Monday, November 26, 2007

AAR's 2007 Top 100 Romances by readers

AAR Top 100 Romances

1. Lord of Scoundrels Loretta Chase Eur Hist 1995
2. Dreaming of You Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 1994
3. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen Classic 1813

4. Outlander Diana Gabaldon Time-Travel 1991
5. Flowers From The Storm Laura Kinsale Eur Hist 1992
6. Slightly Dangerous Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2004
7. Devil In Winter Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2006
8. Bet Me Jennifer Crusie Contemporary 2004
9. Welcome to Temptation Jennifer Crusie Contemporary 2000

10. The Viscount Who Loved Me Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2000
11. Lover Awakened J.R. Ward Paranomal 2006

12. Mr. Impossible Loretta Chase Eur Hist 2005
13. The Duke and I Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2000
14. It Had To Be You Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1994

15. Lord Perfect Loretta Chase Eur Hist 2006
16. Romancing Mr. Bridgerton Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2002
17. The Bride Julie Garwood Medieval 1989
18. Mr. Perfect Linda Howard Contemporary 2000
19. Naked In Death J.D. Robb Futuristic 1995
20. A Summer To Remember Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2002
21. Nobody's Baby But Mine Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1997
22. Dream Man Linda Howard Romantic Suspense 1995
23. The Raven Prince
Elizabeth Hoyt Eur Hist 2006
Paradise Judith McNaught Contemporary 1991
25. As You Desire Connie Brockway Historical 1997
26. MacKenzie's Mountain Linda Howard Contemporary 1989
27. Dark Lover J.R. Ward Paranormal 2005
28. The Secret Julie Garwood Medieval 1992
29. Son Of The Morning Linda Howard Time-Travel 1997
30. Lover Eternal J. R. Ward Paranormal 2006
31. Devil's Bride Stephanie Laurens Eur Hist 1998
32. A Knight in Shining Armor Jude Deveraux Time-Travel 1989
33. Heaven,
Texas Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1995
34. To Have and To Hold Patricia Gaffney Eur Hist 1995
35. Almost Heaven Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1990
36. Match Me If You Can Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 2005
37. The Shadow and The Star Laura Kinsale Historical 1991
38. Cry No More Linda Howard Contemporary 2003
39. A
Kingdom of Dreams Judith McNaught Medieval 1989
40. Over the Edge Suzanne Brockmann Contemporary 2001
41. Sea Swept Nora Roberts Contemporary 1998
42. Ravished Amanda Quick Eur Hist 1992
43. Then Came You Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 1993
44. To Die For Linda Howard Contemporary 2005
45. Something Wonderful Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1988
46. This Heart of Mine Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 2001
47. The Serpent Prince Elizabeth Hoyt Eur Hist 2007
48. Suddenly You Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2001
49. The Proposition Judith Ivory Eur Hist 1999
50. Honors Splendor Julie Garwood Medieval 1987
51. Saving Grace Julie Garwood Medieval 1993
52. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte Classic 1847
53. When He Was Wicked Julia Quinn Eur Hist 2004
54. Persuasion Jane Austen Classic 1818
55. All Through The Night Connie Brockway Eur Hist 1997
56. It Happened One Autumn Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2005
57. Born In Fire Nora Roberts Contemporary 1994
58. Thunder and Roses Mary Jo Putney Eur Hist 1993
59. Kiss An Angel Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1996
60. Out Of Control Suzanne Brockmann Contemporary 2002
61. After The Night Linda Howard Contemporary 1995
62. Lady Sophia's Lover Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2002
63. The Secret
Pearl Mary Balogh Eur Hist 1991
64. Once and Always Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1987
65. More Than A Mistress Mary Balogh Eur Hist 2000
66. Untie My Heart Judith Ivory Eur Hist 2002
67. See Jane Score Rachel Gibson Contemporary 2003
68. The Rake Mary Jo Putney Eur Hist 1998
69. Dragonfly in Amber Diana Gabaldon Time-Travel 1992
70. Perfect Judith McNaught Contemporary 1993
71. Whitney, My Love Judith McNaught Eur Hist 1985

