His Son's Teacher – Kay Stockham (Harlequin Super Romance)

All the talk about categories made me impulsively buy this one. I’d never heard of this author but I’m told she’s a popular author for this line. His Son’s Teacher by Kay Stockham (July 2008) has a rather interesting dedication that reads [to] “all the people out there who’ve struggled with their weight. Some of us have won the battle, some of us have lost it and some us are still fighting. It’s never too late to be healthy – and learn to be happy with ourselves. Good luck!”

I missed reading the dedication page (who reads it?) but it explains a lot. I didn’t know this book would include someone who would be fixated with their weight and constantly put themselves down. The story started off so promising so it is with regret that I didn’t get to finish this book because the heroine in here is a deal breaker. Here’s the back blurb:

Nick Tulane ordinarily won’t admit weakness in himself or in those he loves. But when he learns his son is about to fail in school, the single father is desperate to find a tutor. And Jennifer Rose is perfect. In fact, Jen might be too perfect. Nick’s starting to fall for the attractive teacher, and he can’t let that happen. Because opening up to Jen means sharing the secret that has always made him feel like an outsider in his own family. Still, with his son showing signs of following in his footsteps, Nick can’t keep the truth hidden. But once she knows, will Jen accept him…weakness and all? –

If you notice, the blurb describes more of the hero’s conflict, problems and not the heroine and I wonder why. Purposeful omission? If the blurb said anything about Jenn’s low self-esteem or her fixation on her losing weight, I wouldn’t have bought it. Simple as that but anyway, Jennifer Rose is a teacher at Beauty Elementary that’s located in the small, fictional town of Tennessee. She’s recently divorced after 5 years of marriage to a man she helped put through med-school. He eventually left her for his receptionist. Continue reading

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REVIEW: Nothing written by Janne Teller and translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

Danish author, Janne Teller has written a book that’s provocative in its ideas and philosophy. The story is self-described as a modern day Lord of the Flies.Nothing” is a psychologically disturbing story set in Denmark, in a fictional place called “Tæring” which is said to be a verb that means “to corrode or eat through.” The novel is about a group of seventh graders searching for the meaning of life after a class mate of theirs declares that life has no meaning. The narrative is told in first person through Agnes. The premise begins with Pierre Anthon leaving school, after stating to everyone “nothing matters!” Everyday he sits up in the plum tree, taunting to his classmates that “nothing’s worth the bother!”

Nothing matters. I have known that for a long time. So nothing is worth doing. I just realized that.

This statement insidiously works its way into the minds of the other students. Some how, they feel, that they must counter his statements and PROVE to Pierre that life does have meaning. The plot starts off innocently enough with the students at first trying to ignore Pierre’s taunts that life is worthless, love means nothing, etc while sitting in his plum tree that’s located on their route to school everyday. Eventually, the students decide to get together and devise a plan to meet secretly at an old unused sawmill on the outskirts of town. The goal is to contribute something to sacrifice that has meaning to each of them. Nothing is worth sacrificing if it doesn’t have meaning, right? Continue reading

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Movie: True Grit (2010) – written by Charles Portis, adapted to the screen by the Coen Brothers

Just got back from watching Joel and Ethan Coen’s latest film, True Grit (opens with music), written and adapted for the screen from a Charles Portis novel. Here are my brief thoughts: I’ve never seen the original movie with John Wayne, Kim Darby and cast. I thought the 2010 version of the film was beautifully shot and well acted. It was a bit unpredictable in spots. For me the movie’s success hinged on actress Hailee Stienfeld’s performance as the stubborn daughter, Mattie Ross, looking to hire a U.S. Marshall to track down the man who shot and killed her father. I had to do a double take to see that it was Matt Damon playing Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. If you enjoy westerns, highly recommend seeing this film. I mainly went because I am a big fan of the Coen’s brothers films that started with Raising Arizona in 1987.

