Thursday, June 28, 2007

Coffee, Tea or Me?

Author: Trudy Baker, Rachel Jones, and Donald Bain
Published: June 3, 2003 (Penguin)
Category: Memoir
Rating: 6/10

Remember that scene on Austen Powers where he wants the "sexy stewardesses" and the flight attendant tells him that they're not called that anymore? This book recounts the adventures of two sexy stewardesses from the golden age of flying, when in-flight cocktails didn't cost $5 a pop, passengers dressed up for the flight, and gourmet meals came standard.

The majority of passenger stories involve sexual advances made, the worst being one that involved a man requesting a stewardess and having his member out and ready for some TLC from her. Of course, sexual harassment wasn't limited to passengers. Some captains and their flight crew hazed newbies with a trick that resulted in the stew's bosom resting on the captain's head every half hour for about a minute. Maybe that didn't happen, but I believe that that kind of behavior definitely went on back then. The girls accepted it as part of their job, but in today's politically correct world, lawsuits would be flying faster than greased monkeys.

The parts where Trudy and Rachel are telling their stories are the best. But some parts go off in totally different styles, like where they categorize the different kinds of passengers who hit on them and I found that I skipped reading them. Bain is a ghost writer, so I'm wondering which parts are his, and I'm really guessing that those non-anecdotal sections come from him.

The first half of the book is really interesting and funny, but I found that the second half wasn't as engaging. I just enjoyed getting a glimpse into a time when air travel was far different than it is today.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Northern Lights

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: October 2004 (Putnam)
Category: Romance
Rating: 8/10

This is my first Nora Roberts book that revolves around the hero, and I thought it was different, but in a good way.
Lunacy was Nate Burke's last chance. As a Baltimore cop, he'd watched his partner die on the street - and the guilt still haunts him. With nowhere else to go, he accepts the job as Chief of Police in this tiny, remote Alaskan town. Aside from sorting out a run-in between a couple of motor vehicles and a moose, he finds his first few weeks on the job are relatively quiet. But just as he wonders whether this has been all a big mistake, an unexpected kiss on New Year's Eve under the brilliant Northern Lights of the Alaska sky lifts his spirit and convinces him to stay just a little longer.

Meg Galloway, born and raised in Lunacy, is used to being alone. She was a young girl when her father disappeared, and she has learned to be independent, flying her small plane, living on the outskirts of town with just her huskies for company. After her New Year's kiss with the Chief of Police, she allows herself to give in to passion - while remaining determined to keep things as simple as possible. But there's something about Nate's sad eyes that gets under her skin and warms her frozen heart.

And now, things in Lunacy are heating up. Years ago, on one of the majestic mountains shadowing the town, a crime occurred that is unsolved to this day - and Nate suspects that a killer still walks the snowy streets. His investigation will unearth the secrets and suspicions that lurk beneath the placid surface, as well as bring out the big-city survival instincts that made him a cop in the first place. And his discovery will threaten the new life - and the new love - that he has finally found for himself.

I was annoyed by the stupid townsfolk who were worried about how the murder investigation would affect tourism. At one point, the murderer sets up one of the witnesses of the long-ago crime in a suicide. Nate knows deep down that it wasn't a suicide, but the mayor and other townspeople say he's just trying to stir up trouble because he misses the city cop life. This was one of those books where I wanted to grab characters and shake the stupid out of them.

I loved Nate. He falls into the vein of Roberts' Roarke (Born In...), Rogan (Born in Fire), and Ben (Montana Sky) heroes. He's a strong man who's secure enough in his manliness to own up to his feelings of love to a woman who'd rather use him for some sweaty sex and throw his womanly feelings in his face. Thankfully Meg has less screentime than Nate.

Northern Lights was good, but it still doesn't top Montana Sky.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Villa

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: March 26, 2002 (Jove)
Category: Romance
Rating: 6/10

This is definitely my least favorite Nora Roberts book. There's a lot going on, with a lot of characters with very Italian names, and the potential for the true identity of the murderer is high with the horribly bitchy and evil women sprinkled throughout the cast.