72. The Duke Gaelen Foley Eur Hist 2000
73. One Perfect Rose Mary Jo Putney Eur Hist 1997
74. Shattered Rainbows Mary Jo Putney Eur Hist 1996
75. The Windflower Laura London Historical/Pirate 1984
76. Dream A Little Dream Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 1998
77. Frederica Georgette Heyer Classic 1965
78. Passion Lisa Valdez Eur Hist 2005
79. Voyager Diana Gabaldon Time-Travel 1994
80. The Lady's Tutor Robin Schone Eur Hist 1999
81. Morning Glory Lavryle Spencer Amer Hist 1990
82. Worth Any Price Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2003
83. Winter Garden Adele Ashworth Eur Hist 2000
84. My Dearest Enemy Connie Brockway Eur Hist 1998
85. Where Dreams Begin Lisa Kleypas Eur Hist 2000
86. Devil's Cub Georgette Heyer Classic 1932
87. Gone Too Far Suzanne Brockmann Contemporary 2003
88. Anyone But You Jennifer Crusie Contemporary 1996
89. For My Lady's Heart Laura Kinsale Medieval 1993
90. Rising Tides Nora Roberts Contemporary 1998
91. Lover Revealed J. R. Ward Paranormal 2007

92. Open Season Linda Howard Contemporary 2001
93. Born In Ice Nora Roberts Contemporary 1996
94. Ransom Julie Garwood Medieval 1999
Venetia Georgette Heyer Classic 1958
96. Miss Wonderful Loretta Chase Eur Hist 2004
97. Ain't She Sweet Susan Elizabeth Phillips Contemporary 2004
98. The Notorious Rake Mary Balogh Eur Hist 1992
99. The Prize Julie Garwood Medieval 1991
100. Slave To Sensation Nalini Singh Paranormal 2006

I read 35 out of the 100 but have at least heard of 98% of the books listed – highlighted.
The titles that are struck through are stories that I’ve started and didn’t finish, for whatever reason, or have chosen not to read. The ones in italic are on my TBR list.

But I must add that the readers have astonishingly bad taste in books --
Paradise at 24 and JR Ward's books beating all of the JMs? Are you kidding me? Blech.

Tara Janzen: CRAZY COOL

Crazy Cool: A

She's sizzling hot.
He's icy cool...

He called her Bad Luck Dekker, a gorgeous socialite who trailed trouble in her wake. Christian Hawkins should know. Thirteen years ago he saved Kat Dekker's life - only to spend two years in jail for a crime he didn't commit. Now it's deja vu all over again when he rescues Kat from an explosion that rips through a Denver art auction. This time Christian - now an operative with an elite U.S. task force - plans to keep her close until he figures out why somebody wants to kill her. That is, if he can keep his cool around this sizzling-hot lady...

I lurve this book - it beats Crazy Hot out of the waters! Not only am I completely and totally intrigued by Kid and Nikki, I found Kat and Christian to be a completely lovable hero-and-heroine pair.

Christian and Dylan are in the South Americas doing their SDF work when they get pulled out and are mandated to be bodyguards at a Denver art auction. They're royally pissed since Creed and J.T. are missing and presumed dead. They want to help search for the rest of their friends, but higher powers call and they are called to obey.

The art auction is one that Katya Dekker is in charge of, the woman that Christian fell in love with thirteen years ago and never quite got over her. When a bomb goes off at the auction, he has to keep Kat safe. With Kat comes a nightmare that Christian thought he overcame - he was framed for committing a murder thirteen years ago and his framers are after him - again!

It is in the midst of trying to get to the bottom of the Prom King Murder mystery and trying to find JT and Creed that sparks fly between Kat and Christian.

Their passion and love is explosive and hot. Not only that, but the secondary story of Kid and Nikki is fabulous. Surprisingly, Kid and Nikki's story does not detract from Christian's and the flip from different scenes create the fast rhythm of getting through the story.

