Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Thrill of a Lifetime!

Well, I'm back home from Arizona and I still don't think my feet have touched the ground!

I recently attended a spectacular book event sponsored by the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in which I was able to meet and mingle with authors such as Lauren Willig (The Pink Carnation series), Stephanie Barron (The Jane Austen Mystery series, and........Diana Gabaldon (the Outlander series)!!

There's so much to tell about the events, the books I brought home, and of course, wonderful stories about the authors I met, that it will take several posts to share everything! And another benefit of attending this event was that book-blogging buddy Julie from Outlandish Dreaming and I had a chance to finally meet and hang out and talk about books, books, and more books!

So, the top photo of Diana Gabaldon is the one I took while she was signing her Echo in the Bone book....but there's lots more of her to come!

And here are my new book buddies..... Julie from Outlandish Dreaming (center) and the fabulous Lauren Willig (right).

So come back and visit over the next few days as I will share so much more about my weekend in Phoenix!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Poisoned Pen Event

It's almost here...The Poisoned Pen Event that I'm very excited to attend this year!

A few of my very favorite authors are scheduled to sign books and give talks and readings, such as Diana Gabaldon of the Outlander series and Lauren Willig of The Pink Carnation series. I will also be attending a Georgette Heyer Tea where we celebrate the works of Heyer and all things Regency. Hopefully, I'll have some great photos and books to share. Until then,

happy reading!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig

"Determined to secure another London Season without assistance from her new brother-in-law, beautiful Mary Alsworthy accepts a secret assignment from Lord Vaughn on behalf of the Pink Carnation: to infiltrate the ranks of the dreaded French spy, The Black Tulip, before he and his master can stage their planned invasion of England. Every spy has a weakness, and for the Black Tulip that weakness is black-haired women...his petals of the tulip. A natural at the art of seduction, Mary easily catches the atention of the French spy, but Lord Vaughn never anticipates that his own heart will be caught as well. Fighting their growing attraction, impediments from their past, and, of course, the French, Mary and Vaughn find themselves lost in the shadows of a treacherous garden of lies....."

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

So much has been written already about Willig's flowery spy series that anything I say will be redundant.....her books are just so darn clever and entertaining, and The Seduction of the Crimson Rose was no exception.

I particularly enjoyed this installment of the adventure as it featured one of my favorite characters, the ever-mysterious and enigmatic Lord Vaughn. He is older, very sophisticated and cynical, and enjoys both his wine and women to be aged and full-bodied -- no silly, innocent parlor games or sweet, simpering virgins for him, please. With his greying temples, aristocratic features and serpent-like cane, he can appear quite dangerous at times, and indeed, The Crimson Rose differs in tone from the first three books. It was much darker and more sinister than the first books in the series which tended to be lighthearted, witty romps. The relationship of Lord Vaughn and Mary Alsworthy was a slow and seductive one, and I enjoyed their clever repartee as they worked together to lure the Black Tulip into their trap.

Willig manages to pull many surprises out of her bag of tricks, as no one is really 100% dead in her spy world until there is an actual body, and the reader's patience is finally rewarded when the real identity of the Black Tulip is revealed. Plenty of intrigue, suspense, and clever tit-for-tat between Vaughn and Mary....another winner in The Pink Carnation series.

And speaking of Willig, I will be attending The Poisoned Pen Conference in Arizona next week, where I am hoping to meet Lauren Willig, among many other authors, at a Regency Tea and author events at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. I will be meeting Julie from Outlandish Dreaming, so I'm looking forward to a great time!

4/5 stars

Title: The Seduction of the Crimson Rose
Author: Lauren Willig
New American Library
459 pages
genre: historical romance

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Surrender by Pamela Clare

"A hand-picked cadre of warriors, they had the fierce courage of their Scots forefathers, combined with the stealth and cunning of the Indians who lived beside them in the wilderness. Battling the French in no-holds-barred combat, they forged a new brand of honor, became a new breed of men.....MacKinnon's Rangers."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Wow! What a fantastic read --I absolutely LOVED Surrender!