The Villa is about the Giambelli family, one of the biggest and most successful wine companies in the world, and focuses on three women, from three generations of Giambellis. There's Tereza, the family matriarch, her daughter Pilar, and Pilar's daughter, Sophia, head of PR and marketing for the family business. Tereza has been married to her second husband, Eli MacMillan of MacMillan Wines, for twenty years and has always been surprised that a hard woman like her has found love in her marriage of business convenience. Pilar was married to a sorry excuse for a man, Tony, who couldn't keep it in his pants and they were separated for several years until his current trophy girlfriend wanted to be a trophy wife and demanded a divorce so they could marry. Sadly, Pilar never stood up for herself in the marriage, so you can't lay all the blame on Tony's feet. The daughter that resulted from their marriage, Sophia, is like lightning, always on the move and thinking about her next project. She's got her grandmother's backbone, is fiercely independent, and thinks of sex like a man.

Tereza and Eli decide to finally merge their two wineries and create the Giambelli-MacMillan wine company, and restructure the company. Basically, the company will be headed by Sophia and Tyler MacMillan (Eli's grandson) at the end of a one-year trial period if they satisfy the new COO during that time. Think of The Villa as a spin off of Montana Sky. Of course the people who find they aren't getting what they thought was always coming to them are pissed, creating lots of potential enemies, feuding, bitterness, and general cattiness and bitchiness from certain females.

Pilar finds love in the new COO, David Cutter, and Tyler and Sophia fall for each other. Neither relationship happens easily, as Pilar is reluctant to enter into another relationship so soon after Tony. David has two teenage kids and the hurt of a wife who walked out on the family. Ty doesn't want to love Sophia, but he gives in eventually, and Sophia is total piece of work. She's confident to the point of arrogance, so she thought she could just get away with sleeping with Ty a few times and doesn't want to open herself to a relationship and get disappointed because she's got some sort of daddy complex going on, having always loved her father even though he never loved her, and resenting him for not loving her. Everybody's got baggage!

There wasn't much romance in Ty and Sophia's relationship, mostly because Sophia is such a hard person and she didn't like leaning on Ty for support. Even when she did, it didn't seem truly heartfelt. However, the relationship of Pilar and David was the softest and most romantic in the whole bunch. Once Pilar got past feeling bad about starting a new relationship, it was lovely watching a new family form as she and his children felt each other out and realized it was for real; no one's walking out on anybody again.

So with the overabundance of emotional baggage, and threats, personal attacks, internal corporate sabotage, and murder, there's a lot going on at once. And I think it was too much going on, where I just wanted to get through the book so it'd finish. Roberts really outdid herself when she created the trophy wife and disgruntled employee characters because they were absolute queen bitches who didn't think anything of public insults and clearly never had any manners or decency. It annoyed me how they got away with what they did for so long. But you know that the one you want to be the bad guy is never really the bad guy. These two bitches were too obvious to the be real killer. As for the real killer, it was kind of an anticlimax, and the book wound down within three pages, leaving me something like, "Huh? That was it after 486 pages?"

Monday, June 18, 2007


Author: Amanda Quick
Published: November 1991 (Bantam)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 9/10

I started reading Amanda Quick a really long time ago, back in high school I think, before Putnam published her work. I decided to take a big step back in time and pick up one of her older titles and Rendezvous was a great read after a series of so-so summer reads.

Augusta Ballinger was quite sure that it was all a dreadful mistake. The chillingly pompous and dangerously disturbing Earl of Graystone could not possibly wish to marry her. Why, it was rumored that his chosen bride must be a veritable model of virtue. And everyone knew that Augusta, as the last of the wild, reckless Northumberland Ballingers, was a woman who could not be bothered by society's rules.

