Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Special guy

I'm going to be out of town until Monday or so--and then I'll be busy, busy--so I'm doing my hottie post way early. And, well, basically, I think this guy is incredibly hott and even beats how sexy Jeffrey Donovan is in his sunglasses. It's Jules De Martino from The Tings Tings!

Isn't he divine? Mmmm, those glasses are excellent and flatter his face so nicely! He's good looking without the sunglasses, too. And I like their music (seriously, "Shut Up and Let Me Go" and "That's Not My Name" are both addictive--and get stuck in your head faaaaar too easily). Ok, one more time just because:

Why I like living in the 2000s

If you read this blog, you know I love Deanna Raybourn's Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary. I'm looking forward to reading book three in the series and did a bit of googling to find out more. Well, I discovered Raybourn's wonderful blog--and the name of her next book: Silent on the Moor! The bad news? It's not due out until March 2009--but the good news is that it's going to be a really long book (600 pages or so)--yay! Isn't it fabulous that authors blog and have websites and share all sorts of wonderful tidbits with their readers? I think I may re-read Silent in the Sanctuary again. I'm just in the mood for some fabulous Julia and Brisbane interaction.

Anyway, my latest read is Rebecca Ryman's Shalimar. The subtitle reads: "A novel of romance and espionage in nineteenth-century Kashmir." To be honest, I'd subtitle it: "A novel of politics, some espionage and what-some-people-might-deem-romance." This is actually one of the few times that I wanted a map in a book. The setting is in India/Kashmir/a bunch of other places I've never heard of. So....I was lazy and didn't look up a map; therefore part of the story was lost on me, I'm sure.

The book follows several storylines--politics of that era (late 1880s), Russian spies, English intelligence agents, some other people and a "romance" between Damien and Emma.

The book is seen through from Emma Wyncliffe's eyes. She is a headstrong spinister (insert conventional headstrong spinster stereotypes here) who is coerced into a marriage with Damien Granville--a landowner in Kashmir. Why didn't I like this couple? Well, in their first meeting, Damien tells Emma that he supports physical punishment for cheating wives--and in India, it's a pretty rough punishment. In their second meeting, he slaps her. Um, that sort of action is NEVER acceptable. I don't care if he was angry; it was absolutely wrong.

It's not like Damien spouted off support of wifely abuse, but his actions somewhat supported it. (Rebecca Ryman is a pseudonym for someone who was raised in and lived in India [but isn't Indian? Her bio didn't say.]. So I wonder if her heritage or religion had anything to do with presenting Damien in this manner--and Emma, for that matter. Emma was upset, etc., but didn't condemn Damien for his treatment of her.)

Basically, the convenient marriage romance--which I normally like--didn't work for me. The espionage parts of the book (and there were plenty) sometimes confused and bored me. At the end, the storylines do come together nicely, if somewhat unbelievably and suddenly (for example, the identity of the random Armenian slave girl that all sorts of people are looking for).

So...overall, it honestly wasn't a bad read, just not engrossing and with a shoddy romance--but I would not re-read it, that's for sure!

Rating: 6.5/10

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sorry America

Alright, my hottie of the week isn't American. (Sorry, America; I will be cheering for other countries during the Olympics.) It's Bulgarian Jordan Jovtchev, who I remember from the 2004 Olympics.

I couldn't find a better photo of him; most of them involve him in some weird gymnastic position. Jordan is 35 and will retire after this Olympics--he's been in six Olympics. I'm impressed.

Sweet summer

Confession: the main reason I picked up The Penderwicks is the book cover. This photo doesn't do it justice; the yellow and blues are so pretty in real life.
Doesn't it look like an excellent summer read? As the cover states, it's a summer vacation story featuring four sisters, their neighbor, a dog, a teenage gardner and two bunnies.

If I had children, I would make them read this book. It follows a familiar story: an unhappy, lonely boy finds adventure/happiness/courage because of the friendship of four sisters. Jeanne Birdsall does a great job of making the four Penderwick sisters unique. It was funny, cute and evokes a child's summer perfectly.

The book is Birdsall's first novel but it won 10 awards (very impressive!). Her second book is The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Again with the kick

As I am on my Elizabeth Peters kick, I picked up The Seventh Sinner, which introduces her character Jacqueline Kirby. I'm not sure if it was meant to be the first book in the series, as most of the action is told through another character's eyes.