Heart-stopping, thrilling adventures, an amazing hero, and sizzling hot scenes...what's not to love? This one is going right on my list of favorites for 2010, and I'm anxious to explore more of Pamela Clare's books.

I was immediately drawn into the world of the untamed wilderness in colonial America from the very first raw, edgy scene in the prologue, and when I reluctantly finished the epilogue, I was ready to turn back to the first page and begin the adventure all over again! A compelling and passionate story of Iain MacKinnon and Annie as fate brings them together during the time of the French and Indian War.

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, and Jamie Frasier is a worthy hero....but he may have a little competition with Iain MacKinnon! Rough and raw and braw and beautiful....Iain is the son of an exiled Jacobite, a transplanted Highlander who grew up alongside the Muhheconnoek. He is skilled in wilderness survival and Native American ways and is a man of deep convictions and honor.

His life takes a drastic turn when he and his brothers are falsely accused of murdering a man. Lord William Wentworth, a British commander, is behind this scheme, as he needs the raw power and brawn of the brothers to help lead the Rangers and fight for the British as they battle the French and their allies. Wentworth condemns the MacKinnon brothers to die on the gallows as murderers or accept his bargain to assist the British army.

It is during one of the Rangers' scouting missions for Lord Wentworth that Iain discovers Annie (Lady Anne Campbell, the daughter of a Scottish earl) as she is fleeing and in danger of being captured or killed by the Abenaki. Her past is mysterious and tragic, and she has been branded a thief and sold as an indentured servant in the colonies by her twisted uncle. Unable to leave a woman alone and in danger, Iain commands his brothers and Rangers to continue on their mission while he remains to rescue and protect her.

Their story of survival during the harshness of wartime in one of passion and adventure, and as their relationship and love develops and grows, secrets of the past come back to threaten their happiness and their future. Lies and betrayals...hopes and dreams....Surrender is a riveting historical romance with unforgettable characters in colonial America.

"She'd thought him a barbarian at first, and she'd been right. But there
was honor in him -- honor that went soul deep -- and courage as strong
as the roots of a mountain."

5/5 stars

Title: Surrender
Author: Pamela Clare
Dorchester Publishing
355 pages
genre: historical romance

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

"Don't laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragic romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under their sober gowns...."
Louisa May Alcott (Little Women)

my thoughts:

Little Women..... just thinking about Jo, Meg, Beth, Amy, Laurie, and Marmee brings back such fond memories....truly, they are old friends in the scrapbook of my memories. It was one of the first books that I read where the characters truly seemed to be alive and flesh and blood; and naturally, I was drawn to the independent and spirited bookworm, Jo. I loved her big dreams and her courageous heart, and was naive enough to believe that her adoring Laurie was the perfect choice for her happily-ever-after. Imagine my dismay when I learned that the fairy tale ending with Laurie was not to be. Kelly McNees must have had those same thoughts as she wrote, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott.

Using history and facts from Alcott's journals and letters, Kelly McNees creates a lovely fictional account of the summer of 1855 when, as a twenty-two year old aspring writer with big dreams, Louisa moves to Walpole, New Hampshire with her family. Thankful for the charity of a generous uncle's home, the Alcott women must struggle daily to keep food on the table as their father, a philosopher and Transcendentalist, shuns working for payment. Louisa, who experiences such deep convictions of inner strength, indepedence, and a sense of self-worth, is determined to create a better life for herself than she sees for her mother and sisters. Not desiring to be burdened with society's expectations of marriage and motherhood for her, Louisa keeps her goal of becoming an independent writer firmly in her mind. The writings of Walt Whitman are the song of her heart....."I celebrate myself..."