That was why the spirited beauty had planned a midnight encounter to warn the earl off, to convince him that she would make him a very poor wife indeed. But when she crawled through his darkened study window, Augusta only succeeded in strengthening Harry's resolve: to kiss the laughter from those honeyed lips and teach this maddening miss to behave! How could he possibly know that it was he who was in for a lesson... as his brazen fiancée set out to win his heart - and an old and clever enemy stepped in to threaten their love, their honor, and their very lives?

I loved Harry and Augusta together. Their relationship was so passionate and the surrounding events didn't take away from the development of their relationship. I had my doubts of Harry at times, when he was trying to make Augusta follow his rules. He figured her personality was something he could fix. Augusta, being the emotional Ballinger that she was, was determined to have Harry love her. Harry is that stereotypical "hero who's been hurt by evil woman in his life and has built a wall around his heart to protect himself" and Augusta is the perfect woman to shake up his regimented life.

This was a fantastic romance with great characters and well-written plot. This is a keeper on my overcrowded bookshelf.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Map of Bones

Author: James Rollins
Published: April 2005 (HarperCollins)
Category: Thriller
Rating: 7/10

I have read James Rollins' fantasy work written under the name of James Clemens and enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I'm dying to read the third in the Godslayer series published by Roc, but I've heard that he's more popular as Rollins and his suspense novels therefore take up more of his time. I'll have to keep waiting to read Tyler Ser Noche's further adventures.

During a crowded service at a cathedral in Germany, armed intruders in monks' robes unleash a nightmare of blood and destruction. But the killers have not come for gold; they seek a more valuable prize: the bones of the Magi who once paid homage to a newborn savior . . . a treasure that could reshape the world.

With the Vatican in turmoil, SIGMA Force leaps into action. An elite team of scientific and Special Forces operatives under the command of Grayson Pierce and accompanied by Lieutenant Rachel Verona of Rome's carabinieri, they are pursuing a deadly mystery that weaves through sites of the Seven Wonders of the World and ends at the doorstep of an ancient, mystical, and terrifying secret order. For there are those with dark plans for the stolen sacred remains that will alter the future of humankind . . . when science and religion unite to unleash a horror not seen since the beginning of time.

This book was nonstop action and well written in that aspect. I also enjoyed the descriptions of their high-tech equipment and investigatory techniques. I thought there'd be periods of calm, but once the team has rolled out of one predicament, they've rolled right into another, and by strokes of incredible good luck, they survive. I really thought more people would die, especially Rachel's older uncle.

There's also a little romance between Rachel and Gray, although it's awkward at best. Throughout the book, Rachel likes looking at him and Gray feels this need to protect her. My inner romantic wants there to be a successful romance, but the constant action makes a romance rather absurd and out of place. In the middle of a supernatural defeat of the bad guys, Rachel and Gray finally kiss, and it's practically in the presence of God. At the end of the book, Gray even goes back to Italy to see Rachel, but when I look at the blurbs for future SIGMA books, it doesn't appear that he's with her (like James Bond always has a new floozy in every movie), and I find that really awful when it supposedly felt so right in a spiritual sense.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

After Dark

Author: Jayne Castle
Published: September 1, 2000 (Jove)
Category: Paranormal Romance
Rating: 5/10

I'm not sure if the rating is due to the fact that I read the sequel, After Glow before this one. I loved that book so much and expected so much from its predecessor, when I really shouldn't have done that. The paranormal psychic terminology is more complex in After Dark than AG, where Castle simplified the long terms into "ghost hunter" and "tangler" for the two types of psychics.

The events of AD accur after Lydia's "lost weekend," when she was lost in the catacombs under Old Cadence for 48 hours. She's now a has-been para-archaelogist working at Shrimpton's House of Ancient Horrors, a puny excuse for a museum. Just as she's about to get consulting work with the mysterious Emmett Smith, she finds a corpse in one of her displays.