I picked up this story at approximately 11:30pm -- and finished it within four hours and fifteen minutes at 3:45 am. I could not put the book down -- I needed to know more! Who cared about the freaking Prom King mystery - what was going on with Kat and Christian? And then Kit and Nikki. Oh gosh!!

It was with that mindset I whizzed through the story.

I must admit, while I am not excited for the next story - Creed's - it only makes sense, something I realize only because I've already devoured Kid's story (a couple nights ago).

Fast-paced and intensely sexy-hot, this is a definite must-read! (But skip Crazy Hot, it's not worth your time).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Jude Deveraux: A Knight in Shining Armor

A Knight in Shining Armor: B+

In her hardcover debut, Deveraux (The Taming) offers an imaginative romantic historical fantasy, whose virtue of unpredictabiity is undermined by plodding, graceless prose. Vacationing in England with her lover, Robert, and his spoiled teenage daughter, heroine Dougless Montgomery is abandoned by them in a remote country churchyard near the tomb of Nicholas Stafford, an earl who died in 1564. Almost immediately, an armor-clad swashbuckler materializes--Nicholas himself, reincarnated in the 20th century to clear his reputation, having been unjustly convicted of treason. Intrigued by his plight, Dougless agrees to help Nicholas learn his accuser's identity and restore his good name. They become lovers, and their adventures briefly lead Dougless back to the 1560s, allowing Deveraux to portray that period from a contemporary woman's perspective, as well as 1988 through the eyes of a confounded Elizabethan nobleman. Well-detailed historical highlights and a heartwarming conclusion...

I am in the minority of my romance-reading friends when I state that while A Knight in Shining Armor is a decently entertaining read, that it is nothing special. Perhaps it was with too high of expectations I read the book – hearing from all of my friends how wonderful the book was certainly led me to think it was going to far more excellent than it was. Or perhaps I am merely hard-to-please.

Dougless starts by being an insecure and lost heroine, her insecurity is so pitiful and she is so exploited by her boyfriend, it is clear that character growth is in order – which does happen as she meets Nicholas, who comes from the past when he hears her cries inside a church.

They meet, dally about in the present day (in the 1980s), then do some time-traveling to the past where Dougless is confronted with medieval life.

Their love is strong and Dougless returns to her time as a stronger and more confident woman. And Nicholas? He is there, but not as you would imagine him to be.

The ending was different and was a surprise, one that I didn’t love overly much in the love story, but in the greater scheme of things, fit the story well. And I’m glad for Dougless’s change. However, the story itself and the romance itself isn’t extraordinary, as I had hoped it to be.

A worthwhile read, but nothing over-the-top special.

Penelope Williamson: Keeper of the Dream

Keeper of the Dream: A

Published in 1995, Keeper of the Dream by Penelope Williamson is a hard book to find. However, the search is well worth the results! It is an epic tale between the Norman warrior Raine and Welsh princess Arianna set in 1157.

Raine takes over Arianna's home and wants to become lord over it - something that is very significant to him because he is the bastard son of an earl. Arianna comes from a loved Welsh family and is a seer - someone who can look into the future and/or the past.

It is decided by the King Henry that Raine, aka the Black Dragon, and Arianna are to wed in order to keep the two feuding countries at peace. And it is through this marriage that Arianna and Raine discover a powerful and everlasting love, one that stands through the trials of time.

Williamson's book has all the elements of a good romance: a tortured but determined hero who is self-made, a sassy and bold but compassionate heroine, and a love that is determined to prevail.

An excellent read and an even better love story, this saga-esque six-hundred page whomper will leave you satisfied, yet wanting more.

Loretta Chase: Lord of Scoundrels

Lord of Scoundrels: B-

One determined lady... tough-minded Jessica Trent's sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And when Dain's reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising and public position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction...

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase was the #1 book of All About Romance's Top-100 poll, submitted by readers. Having yet to read the book that I've heard so much commotion and love for, I was intrigued and borrowed a copy.