Usually I don’t feel moved to read the book after watching the film but after watching True Grit, I’m interested. Unfortunately, I don’t see any of Charles Portis’s book in digital format and what a shame. I think somebody missed the boat there. I’m a big fan of westerns and enjoyed Unforgiven by Clint Eastwood but I think True Grit is a film strictly for those who enjoy the western genre. Jeff Bridges was good as Rooster Cogburn. What I liked most about the movie was the scenery and the story. Good movie.

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Denee Cody's Medieval Romances

I was rearranging my bookshelves yesterday for the millionth time and came across Denee Cody’s medieval romances. I bought and read two when they first released: The Golden Rose (1998) and Queen of the May (1997). She wrote two earlier titles that I don’t have: The Conquered Heart (1995) and The Court of Love (1996). Just four historical romances set in the medieval period and that’s it.

My question to any reader passing by and is familiar with this author: do you know what became of her? Does she write under another pen name? I really enjoyed the two titles I read by her and I know I bought The Conquered Heart but I can’t find it. I’ve gotten rid of a lot of paperbacks due to space constraints but am debating on buying those two titles used. Good medieval romance is hard to come by these days and I’m in the middle of a reading funk at the moment.

Here is an interview by the author posted at All About Romance that touches on the importance of historical research written in 1997. Here are excerpts:

Since what I write is fiction, my job is to weave a romantic story around the core of history. But what of romantic love in an historical context? While I firmly believe that in all cultures and all ages men and women have fallen in love, the idea of marrying because of that infatuation is a fairly modern concept. The idea of marrying for anything but romantic love seems alien to modern readers. So there is an immediate dichotomy between historical reality and reader expectations.

I agree with this assertion:

Fiction is about people. If a writer can create characters that a reader cares about, the reader will “believe” any story the writer puts the people in. That is why there is such a wide variety of fiction available. Writers can make little green monsters from Mars real. But it’s when writers make readers care what happens to the little green monsters that fiction works.

There is a contract between a writer and a reader. When I pick up a book to read for pleasure I expect the writer to have created a world for me to lose myself in. That world can be modern day New York City. It can be another planet a million years ago. It can be this world 200 years from now. It can be ancient Rome or medieval London or colonial America. If the writer makes it real, I will believe it.

We only got four stories from her before she disappeared from the romance community. If you’re out there Ms. Cody, I just want to say to you: I loved your books and your voice is missed in the romance community. I didn’t realize or forgot that Jayne from Dear Author reviewed The Conquered Heart in 2007.

So much for reminiscing, who are good medieval writers of today? I might want to check them out. Thanks.

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On The Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta

On The Jellicoe Road (2003) is the full title of Melina Marchetta’s third book set in Sydney, Australia. The novel is about surviving tragedy, bonding with friends, having hope and finding love. For those unfamiliar with Ms. Marchetta’s work, she writes YA novels and she’s one of the best writers out there today. Her third novel, On the Jellicoe Road snagged the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in YA literature in 2009. Proving she’s an author worth reading.

Marchetta has a powerful voice. Most of her novels have the tendency to grab you from the first page. Unlike her first two books that I devoured back to back, I found the start of On the Jellicoe Road confusing so I set it aside to try later. Well, today is later and I’m glad I stuck with it. Relationships that develop between two people because they’ve lacked love or have had an abusive/broken childhood tend to be quite intense. I love these types of romances and this one has to be one of her best. I do have The Piper’s Son to finish so I reserve the right to retract that statement later.

“My name is Taylor Markham. I live on the Jellicoe Road.”

On The Jellicoe Road tells the story of 17 year old Taylor Markham and her emotional journey to find her mother, who abandoned her at a convenient store on the Jellicoe Road six years ago. That same day, she’s picked up by Hannah, a stranger who conveniently shows up and takes her back with her to her unfinished house out by the river. Taylor attends Jellicoe High, a state run school where Hannah works as a house caretaker. Since her mother left her, she’s had dreams of her and her father. She’s made one attempt to find her mother since Hannah found her at the 7-Eleven. She ran away from the Jellicoe school and hooked up with a “Cadet in year eight” but they only made it as far as Yass before the Brigadier found them and brought them back. Continue reading

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The Lighter Side of Life and Death – C.K. Kelly Martin

The Lighter Side of Life and Death (2010) written by C.K. Kelly Martin is a YA novel and Ms. Martin’s third book. I was drawn into this story from page one and I read it almost straight through. I’m sure it’s just me.