Lydia and Emmett's relationship is very rocky, what with her dislike of ghost hunters and their guild. Emmett happens to be a very powerful ghost hunter and a former Guild Boss in another city. They almost get it on a few times but Lydia usually stops him because it would be unwise to mix business with pleasure. And then when the deed is actually done, it's like they're dealing with murder and then bang! They're in bed. Something about the relationship was slightly off, so I had a feeling like the two weren't really meant for each other.

But please, don't stop reading Jayne Castle books because After Dark is disappointing, because After Glow, its sequel is fantastic. Emmett and Lydia are so lovely together in that book. I would definitely recommend skipping AD and going straight to AG.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Queen of Diamonds

Author: Barbara Metzger
Published: June 6, 2006 (Signet)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: House of Cards Trilogy #3
Rating: 6/10

It was the final and in my opinion, a big disappointment after how much I enjoyed the first two books in the House of Cards trilogy. The Endicott brothers have been searching for their long-lost little sister, Lady Charlotte and they've made some inroads in their investigation, finding out that she was raised under the name of Queenie Dennis. The young woman in question was lied to about the whole situation, thinking that she was an orphan used for blackmail purposes because she looked so much like Lottie. And she believed the lies told by one of the men who killed her mother, thinking that she'd be hanged for being a part of the scheme. Because of that, she ran away to France to learn how to become a trendsetting modiste.
Queenie Dennis, a diamond in the rough, just might be the famous Lottie. And fate takes a turn when she returns to the swirl of the beau monde under an assumed identity as a dressmaker fresh from France. Queenie quickly becomes the talk of the ton and catches the eye of the handsome Lord Harking, who has come to London in search of stolen family heirlooms. As Queenie's desire for him grows, her lies begin to catch up with her. Will Harking call her bluff, or will love hold the winning hand?
I was too annoyed with Queenie's lack of common sense to enjoy Queen of Hearts. She knew that Ize, the criminal, was not to be trusted, but believed his transparent cover story about how she's definitely not the missing Lottie and that if she goes to the Endicotts, they'll throw her in jail. Never mind the fact that she had nightmares about the carriage "accident" and kept shrugging it off.

Lord Harking on the other hand, made the book bearable because he was such a good guy. He was on the trail of his wastrel of a brother-in-law who'd stolen the Harking diamonds and met Queenie in the course of the investigation. And so he became the hero who's more interested in furthering the relationship than the heroine, as Queenie feels that all her lies and her "criminal" background would prevent her from marrying Harking.

Ugh. It could've been so much better if I didn't want to strangle the heroine so badly.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Goddess of Light

Author: P.C. Cast
Published: April 5, 2005 (Berkley)
Category: Romance
Rating: 6/10

Twins Artemis and Apollo have been sent to the kingdom of Las Vegas to test their mettle in a world where they are no longer worshiped. The last thing Artemis expected was to be obliged to a mortal through a heartfelt wish - and she demands that her golden brother make that wish a reality. Who better than the handsome and charming God of Light to bring love to this lonely woman?

But Apollo is not quite prepared for this spitfire of a woman in her stiletto heels. Pamela may be a mortal, but she is a goddess in spirit - and in Sin City, where all of life is a gamble, Pamela finds the courage to let go of her fears and love again. After all, you only live once. Or do you?

This is probably my least favorite of Cast's books. Artemis annoyed me to no end with her nose stuck in the air, complaining about the humans and their world that wasn't good enough for her goddessness. There was something absurd about this book, and it's not because I'm not comfortable with this kind of romance/fantasy/gods amongst humans novel. I've liked other Cast books, but I kept imagining a guy like Arnold Schwarzenegger with Greek accent, naive arrogance of a god, and broken English saying that he's Apollo and Pamela is his chosen woman.

Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry is all pissy that the twins are having a great time in his city, and decides to irrationally get revenge on all the gods coming to enjoy themselves in Vegas by taking it out on Apollo and his newfound love. I rolled my eyes more than once when reading about Bacchus sulking and whining about how he wants Vegas all to himself.