The heroine, Jessica Trent, is a very intelligent, witty, and understanding woman who wants to save her brother from making a fool out of himself by acting like Lord Dain. To her surprise, she finds herself immensely attracted to Sebastian, a very wealthy but cynical and self-hating man.

The story is nothing new and original, however, Chase's writing style is a little more complicated than that of other authors'. She also finds a way for Dain to come to love and accept himself at the end of the story, which was also nice.

However, I didn't see what the particular fuss was all about. While there was nothing wrong with the book, there was nothing that was immensely grabbing or captivating therefore, it wouldn't be a keeper for me.

Tara Janzen: On the Loose

On the Loose: C-

He's a special agent who never loses his cool.

She's the heat-seeking missle headed straight for his heart.

Keeping cool under pressure is the credo C. Smith Rydell lives by. That’s why he was handpicked by the Special Defense Forces for a mission few men survive. So why has the ex-DEA superstar been reassigned to Panama City, playing bodyguard to a blond in a black string bikini? Except Honey York isn’t your average pampered socialite. She’s the woman Rydell caught smuggling cash into El Salvador four months ago. And now she wants him to take her back.

All Honey has to do is find the guerrilla camp, deliver the goods, and get the hell out of the jungle—all in forty-eight hours. Only one man is up for the job. But sharing an unforgettable one-night stand was nothing next to being stranded with Rydell on some third world mountaintop. And with bullets flying and all hell breaking loose, now is not the time for passion. As if these two could possibly resist it….

I read this book for a book club and at the end of the book, I wasn’t sure if I really knew what the book was about. Tara Janzen continues her Steele street series with this seventh book and unsurprisingly, the number of plotlines and secondary storylines in the book were ridiculous.

Honey and her five Louis Vuitton bags need to get into El Salvador. She is working with the U.S. government in order to help her sister, who is a nun in an impoverished village in El Salvador. Her mission is to go in, give her bags to a drug lord named Alejandro Campos, who in return was to take her to the rebel group leader (Diego?) so that she can give him the 2million dollars and in return, retrieve an especially important USB flashdrive.

Along with this is an impregnated nun, a terrified but part-of-the-scene history teacher from the United States who records everything, and there’s the badass Russian Irena, C. Smith Rydell’s former lover, who is back to destroy Smith and Honey.

It is in the midst of this and crazy El Salvadoran downpour, that Honey and Smith realize their love for each other.

The one scene that they end up together is the one scene in the entire book that they have to themselves; all other scenes are riddled with planes, guns, nuns, rebels, and… no romance. It would be an understatement to state that there was no love and no romance in the book.

What On the Loose proved to be was a rebel-military-top US government-secret espionage and military combat book with one sex scene (where afterwards, the hero and heroine realize their love for each other).

Silly and convoluted plots rule this book and because of the convoluted plot, the first half of the book is a rocky read.

Lauren Willig: The Deception of the Emerald Ring

The Deception of the Emerald Ring: B-

Harvard Ph.D. candidate Eloise Kelly continues her research of early 19th-century spies in the smart third book of the Pink Carnation series, following the well-received The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip. This installment focuses on 19-year-old Letty Alsworthy, who, after a comedy of errors, quickly weds Lord Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, her older sister's intended. Geoffrey, an officer in the League of the Purple Gentian, flees to Ireland the night of his elopement. Unbeknownst to Letty, his plan isn't to abandon her; it's to quash the impending Irish Rebellion. When Letty tracks down her prodigal husband in Dublin, not only does she learn of his secret life as a spy, she's sucked into it with hilarious results. Willig—like Eloise, a Ph.D. candidate in history—draws on her knowledge of the period, filling the fast-paced narrative with mistaken identities, double agents and high stakes espionage. Every few chapters, the reader is brought back to contemporary London, where Eloise gets out of the archives long enough to nurse her continuing crush on Colin Selwick. The Eloise and Colin plot distracts from the main attraction, but the historic action is taut and twisting. Fans of the series will clamor for more. (From Publishers Weekly)

The third installment of Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, the reader is introduced to Letty Alsworthy and Geoff Pinchingdale-Snipe. I must admit, before I picked up the book, I couldn't even remember who Geoff was and I'd never even heard of Letty. All I knew about Geoff was that he: 1. worked with the Purple Gentian 2. was in love with a shallow girl named Mary.