One aspect that I definitely noticed about the book is that it's very of its era--the 1970s. There were references to "the fuzz," hippies, beads, the rebellious youth, etc.

The setting is Rome: seven students at an art and archeology school are living up their time abroad. Jean, the main character, literally runs into librarian Jacqueline Kirby. Jean and her fellow students rather adopt Jacqueline--a mother in her mid-40s--because she's witty, intelligent and has great legs.

The group is rather forced into a murder mystery with Jacqueline surreptitiously taking the lead. An interesting story follows.

I think it's one of Peters' earlier works and it lacks the strength of some of her later writing. Still, it's a fun summer read that made me want to go abroad.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I have no new books checked out at the library, which means I'm doing re-reading. I haven't felt like tackling any of my library $1 buys.

Up first was Death in Kenya by M.M. Kaye. It's not my favorite--too dark and not enough romance. So I'll probably never re-read it again. I had forgotten a lot of the story but my memory is now refreshed.

Now I'm reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, which is one of the first books I remember Amazon recommending for me, back in January 2005. Ah, yes, that's when our love affair began, didn't it Amazon?

Anyway, it's a delightful book that sort of plays off of the Scarlet Pimpernel (another book I love). So it's always a good re-read.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cover me up

After reading A Singular Hostage by Thalassa Ali, which was good, I wanted to follow the series. Up next is A Beggar at the Gate. Unfortunately, minor issues which bugged me in book one really bothered me in this one.

On a side note, the cover for this book is very similar to the first book. It confused me for a split second--I thought I had ordered the wrong book from the library.

The major theme for this novel is East vs. West and how one English woman finds herself torn between two cultures: Victorian England and India. In the first book, Mariana (the English woman) accidentially-kind-of marries Hassan, an Indian man, because there's several prophecies about her watching over Hassan's son. (Hassan is a widower.) There's almost a lot about the civil unrest in India and plots about who is going to be the next ruler.

Anyway, Mariana just leaves Hassan and they don't have a marriage (as they never consumated it). Fast forward TWO YEARS for book two and oh, it's time for their first interaction. Did I mention that Mariana has had Hassan's son with her the entire time? Bad daddy, indeed.

Mariana waffles over whether she wants a divorce or not, blah blah blah. She ends up sleeping with Hassan and spending some time with his family--but then again, at the end of the book, she leaves for freakin' Afghanastan. (I don't even remember whether Hassan's son is with her or not.) Evidently in book three, after more civil unrest and trouble, they hook up again. Or something.

The main issue I had is this: a true English woman--especially one like Mariana, who frequently breaks proper etiquette and basic social rules for a lady of her era--would never be content in an Indian home. The ladies of the home--at least in this book--were sequestered in the upstairs. They only interacted with other ladies and their husbands. It reminded me a lot of Muslim women today.

There is no way that Mariana would ever settle into that type of life. In the book, she can't even handle a few days in the room and escapes to do various things. Yet, through out the book, we are expected to believe she should be with Hassan and would be happy in that life. Hassan expects her to act like a normal Indian woman, too--he never bends his ideals--and gets angry when she doesn't. I just can't believe they would be happy together.

I don't I'm going to read book three. If I see it at my local Borders, I'll read the ending but I don't want to waste my energy on something I can't swallow.

On a positive note, Ali really captures Indian life well! She certainly has done her research.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, July 21, 2008


Hottie Monday: Olympic version! Only three weeks away until the Olympics start. Yay!

So here's Scott Parsons, the hottie athlete of the week. He's a canoer/kayaker. I bet he's strong. I'll cheer for you in August, Scott!

So sweet

I have found an author that I love and I will read all of her books from now on. Her name is Sarah Addison Allen.

I stumbled across The Sugar Queen randomly on Amazon and decided to give it a try.

I must admit, the absolutely gorgeous cover drew me in. Isn't it so pretty and magical? Anyway, the story is about Josey, who at 27, lives with her really old mom and does everything her mother tells her to do. It actually reminds me of Valancy and The Blue Castle.