The themes: teen sex, obsession, friendship and family. As an adult who is past her high school years, I was deeply drawn into the story thanks to the kinetic thoughts of our 16 year old male narrator. This is my second time reading Ms. Martin. Her first book, I Know It’s Over, was good but this book is much better because it has a better ending. The story is set in Ontario, like her previous book. The author prefaces the first chapter with the lyrics from Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best.” Love that song. The story starts off on an emotional high and I was drawn in immediately.

Mason Rice and Kat Medina are best friends. Mason and his friend Jamie, both had a crush on Kat but they both know they are not her type. She has a boyfriend named Hugo, who’s “half Asian, half-black, a senior from the track team.” Kat herself is described as being a Jennifer Lopez look-alike with curves with the cute “Filipino accent.” Over the years, the three have always hung out the together. They’ve developed a tight bond.

Riding off a high of delivering an ace performance of Arthur Miller’s play, All My Sons, sixteen year old Mason Rice feels like he is on top of the world. Life is “golden” for him and the future looks promising. At the casting party, he is ready to celebrate with his friends but ends up leaving the party early. Why? Kat wants to leave because she’s just caught her boyfriend cheating on her. Seeing how upset Kat is, Mason leaves the party with her and they both decide to take a late night walk. Continue reading

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Texas Splendor – Lorraine Heath [an attempted read]

Texas Splendor (1999) is the last book in a trilogy featuring the Leigh brothers who were all named after Texas towns: Houston, Dallas and Austin. I read and enjoyed the first two books in the series but for some reason, I never read the third one. The whole trilogy is available digitally so I bought Texas Splendor and began to read Austin’s story.

Before I begin, I’ve read and enjoyed plenty of other Lorraine Heath stories. She writes with such depth of emotion. Her earlier titles, like Always To Remember and Parting Gifts remain memorable to me after all these years, especially Always To Remember. The opening scene in that book had my heart in my throat. The hero, imprisoned for refusing to serve his country is about to be executed before a firing squad.

In “Texas Splendor,” Austin’s just been release from prison. He’s served five years in the penitentiary for a crime he said he didn’t commit. According to Austin, those last five years were stolen from him because he was set up and wrongfully accused of murder. Continue reading

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Alpha, Rachel Vincent

Alpha is the final book in Rachel Vincent’s Shifter series, and despite the length, not much happens that hasn’t happened in another book.

Villain Cal Malone manipulates the Council and comes out on top – check

A bunch of fights lead to dead cats – check

Faythe gets beaten up by some toms – check

Faythe is taunted and threatened with rape before being beaten up – check

Marc and Faythe fight about their relationship – check

This book opens a week after the events in Shift, and Faythe, Jace, and Marc have a run-in with Faythe’s brother Ryan in the woods surrounding the ranch.  Ryan is guilty of some crimes against cats and was a party to the death of a young tabby.  His mother freed him and he’s been on the run ever since, but he still comes around trying to see his mother.