The meeting of the hero and heroine was, however, vastly entertaining - much better than the second installment of the series, which proved to be a disappointment.

Letty, finding out her vapid older sister plans on sneaking off with Geoff, rushes to the getaway carriage in the dead of the night in order to convince Geoff of otherwise (since Mary is rather stubborn and somewhat irrational.) Through error made on everyone's part, she ends up as Geoff's unwanted but newly wed wife.

When she discovers Geoff is in Ireland, she runs after him, only to discover the Pink Carnation and the role her husband has as one of England's top spies.

It is good to meet Jane and the rest of the Pink Carnation league and to once again come across the Black Tulip, who we find after getting out of prison, escaped to Ireland.

The clueless Letty somehow pulls off being a part of her new husband's schemes and finds love in the process of doing so.

To say that they truly fell in love would be a stretch; by the time Geoff finds that he's madly in love with Letty, the reader is left in the dark. When did they fall in love? And how? And...what happened to the romance, exactly?

Nonetheless, the tale is entertaining and proves to be a fast read.

Julie Garwood: Ransom

Ransom: B+

In Ransom, New York Times bestselling author Julie Garwood returns to her beloved Highlands and the dark days of the despotic rule of King John to reacquaint readers with Scottish chieftain Brodick Buchanan, first introduced in The Secret. Brodick finds himself playing protector to Gillian, an exquisite English beauty, who is desperate to find her long-lost sister and a treasure of incalculable worth--one for which many already have died, including Gillian's own father. Coerced by the fiendish Baron Alford, who murdered her father before her eyes and usurped her birthright 14 years earlier, Gillian must return to England with Arianna's Box, a bejeweled golden box commissioned by King John, or her beloved Uncle Morgan will be tortured to death. In spite of Gillian's fragile looks and her loathsome English bloodlines, Brodick encounters a woman of immeasurable courage and determination, one not at all intimidated by his legendary temper or imposing size. And as he realizes that he has met his match in Gillian--whose sense of honor and duty equals his own--their passion for each other grows ever stronger in this thrilling historical.

This was a re-read while I was in bed this week, sick to my toes. I remembered loving Ransom when I had first read it and was curious to see if my reading tastes had changed since then -- and if so, in what manner.

I was drawn to Garwood's characterization of Gillian -- a kind and wholly compassionate English woman. But beyond that, she proved to be a very talkative - and naive!- young woman who was so innocent, she didn't have the sense to keep any of her thoughts to herself, which was exasperating as it was humorous.

Brodick proved to be a fine hero - the stuff that strong Highlanders are made of - equal parts brute force, arrogance, stunningly good looks, and the strength to be a laird.

Garwood's dialogue is a bit over-the-top, with conversations that went on for pages and pages, none of which were too stunningly witty or magical, but in all, gave depth to the characters. The suspense is a not-really-a-suspense and won't have you searching deep in your minds in eager anticipation of trying to discover the holder of Arianna's box. It will, however, keep with you in duration of the book and comes as a relative (but not great) surprise in the end.

Overall, lengthy and a little exasperating in parts, but still satisfying.

Tara Janzen: Crazy Hot

Crazy Hot: C

Love has never been this wild.
This Dangerous.
This Hot.

Only the most dire emergency could send paleontologist Regan
McKinney racing across the West in search of a man. But her grandfather has vanished, and Quinn Younger could be the missing link. What the bad-boy-turned-American-hero is doing in a deserted tumbleweed town is an even bigger mystery…until danger trails Regan into Cisco, Utah, and the sexy air-force pilot becomes her sole hope of survival…

And thus starts Janzen’s Crazy series. It seems as if Ms. Janzen is in over her head, bringing in paleontologists, chop shop ex-juvie boys, and Special Defense Forces (a special, super-elite group of the CIA…or FBI), but amazingly enough, the plotlines come together in a rather jumbled sort of way.