It is during this summer that Louisa meets Joseph Singer, a likeable young man who works in his father's dry goods store. He is delighted to meet the Alcott sisters, and they begin a friendship of shared picnics, plays, and simple activities. His interest in Louisa develops over time, and although she views Joseph as a good friend, she refuses to allow her thoughts to stray from her firmly-entrenched goal of earning her own way in the world. But hearts have a way of changing, and sometimes destiny steps in and requires you to make choices and sacrifices.

A bittersweet love story, sprinkled with innocent past-times of a bygone era, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is a lovely tribute to a beloved author.

4/5 stars

Title: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
Author: Kelly O'Connor McNees
Penguin Group
342 pages
genre: historical fiction

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn

"Ten things you should know about this book:

l. Sebastian Grey is a devilishly handsome rogue with a secret.

2. Annabel Winslow's family voted her The Winslow Most Likely to Speak Her Mind AND The Winslow Most Like to Fall Asleep in Church.

3. Sebastian's uncle is the Earl of Newbury, and if he dies without siring an heir, Sebastian inherits everything.

4. Lord Newbury detests Sebastian and will stop at nothing to prevent this from happenhing.

5. Lord Newbury has decided that Annabel is the answer to all of his problems.

6. Annabel does not want to marry Lord Newbury, especially when she finds out he once romanced her grandmother.

7. is shocking, 8 is delicious, and 9 is downright wicked, all of which lead the way to

10. Happily. Ever. After."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

This was my first venture into the world of Julia Quinn novels, and it was a really sweet romance. What I found refreshingly unique about Sebestian and Annabel's story
was that they were both very likeable, engaging people without a terrible amount of angst or past baggage (naturally there are some secrets and conflicts, but nothing earth-shattering). They were two people who literally stumbled into each other's path and became good friends and lovers along the way.....while sharing laughs and genuinely enjoying being in each other's company.

There wouldn't be a happily-ever-after without some conflicts along the way, and trouble begins when the repulsive Lord Newbury decides that he will offer for Annabel's hand in marriage so she can provide him with the desperately needed heir. Newbury detests his nephew, Sebastian, and will do anything to avoid leaving his significant wealth to him. Sebastian, a former sniper-turned-author with a secret identity, is intrigued with the lovely Annabel, but not enough to offer for her in marriage. Unfortunately for Annabel, her grandparents, Lord and Lady Vickers, support Newbury's marriage plans to their granddaughter and bringing his fortune to help provide for Annabel's many siblings.

The grandmother, Lady Vickers, is a riot....a formidable dragon lady who, when push comes to shove, comes up with a plan at the end of the story that is both shocking and funny....go, grandma!

Cute. Sweet. Romantic.

3.5/5 stars

Title: Ten Things I Love About You
Author: Julia Quinn
377 pages
Avon Books
genre: historical romance

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Soulless by Gail Carriger

"Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire--then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia is responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing?

Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?"
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Oh.....dear....where do I begin?

First, I want to say that I've had my eye on Soulless for quite some time. This book (the cover, the concept, everything) just appealed to me and made me anxious to add it to my list of to-read books. Add to that a lot of positive feedback from many sources about how unique and clever this Victorian comedy of manners/paranormal vampire/werewolf steampunk novel was that I moved it up to the top of my TBR list. (I certainly want to be in-the-know about a book or series that everyone is buzzing about!) It was with great expectations that I settled in to the world of werewolves, vampires, preternaturals, and a fiesty parasol-wielding spinster in Victorian London.

I wanted to love it.....I really, really did, but I had a hard time getting into it. I diligently forged ahead, thinking I would surely get caught up in the storyline, but I found it campy and strange...and not in a good way!

I know I'm in the very small minority here, as many readers found it to be enjoyable and witty, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. I guess hunky Alpha Highlanders are more my thing than Alpha werewolves!