And the ending? Come on! It's practically another City of Angels. Pamela gets killed and winds up in Hades' domain. So she and Apollo decide to jump into the River Lethe and be reborn, as true soulmates will always find each other.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lady Beware

Author: Jo Beverley
Published: June 5, 2007 (Signet)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 5/10

This is a prime example of the old adage: "Don't judge a book by its cover." I saw this book and thought it looked so romantic and lovely. And I really enjoyed Beverley's previous book, To Rescue a Rogue, so the book about the sister of that title's hero should be pretty good too, right?

Not so much. I spent the first two-thirds of the book figuring out if I disliked the hero, Horatio "Canem" Darien, Viscount Cave. His family has suffered disastrous scandal in the past and he has decided to restore the family name by taking advantage of the Debenham family. He makes a deal with Thea, sister to Dare of To Rescue a Rogue, saying he'll vouch for Dare (he'd been suspected of ducking out of his duties as a soldier during the war) if Thea will act as his fiancee for six weeks. Thea agrees, and this makes me wonder if Canem's help in TRAR was all a lie. It's later revealed that it's not a lie, but I still don't believe him.

And after Canem's assistance to Dare, Thea's parents are so grateful that they make it their mission to help Canem rejoin society, despite the fact that his older brother was a murderer. Thea spends a good portion of the book avoiding Canem, so there's not much interaction between the two, and that was really disappointing to me. Thea gives in to her attraction to the jerk she believes is manipulating her family, and that only gets her into a load of trouble, leading to her being set up to appear as another victim to the crazy Cave family by an old enemy of Canem's.

The last third of the book was good, but I don't think it was worth the first two-thirds. I kept reading doggedly, hoping that the character development would pick up, and spent a good chunk of that time hating Thea's slutty cousin Maddy (whose actions contribute to Thea's scrape with Canem's enemy) and had no idea how such an evil and selfish little thing could have come out of the Debenham family. Ah well, there's always a black sheep.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Rapture in Death

Author: J.D. Robb
Published: October 1, 1996
Category: Romantic Suspense
Series: In Death #4
Rating: 8/10

It's another Eve Dallas! This one picks up where Immortal in Death left off, joining Eve and Roarke at the end of their honeymoon.
They died with smiles on their faces. Three apparent suicides: a brilliant engineer, an infamous lawyer, and a controversial politician. Three strangers with nothing in common--and no obvious reasons for killing themselves. Police lieutenant Eve Dallas found the deaths suspicious. And her instincts paid off when autopsies revealed small burns on the brains of the victims. Was it a genetic abnormality or a high-tech method of murder? Eve's investigation turned to the provocative world of virtual reality games--where the same techniques used to create joy and desire could also prompt the mind to become the weapon of its own destruction...
Pretty standard Eve Dallas stuff, didn't disappoint, and very entertaining.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Author: Lauren Royal
Published: April 1, 2003 (Signet)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Flower Trilogy #2
Rating: 7/10

I'm still catching up on vacation reading, and it's almost the end of June! The discrepancy in the posting date occurs because I date the post the day I finished reading the book. I loved the first book in the Flower trilogy, Violet, and I get the feeling that Lily isn't as big a book as its predecessor was. The passion of Lily and Rand wasn't as great nor was the relationship as daring as Violet and Ford. But the gentle sweetness of Lily and Rand's story is appropriate because she has such a gentle (too gentle at times) nature. Here's the cover blurb:
Lily Ashcroft has never understood the need for her rather eccentric family's motto: “Question Convention.” In fact, at the tender age of sixteen, Lily took one look at Lord Randal Nesbitt and wished for a most traditional institution—marriage. But now her older sister Rose has her sights set on the dashing scholar, and known for always doing the right thing, Lily puts her own longings aside to help Rose in her quest to land him.