Regan McKinney is in search of her aging grandfather and ventures to Cisco, Utah in order to find him. Instead, she finds sexy Quinn Younger, the boy whose had a crush on her ever since he walked in on her almost naked body while he and the other chop shop juvie boys were serving their penance by working for her grandfather. (Confused yet?)

Meanwhile, Regan’s grandfather, Wilson, discovers an exotic species of Tarbosaurus eggs – intact and fossilized. Because Quinn’s team of Special Op Forces require Wilson’s expertise on a boatload of old bones they’ve intercepted (accidentally) while trying to intercept guns, missiles, and other weapons.

The bad guys come in when it is found that the Tarbosaurus eggs are encased in diamonds – the diamonds that the bad guys want.

So it’s with that Regan and Quinn are heading back to Colorado in Quinn’s sexy car. In between chasing after the bad guys, making hot and crazy love, going to Steele Street, Denver CO, it’s almost too much.

The bad guys aren’t quite bad enough to be intriguing, and the story long and roundabout. The chemistry between the hero and heroine was there, but something was missing to keep the reader’s interest.

However, the one thing that saved Crazy Hot was the introduction of Regan’s crazy little sister Nikki and Peter “Kid Chaos” Chronopolous. Their meeting, though it was several pages, was enough to make the reader want more. It came to the point where all I wanted to do was skim through the pages with the bones, the grandfather, Regan and Quinn, and snuggle up to the secondary story with Nikki and Kid.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Frustrating websites

It irks me to no end when I go to authors' websites and everything is a big heap of mumbo jumbo. When I can't navigate around the page, when things aren't confusing, and when things aren't laid out really simply, I just about want to punch my computer screen.

In this day and age, I feel like a website is crucial to an author's existence. Okay, that might have been a little bit of an exaggeration, but honest to God, I live by my computer.

After I read a really good book, I hop online to see what else the author has written. Then I get nosy. I browse around, go to amazon, check out reviews, what the author likes to do, what he (or she) doesn't like to do, and etc. If I feel like I have a somewhat intimate connection to the author, I feel much more at a kinship with the book that I am in love with. In reverse, if I hate a book, I'll do the same, hoping to vindicate the author of the novel ("Oh maybe she was having an off day...") or the website will further my evaluations of the book ("Gah, the book was bad and the website...")

With that said, I plead to all web designers and authors, and any other company or organization that might remotely need to use websites: please make it look classy and please make it user-friendly.

Sure, I can figure out how to maneuver your website. But I'd rather use that time for something more... interesting.

And it pains me to say it, but in the way I judge a book by its cover (mildly), I judge the author by his/her website.

Jerry Spinelli: Love, Stargirl

Love, Stargirl: A-

This brilliant sequel to Stargirl (Knopf, 2000) takes place a year later. Now living in Pennsylvania, Stargirl, 15, continues to pine for Leo, who dumped her, and struggles to make a place for herself in her new community. Fortunately, her eclectic neighbors, who include Dootsie, a five-year-old "human bean"; Betty Lou, an agoraphobic divorcée; and Perry Delloplane, an amiable thief, draw her back into life and happiness. Written in diary format-the "world's longest letter," as Stargirl calls it-this novel is as charming and unique as its sensitive, nonconformist heroine. Addressing loss, growing pains, and staying true to oneself, this stellar follow-up is both profound and funny.

A follow-up to Spinelli's Stargirl, this sequel has the same reminiscent and lyrical tone as its prequel.

The main question of "What about Leo?" and the ever-important "Will Stargirl ever get together with Starboy again?" kept on popping up in my mind - both of which Spinelli does a wonderful job of answering but not.

The adventures that Stargirl goes through is funny and tender; the emotions she feels are raw and real in spite of her trying to keep a happy attitude. It shows the life of a dumped teenager and the repercussions of love - and what happens when a girl strives to be different and changes the lives of others while she's at it.

Easy, fast, and light read.