These are the historical romances with all the naughty stuff in.  Most definitely R, and possibly X?  Don’t read unless you can stand growling gentlemen and naïve ladies.

  • A Kiss at Midnight by Eloisa James – When Kate’s stepsister is too unwed and pregnant to go to the prince’s betrothal ball, her stepmother insists that Kate go and pretend to be her sister instead. 3 small rats of a dog, several technicolor wigs, a fairy godmother, some capsized boats, and a hot prince in a tower later, and Kate might just be able to find happily ever after.  If she can get that princess out of the way first.
  • Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – One of the Bridgerton books (4, I think?), but you don’t have to have read the rest for this one to be enjoyable. It’s a silly book with a scathing gossip columnist, a heroine who looks like a lemon tart, a CRAZY secret, a beau who is always hungry, and some steamy romance along the way.
  • Much Ado About You by Eloisa James – I know. But just ignore the name for a minute, okay? It’s a book about 4 sisters who, when their father dies, are left as the wards of a man who hardly knew him with nothing but a purebred horse each for a dowry.  The best thing to do, of course, is for Tess to marry well so she can take care of the lot of them.  She’s the oldest, and the Earl of Mayne is interested.  It’s practically her duty to walk down the aisle.  But when Mayne is MIA, who will Tess marry instead?  The whole series is good, and this is the first of them.  Essex sisters for the win!
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