Welcome to the World, Jack!

"The Other Sister" - Lynda Sandoval - 2007

With the exception of a few stolen from my mother in middle school, I didn't start reading romance until maybe my sophomore year of college - "Whitney, My Love" started it all for me. Then it was onto all the big Avon names, and then the AAR Top 100, and an ongoing mission to hunt down desert island keepers. I didn't begin reading series romance until relatively recently 
and I find I turn to it when my attention span is short and my expectations are low. 
This isn't necessarily an insult, I've read a few really nice series stories, however they by definition are shorter and smaller in scope than contemporary single title romances. 
I also have a thing for the wrong sibling storyline
and will pick up any book featuring this plot, including a book with happy skiers on the cover...
Series romance, or maybe just the ones I gravitate to, usually take place in smaller communities. As someone currently living in a small town, I know that "Small Town America" is actually a fictional romanticized place existing only in novels and films.  Take Stars Hollow, CT from TV's Gilmore Girls, creator Amy Sherman found inspiration in the real hamlet of Washington Depot, CT. Yes, it's famous for it's town meetings, but is it overflowing with charming crazies and gruff but ruggedly handsome diner owners? Probably not.  As for romances, I tend to compare all contemporary authors against a Jennifer Crusie measuring stick.  She has a way of making fictional small-town Ohio seem like a place I'd love to live - Victorian homes, revival theaters that play Kurt Russell action films, local restaurants with tons of charm, and a store that sells gourmet ice cream!
The small town in "The Other Sister" is located in the Colorado high country, everyone knows everyone's business and they do something called, "Take Me, I'm Yours Day" once a month, which amounts to what we call "Big Trash Day" here in J-Town and it only happens once a year.  This town quirk amounted to little more than plot device, as about 85% of this book was about interior decorating. The other 15% was about the couple, and 100% to the dead older sister of the heroine, who also happened to be the platonic best friend of the hero. And when I say platonic, I mean the dead sister was gay, however I fell like this was more of a way to help the reader buy the storyline.  Sandoval kind-of tiptoed around the issue, and as much as I think you should have realistic and proud gay characters, this one seemed a way to show the hero never had feelings for the dead sister.  The older sister died in a prom night accident along with three other teens, the hero is one of four survivors returning back to the town he ran from eleven years before.   Although the author's note describes a real life tragedy that inspired her Return to Troublesome Gulch series (and that is a tragedy), I found the story a bit too preachy in the manner of after-school specials.  The dead sister supposedly brought the couple together, but I could never get past all the mentions of her.  Also, I absolutely hated the author's use of slang for both the adults and kids.  I'm sorry but putting something in quotes doesn't make it believable if it's not something a teenager would likely say in the first place.  I curse on a regular basis and my grammar is certainly less than perfect, but nothing turns me off faster than "lame" and "forced" dialogue. (See what I did there?) Oh well, the H/H were nice enough - I only wish they had a better story in which to fall in love.

"Women Singer-Songwriters in Rock" - Ronald D. Lankford Jr. - 2010

I only read Chapter Three and skimmed the rest...
I didn't pay attention to the author and assumed it was a woman in her early 30's, 
but it's a dude.  And somehow that changes things.  
This book is an academic look at a few albums that sprung a blip of trend in the mid-90's.  I spent a good 5 minutes trying to remember how Patti Rothberg's single went - before I remembered I didn't care about that song in 96, and don't really care about it now. 
As for the book, I found the text analytical and cold.  It's not about great albums,  it's about women  breaking into the mainstream.  While I realize Sarah McLachlan is an important figure for this topic, I'm just not that interested in reading about my prom theme, "I Will Remember You"... 
Plus, this book was just recently published but he only mentions an extremely young Fiona Apple's  album "Tidal" without even a footnote about her later albums.
As for "Exile" he definitely approves - but the essay didn't tell me anything new - and in fact only succeeded in reminding me just how bad I feel Liz Phair's albums in the 2000's are.  
I still consider "Exile in Guyville" my favorite album, and if nothing else reading about it made me want to listen to it, and that's not a bad thing.

"Bound by Your Touch" - Meredith Duran - 2009

Between yard sales and a good stash from a local used book sale my TBR pile has grown slightly out of hand.  To combat this, I spent some time separating and organizing romances into boxes of historicals, anthologies, series, contemporaries, and a special 'read first' section of well-reviewed books.  "Bound..." was my first pick from this box.

Duran is a new author who's made quite a splash - and if her other novels are anything like "Bound by Your Touch" it's well deserved.  In a time of wallpaper historicals and popular historical authors trying their hand at contemporaries, I'm very encouraged to see and excited to read more from Duran. 
I spent a big chunk of this hot and stuffy weekend on the couch attempting to stay cool while losing myself in this book.  I admit I've had romance ADD the last few months, but I finished this in a matter of days, reading it at every opportunity.  I loved the hero and heroine, not because of their attributes but for their flaws.  James lives everyday to torture his father - acting out more as a modern day rebellious teen than a future noble landholder.  In fact his first appearance is during a wild opium drenched party, where he finds his head just enough to remember his plans to embarrass his father.  This involves some Egyptian antiquities and leads to meeting the heroine Lydia.