What no one counts on are Rand's feelings. Though he hasn't seen Lily in four years, he's never forgotten her fresh and innocent beauty. Falling victim to both desire and love, Rand begins to contemplate matrimony. But now he finds himself caught in a thorny position between two lovely sisters—the one he's expected to wed, and the one he truly wants.…
At first, I thought the most annoying part of this book would be Rose, for being so desperate to catch this ONE PARTICULAR MAN for a husband, but I've changed my mind. The most annoying thing about this book was Lily. Rand confesses early to Lily that he's not interested in her older sister, Rose, but Lily doesn't care. She promised Rose that she would help her bag Rand for a husband, and short of setting Rose up in a compromising situation, that won't happen. Lily even knows that she has true feelings for Rand, and that Rose doesn't have feelings of affection for Rand beyond his title and money. You would think that someone with Lily's sweet nature (she rescues animals) would realize that everyone would be in a world of hurt if she followed through with Rose's plan to catch Rand. It smacks of her being a doormat to her sister and a lack of common sense.

There's a big of background story for Rand, where he has to confront his father and prove that his evil older brother used to commit heinous crimes before he died. This is the real conflict to Rand and Lily's happy ending, as you can only stretch out the pissed-off sister angle for so long. Sadly, his father was always blind to his heir's acts of cruelty and punished Rand for trying to stir up trouble as a child, spurring Rand to leave the home as soon as possible and establish himself as a professor. There's another lapse of common sense when Rand's father demands that Rand marry another woman because the heir was supposed to marry her, and there's this convoluted section where everyone waivers back and forth about who should be married, as Rand and Lily are engaged at this point.

There's one more in the trilogy, telling Rose's story, but that'll wait until post-Harry Potter reading.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Born in Ice

Author: Nora Roberts
Published: August 1, 1995 (Berkley)
Category: Romance
Series: Born In Trilogy #2
Rating: 8/10

Born in Ice tells the story of Brianna, sister of Maggie Concannon from Born in Fire. Now, I didn't like Maggie too much in that book, but I found that I liked her a lot better in this one. I believe that motherhood and marriage suit her. Brie's story is very much the center of this book, with very little to distract from it, as she and the hero, Grayson Thane are together in close quarters (he's a guest in her bed and breakfast for a few months).

I'm still catching up on my vacation reading reviews so here's a blurb about it:

When the harsh storms of winter descended upon western Ireland, the locals stayed indoors--and visitors stayed away. Brianna Concannon's bed-and-breakfast became a cold and empty place. But that was fine with Brianna. She enjoyed the peace and quiet, even when the icy winds howled at her window. But this year she's expecting an unusual guest--mystery writer Grayson Thane from America. A restless wanderer with a painful past, he plans to spend the cold winter alone. But sometimes fate has a plan of its own. Sometimes a fire can be born in ice...
It felt like a very cozy read, like I was in Brie's little B&B and with Gray while he tromped over the countryside looking for material to add to his next bestselling suspense novel. They both had baggage, but it wasn't annoying because it was so well blended into their characters. Gray was one of those nomadic men who don't want to get tied down to material possessions or people. He moves from place to place as needed for researching his next novel and his nature is a result of growing up as an orphan. He falls for Brie without knowing it, and the things he does, like sneaking into her hospital room after her car accident and keeping company with her all night (even reading a cheesy romance novel out loud to her), reveal the loving nature that he doesn't want to admit he possesses. Brie wants to make something with him despite his refusal to settle down for something more than temporary and their happy ending was the stuff of a good movie ending.

Maggie and Brie's mother though, was the worst part of the book. As Gray was shaped by the fact he was an orphan, Maggie and Brie were shaped by the awful relationship between their parents. They grew up under the watch of a harridan of a mother who was all too eager to preach from the Bible about how everything her daughters did was a sin or disrespectful to the mother whose only mothering action was giving birth. I guess no book's complete without me wanting to strangle a character.

Apart from the mother, I enjoyed this very cozy, great-for-a-rainy-day read.