One day, Josey opens her closet door--her secret closet, where she hides oodles of sweets and romance novels from her mother--and there sits Della Lee. Della Lee refuses to leave Josey's closet. That's where Josey's new life begins.

The story, although it sounds a bit odd, is adorable. The story has plenty of magic realism, which I love. Josey slowly blossoms and breaks away from her mother. A sweet love story flourishes with Josey and a certain young man.

Can I make it any clearer? This is a really sweet, cute book. I liked Allen's style of writing so much that I will read all of her books. All of her books feature "love and magic." I know her Garden Spells was a huge hit, so I'm going to read that, too.

Rating: 10/10

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bite me.....oh wait, don't

I have a quest: to read one classic work each month that I somehow avoided reading during my English major undergrad years (or earlier in my life). This month I picked Dracula.

It wasn't exactly what I expected; like with Frankenstein, the character has been so dramatized and changed from the original that your expectations get twisted. Anyway, the basic story is guy gets sent to Count Dracula's castle for business; freaky business ensues. Guy comes home, Dracula follows, a girl becomes a vampire. The guy, the guy's wife, a doctor, a professor, the girl's fiancé and a cowboy from Texas (SO random!) decide that Dracula must die.

It's a suspenseful story, albeit a bit unbelieveable at times...but it's about vampires so why would I expect true realism? One aspect that did surprise me was the gore. A girl (her name is Lucy--sorry if that just ruined the whole book for you; but then again, if you are reading it and didn't know she was becoming a vampire, well, I have no words left for you) who became a vampire had to have her head chopped off! Wow.

One aspect I really liked is how the main girl (Mina, not Lucy-vampire-girl) was portrayed as so intelligent. How refreshing to have a smart girl in a pre-1900 book!

I'm sure a lot has been said about this book and I don't have anything new to really add. I'll just have a better appreciation for Breaking Dawn now.

Rating: 8.5/10

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Book sale pickings

The library's book sale was overflowing with hardcover books for $1. I picked up four books, including a nonfiction read (shocking for me!), a mystery, an Anne Stevenson mystery and an academic/history mystery.

I only bought Hell Hath No Curry because it is a "Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery with Recipes." How...odd. Unfortunately, it's also like book 20 in the series, so I'm way out of the loop. The series features a Mennonite woman who solves mysteries. All the titles feature a play on some type of food.

I haven't finished it yet and I'm not sure I will...I hate coming into a series blind. So we'll see.

Jump on the night train

I finished Elizabeth Peters' Night Train to Memphis, the last published Vicky Bliss book, which I learned from Google is also a movie and a song. I think Peters had a bit too much fun with this one--but it made the book thoroughly enjoyable.

Peters has really developed the relationship between Vicky and John Smythe (actually John Tregarth, as we learn). It's believable and satisfying. Also, this book was very romantic--not that it involved a lot of lust/sighing/sex, but in that the characters were willing to sacrifice their safety and their own needs for the other person. That is love--placing someone else's needs above your own.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, July 14, 2008

India's history

Again, I have to thank a random reader's Listmania for pointing out Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald to me.

As you can tell by the cover, it is an EPIC novel, published in the 1980s. The story follows Laura Hewitt, an English spinster, who accompanies her cousin Emily (and Emily's husband, Charles, who Laura secretly loves) to India.

The three meet up with Oliver Erskine, Charles' half-brother who has lived his whole life in India. He is a "zemindar"--a hereditary ruler of a vast parcel of land. Laura and Oliver connect...and maybe fall in love.

The story takes place in 1857, right during the time of the Indian Sepoy Mutiny. Fitzgerald's attention to history is amazing. You experience the mutiny and suffer with the characters through a siege...which may be why this book is almost 800 pages long.

Anyway, nice historical read about India--I recommend it, if you're in the mood for an epic story.

Rating: 8/10

Hottie Monday, Olympic Version

Breaux Greer is my Olympian hottie of the week, mostly because of his hair and his name. Yay for unique names and mohawks. He's a javelin thrower. Rock on, Breaux.

Closure is such an excellent thing

I have a deep need for closure in the fiction I read and the TV shows I watch (and I suppose, in my life). I like happy endings, weddings and good conquering evil. I can accept sad endings, particularly if I'm warned that it's sad. What I can't handle is a lack of closure--the wondering about what will happen.