She is a spinster managing two younger sisters - one married, one trying to get married, who also handles her father's business dealings while he is away in Egypt.  Let's just say she isn't happy with the interruption from a drunken James - but an unlikely relationship develops.  The love story feels very real - both characters have problematic family histories that direct their everyday choices - and it's these issues they must confront and accept before they can find happiness together.  Plus there's a fabulous scene on an East End rooftop that I just loved.

Duran found a nice mix of lust and angst that never became melodramatic, but rather burgeoned into a powerful, believable love story.  I look forward to her reading her novels already in print and especially to Phin's story, "Written on Your Skin."

New 'Deco' for the Studio

                The magic of scrapbook paper and double-stick tape!

Resolutions May 2010

Yes, it's June 16th.  A little behind, I know...Though it may not look it from the checklist, May was a really productive month for me.  I didn't paint or sew - but I did make an absurd amount of bottle cap magnets which kept me focused and in the studio.  The goal of the resolution checklist is to get me motivated - and they are my rules, so I'm not going to get down on myself for missing a few when I went above and beyond on some others.  Plus some of what I shot Memorial Day weekend, not only my favorite stuff so far, many will also eventually be paintings!

"I Could Have Watched All Night"

Yes, I broke down and watched (primarily because it made $1 shelf at the Family Video) and I admit:  I enjoyed it.  I know a lot of people who go bat shit crazy for this show, but I was a bit of a hater.  I  stayed away because I only seen a few moments playing in that same Family Video.  While I was browsing the 2/$1 section it seemed as though every other word was sung;  I thought it had to be the most annoying show ever.  Now that I've watched all the episodes on DVD,  I've found they are usually singing for a reason in a real setting - unlike musicals which burst into song at random.  Still, the show can be too much and I did find myself skipping through a few horrific pop songs I don't know or care to hear.  But, despite some uncomfortable moments, I found myself charmed.  Jane Lynch is always hilarious.  Always.  Most of all, I am an absolute sucker for unrequited or unavailable love in print or film.

Glee features an ensemble cast with more than a few couples to fall for, but Obsessive-Compulsive and adorable guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury's love for Spanish teacher and Glee Club director, Will Shuester makes the show for me.  The tension between these two leading to the "finale" or 13th episode of Season 1 kept me glued to the couch - even though that same couch was located in a room in need of some serious attention of the cleaning variety.  Emma would not approve of my slovenly ways, but I couldn't help finishing the whole season.  And it totally paid off -  I haven't felt as emotional about a singe television scene (with the exception of the vending machine reunion scene on the Lost Finale...) since the Season 2 Finale of the American office.

However, the longing which makes the storyline so powerful is also invariably a double-edged sword for television.  You can't maintain it forever and if you give in, you can kill it.  (Which is why the office just switched gears to an Andy/Receptionist storyline and gave Jim and Pam a sometimes boring but functional adult relationship, and hooray for that.)

Apparently there are nine more episodes of Glee beyond those I just watched in a marathon of slothful giddiness, and apparently there are many bumps in the road for these two - but this scene alone (and honestly this love story) is what made Glee for me.  And if the romance gets weird or goes downhill from this point I can handle it - this was a great moment.  And not if, but when the song and dance gets to be too much, there's always fast forward.

New! Painted Edges

First Days of Summer

"Night In Eden" - Candice Proctor - 1997

Candice Proctor is one of those authors I've heard good things about (well-written, interesting settings) so I was pumped to find this one, and even more so when it was recommended as one of the best stories for sexual tension - because who doesn't love a good build up to an inevitable, and it is inevitable pairing (carnal or marital or both)?  

A fun fact I didn't know until I read the glowing blurb on the step back:  Candice Proctor is "The Outsider" author Penelope Williamson's sister.  I wouldn't say their writing styles are similar, but neither shies away from difficult subject matter.   Take for example the setting of "Night in Eden" - New South Wales, or what would become known as Australia during the British colonial period, which is a long way from Mayfair, and certainly not your typical historical romance.  The story opens in a womens' prison where the heroine has been transported for manslaughter and has just buried her second child after having been ripped away from her young daughter and forced to leave her behind in England.  Yikes.  Oh, and we meet the hero as he's 'purchasing' the heroine, a terrifying situation as many transported women ended up the property of brutal men subjected to all manner of abuse.  Luckily for the heroine, Bryony Wentworth, the hero of the story,  Captain Hayden St. John only wants her as a wet nurse for his struggling baby boy whose mother died in childbirth.  At first, that is.  Once he stops thinking Bryony a whore and a criminal he wants much more, and so does she, but fights it to prove she is not any man's whore, hence the sexual tension. 

 I enjoyed the author's voice and the wild landscape however, there was just something missing for me.  Hayden was a bit too alpha and mean at first which I never quite got past.  Also, I was never sure how to pronounce the heroine's name, which is also the name of a climbing plant found in English gardens, and a metaphor for her character.  But I had never heard of it, and it kept pulling me out of the story. "Night in Eden" brought to mind Mary Jo Putney's novels from the 90's in terms of scope and depth, and while that is certainly not a bad thing - in the end, it felt a little too much like a bodice ripper for me to completely enjoy.


Amish Auction 6-05-10

Red Dog

Spring Storm

Yeah, I got locked in a park bathroom...So What?

"My Antonia" - Willa Cather - 1918

                                              READ 2010 - May