The Pride is also preparing to meet with Ethan’s girlfriend who is pregnant.  The visit is precluded by some talk about being nervous; genetics; whether the baby will be human; intermarriage betweens cats and humans; and the lack of marriage opportunities for toms.  All of this has come up before, so I don’t know what purpose it serves.  Faythe is shocked to find that Jace actually dates women, who aren’t her and in fact dated Ethan’s girlfriend’s twin (I forgot her name and don’t have the book anymore, sorry).  The meeting goes well, and everyone is committed to doing what’s best for Ethan’s baby. Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews, Grade C Reviews, Urban Fantasy | 5 Comments

The Hero Returns, Catherine Blair

This month I’m writing about a book that actually came out of my TBR pile.  I chose The Hero Returns by Catherine Blair, and it’s one of the old Zebra Regencies (RIP).  The Honorable Miss Amelia Harrow has been waiting for her fiancé to return from the Napoleonic Wars for three years.  John Hunter Kirby, Viscount Westhaven proposed to seventeen-year-old Amelia, who has always been in love with him. She happily waited, wrote faithfully, even denying herself a Season because she already had her man and wasn’t interested in meeting anyone else.

Upon Hunter’s return after being injured, Amelia immediately begins anticipating the wedding, and tries to get to know the man he has become. He is distant, spending time staring into space or just walking away in the middle of a conversation, and everyone knows something isn’t right.  Amelia even questions whether Hunter still considers them engaged and if he even wants to marry her.  Hunter refuses the out she is giving him and remains committed to marrying Amelia.

Amelia is ecstatic to be marrying Hunter, but she senses his hesitance and wonders at his taciturnity and what seems like his avoidance of her.  She tells herself that there is affection there and things will change after the wedding, and they do, kind of.  The wedding night is painful and Amelia realizes just how much of a stranger Hunter has become to her. Continue reading

Posted in Book Reviews, Grade B Reviews, Romance | 6 Comments

A Bunch of Harlequins, Part Two

Here are some more books I read last month while I was neglecting the TBR Challenge.

Wedding Night with a Stranger by Anna Cleary.  Harlequin Presents Extra, August 2010.  Australian-born Ariadne was orphaned at a young age and taken in and raised by her older Greek aunt and uncle.  After a scandal that included leaving a man at the altar, her uncle tells her that he is sending her on a vacation to Australia.  She can lie low and let things die down a bit, supposes Ariadne.  She supposes erroneously.

As the plane begins pull away from the gate, Ariadne discovers that she is being sent to marry a stranger as part of a business transaction.  Sebastian needs a loan to keep his company afloat, but he doesn’t want to remarry following his wife’s death.  The two meet and while Sebastian is willing, Ariadne is not.  But she’s broke, and pawning what little jewelry she brought with her has her changing her mind.  Marriage will release the small amount money her parents left in trust, and she will be free to at least plan the next step in her life. Continue reading

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A Bunch of Harlequins, Part One

I’ve pretty much figured out that I fail at TBR 2010 Summer Edition.  It’s not that I haven’t been reading, it’s just that I haven’t been reading anything with an eye to reviewing it.  Some books I know I will review as soon as I start reading it and others are just too much work.  I have a degree in English and since I got it, I really don’t have to care about the whys and what it all meant. Sometimes I do, but other times it boils down to this:  Did I like it? Enough to read it again? Buy multiple copies and pass them out? Just throw it in the donation bag?

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I don’t have a TBR book read for today. What I do have, though, is A Bunch of Harlequins!

The Family Plan by Susan Gable.  Harlequin Super Romance.  July 2010. I like Susan Gable’s books; they deal with families that begin through less than traditional methods, such as surrogacy and donors.  This title features chiropractor Amelia Young, who 13 years ago used donor sperm to conceive her daughter Jordan.  Now Jordan needs a bone marrow transplant, and Amelia finds chef Finn Hawkins to beg him to donate again.  Finn is willing to help Amelia, and we find that his youngest brother suffered from leukemia.  Amelia accepts and disappears from Finn’s life, but Jordan has decided that she wants to know her dad and runs away to meet him.  This leads to Amelia and Finn being forced to hammer out a sometimes uneasy relationship between themselves.

Both Amelia and Finn have reason to be leery of relationships, but watching them dance around each other got frustrating at times.  Okay, watching Amelia dance around while constantly rebuffing Finn and then blaming him for the results got old fast, and lasted until the last two chapters. Continue reading

Posted in Avid Musings, Book Reviews, Romance | 8 Comments