P.S. I skimmed through pages to get to the end quickly....I know Alexia got her werewolf, but did she ever get her treacle tart? (kidding)

2/5 stars

Title: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Orbit Books
373 pages
genre: fantasy/horror/steampunk

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

To Tame a Highland Warrior by Karen Marie Moning

"He was born to a clan of warriors of supernatural strength, but Gavrael McIllioch abandoned his name and his Highland castle, determined to escape the dark fate of his ancestors. Hiding his identity from the relentless rival clan that hunted him, he called himself Grimm to protect the people he cared for, vowing never to acknowledge his love for ravishing Jillian St. Clair. Yet even from afar he watched over her, and when her father sent an urgent summons, "Come for Jillian," he raced to her side -- into a competition to win her hand in marriage." (from the publisher)

my thoughts:

This will be a super quick write up! I've had Karen Moning's paranormal/highland romance series in my TBR pile since last summer, and I'm finally making time to work through them all. I wasn't terribly impressed with the first two (I read Beyond the Highland Mist last summer on a beach trip) but I've heard good things about the series as a whole so I'm interested in continuing through the books, knowing some will be hits and a few may be misses. The books contain elements that I enjoy such as time travel, myths, legends, magic, supernatural powers, and, of course, charismatic alpha heroes and beautiful heroines. Easy, breezy, pure escape reading...the kind of book I reach for when I head outside by the pool. (Plus I love the covers ;) On to #3, The Highlander's Touch.

3.5/5 stars

Title: To Tame a Highland Warrior
Author: Karen Marie Moning
367 pages
genre: paranormal/highland romance

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

"When Frederica brings her younger siblings to London determined to secure a brilliant marriage for her beautiful sister, she seeks out their distant cousin, the Marquis of Alverstoke. Lovely, competent, and refreshingly straightforward, Frederica makes such a strong impression that to his own amazement, the Marquis agrees to help launch them all into society.

Lord Alverstoke can't resist wanting to help her.....Normally wary of his family, which includes two overbearing sisters and innumerable favor-seekers, Lord Alverstoke does his best to keep his distance. But with his enterprising -- and altogether entertaining -- country cousins getting into one scrape after another right on his doorstep, before he knows it the Marquis finds himself dangerously embroiled." (from the publisher)

my thoughts:

I love the world of Georgette Heyer's books -- even though Fredrica isn't at the top of my list of favorites, it certainly was enlightening about the Regency period and the glorious details of Regency society. From the elegant members of the ton, the parties and seasons they celebrate, and a gathering in Hyde Park to watch the spectacle of a manned balloon ride, Fredrica is the tale of an ordinary young woman who, along with her entire family, captures the interest and heart of the confirmed bachelor, Lord Alverstoke.

As usual, Heyer's wit is sharp and charming right from the start. Lord Alverstoke is perturbed when his two sisters approach him to help launch his nieces into society at a ball at his estate. Alverstoke is completely bored by it all and sees no reason to help his plain-jane nieces...that is, until a very distant relation, Fredrica, requests his help to introduce her exquisitely beautiful sister, Charis, to the London ton. The Marquis views this opportunity as extremely humorous -- he knows his sisters will be absolutely furious when their daughters must attend their coming-out ball along with the stunning Charis!

What I liked about this story was that Fredrica was charmingly ordinary...smart, confident, concerned about her family, and secure in the knowledge that marriage was not something she desired or needed. It was exactly this attitude that intrigued Lord Alverstoke....accustomed as he was to women going out of their way to impress him, he was blind-sided by Fredrica's disinterest in him! With a little help from Fredrica's precocious younger brothers and a runaway balloon, Fredrica and Lord Alverstoke discover what real love is all about.

3.5/5 stars

Title: Frederica
Author: Georgette Heyer
original copyright: 1965/Sourcebooks 2008
437 pages
genre: historical romance

Favorite Period Dramas

Mount TBR

Joanne's to-read book montage

On a Highland Shore
A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
Maisie Dobbs
Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

Joanne's favorite books »