For example, after watching the movie Gone With The Wind, I was so upset at the ending (will Scarlett and Rhett end up together?!?!) that I dreamt all night about the movie and created my own happy ending (they did!!!).

I knew going into Veronica Mars that there probably wouldn't be a lot of closure--after all, the producers/writers were hoping for a fourth season. And I was right. Veronica and her love interest Logan didn't end up together--although they did share "a look" before the show ended. But you know what's wonderful about watching TV on DVD? Writers' interviews!!!

An interview with creator/writer Rob Thomas reveals that the writers intended to keep those two together and had they fully known that the episode would have been for sure the last one, it may have ended with more closure. That made me happy (and able to sleep). See, writers and authors, closure is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Oh my, Martha

I've been reading Zemindar all week's a really lengthy book. It's all about India and Sepoy rebellions. Go history.

I also request Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook from the library. Oh. My. Word. It is amazing. I think my mouth was open the entire time I was paging through it. (Pretty baked goods photos and awesome recipes tend to amaze me.) I'll be attempting my first recipe today. If the baked goods turn out anything like their photos, I will buy this book.

Today is my local library's booksale--I am excited! Yay for cheap books! I'll let you know what I pick up.

Lastly, and this is sad, I only have three discs left in the last season of Veronica Mars. In case you haven't figured this out, I really like this show. The ending of that series will be a sad day for me. I'll probably need a bowl of my Ben and Jerry's Phish Food--or a Coca-Cola. Both are excellent comforters. Good thing Burn Notice just started up again...and Psych starts next week. I will need distractions for my sorrow.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Consistency is my issue

My friend Mary finished Twilight this weekend and we had a nice gushy session over it. I'm glad I have someone to gush with now.

In other news, I'm not sure what's going on with me, but I haven't been able to really get into a book for the last week or so. I started two books and realized I didn't care at all about either story.

One such book was Chosen by Ted Dekker. I kept on feeling really out of the loop while reading it and couldn't understand why. It was bizarre; the characters would make reference to people and backstories without a lot of detail. Then I realized while Chosen was actually the first book in its particular series, it's actually part of "The Circle Trilogy." So I was legitimately confused! Yay for me.

So I ended up reading Touch Not the Cat (by Mary Stewart) and being fully satisfied. While prowling Goodwill, I found Madeline Brent's Merlin's Keep. (I love used bookstores and Goodwills for this very reason--cheap books!)

I like how Brent features Asia in his works--this novel was partially set in Tibet. The story follows an orphaned girl who was raised in Tibet but ends up in England. The story, while different from Moonraker's Bride, certainly has some similarities. However, Merlin's Keep had a lot of omens/superstition in the book, which I didn't like--some of it bordering on demonic activity.

Rating: 7/10

Now what shall I start next?

happy monday

It's Hottie Monday...and yes, it's the Olympian version. Aaron Peirsol is today's hottie.

As is well documented, I don't normally go for blonds, but this guy seems really nice. I've been watching the Olympic Trials and the newcasters have been gushing over Aaron. He's on my list of athletes to cheer on in August.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I get on reading kicks where I devour every book a specific author has written. This usually happens in the summer, particularly back when I was in college.

One summer it was Elinor Lipman (amazing writer!). One spring/summer it was Georgette Heyer. This past year or so I've read most, if not all, of Helen Fielding, Mary Stewart, M. M. Kaye and Stephenie Meyer's works.

This is definitely an Elizabeth Peters summer. I've realized I don't like her writing as Barbara Michaels, but really, really like her EP novels.

The Camelot Caper was her latest work I read. It features John Smythe from the Vicky Bliss series--but this one actually was written first. To be honest, Smythe or "Cousin John" in this book, stole the book. He upstaged the hero, even though he was one of the bad guys. I can see why Peters liked him so much that she brought him into another series. Camelot features art thievery, romance and plenty of action. It's definitely fun summer reading.


Anyway, this is the perfect time for me to devour all of Peters' books, especially her Vicky Bliss series, as there's a new Vicky Bliss book out this summer (the first one in a decade!). From what the publisher has said, it's the last one, too. The Laughter of Dead Kings will be out August 26, published by Harper Collins.