READ 2010

So, it all went downhill when I decided to give myself two months to read "Jude the Obscure" by Thomas Hardy and only read the first two mid-July!  Then I said to myself, well, that was a summer vacation of sorts, back to it in August.  Let's just say I've had two different copies of Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"" for two months now.  Just like the romance I'm currently reading, one or two pages and I'm out.   Sigh.   To be fair (to myself) most of September was dedicated to "Entitled"but now I've got some down time.  So,  what will be - "O, Pioneers" or "On The Road"?
Hopefully one of the two this month.

First Page

I've had this same spiral notebook full of magazine clippings and collages since high school, though very little of the high school images remain.  It's starting to fall apart, and I have a scanner now, so there you go.  

"The Perfect Stranger" - Anne Gracie - 2006

An enjoyable, though pretty uneventful road romance that I'm currently re-reading.  It's slow-going as I've been falling asleep after about two pages, my fault -  not the novels'.  I do remember enjoying all of Gracie's "Merridew Sisters" quartet, especially "The Perfect Rake" however, "The Perfect Stranger" strongly reminds me of Mary Jo Putney's classic, "One Perfect Rose" - a great road romance with a twist ending.  Also, I know guns are phallic symbols, but doesn't that one look like there are two figures on it (in a Cosmo-like position), or is it just me?

A Successful Show... I just have to unload my car and recycle all those 'gin' bottles!

"A Man to Call My Own" - Johanna Lindsey - 2003

The first romance I ever read was "Gentle Rogue" by Johanna Lindsey, stolen from my mother and accidentally burned and the evidence disposed of (long story...)  Too young to know a cliche when I read one, I loved that ridiculous pirate/heroine disguised as a boy tale, though it would be many years before I read another official romance - (Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught) - and it seems my standards were much, much lower when I was new and completely smitten with the genre.  
I would just gobble up anything I could find, now I try to read reviews first and find novels that are more of a sure thing.  I read "A Man to Call My Own" when it was first released and I remember really enjoying it.  I passed it in the library and thought it might be fun to revisit, to see if it holds up, ya know? It doesn't.  I couldn't even finish it.  I didn't know you could fit that many romance cliches and cardboard characters in one book.  Twins, an "evil' (spoiled) twin and a good one - Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield anyone?  A hero who is too stupid to tell them apart, even after he has sex with the heroine - are you fucking kidding me?? The horrific father, the kindly mother figure, and so on.  Also, Lindsey uses modern day slang in reference to relationships, saying "like" instead of "fancy" or something similar and the 18-year-old "bad" one is described as sleeping with men to keep them away from her sister.  Not saying people didn't have pre-marital sex, it just seemed so modern and casual.   Oh, it's so bad.  One scene I remembered as being powerful and sweet comes off forced and barbaric to me now.  The hero basically pulls the heroine into the stables for a roll in the hay because he can't stand one more second without touching her.  Just really terrible.  This is why I will never re-read more than selected sections of even my older keepers (the McNaughts and Deveraux's) - what worked for me then probably won't hold up, and I think I'd rather keep the fond memories of stories than read some purple prose.  


This Week!

"Stay" - Allie Larkin -2010

Ha Ha! He came up first in the image search!

I picked up "Stay" because of it's cute and cheerful cover.  Also, a quick glance at the back jacket showed debut author Allie Larkin hit the blurb jackpot.  Her novel features endorsements from 6 pretty well-known chick-lit/romance authors.  Since I just finished up Emily Giffin's latest, one quote especially intrigued me: 

"Wow! This book blew me away. Sharp.Smart. Observant. 
Buzzing with romance, friendship and heart. Most of all
incredibly well written.  Stay is sure to become the new favorite
among Emily Giffin fans. Enjoy!"  -Sarah Strohmeyer, author of The Cinderella Pact and The Penny Pinchers Club 

     However, I have read one of Strohmeyer's books, and it left the worst image in my head - checking for moles where the sun shouldn't be an issue...I'll say no more...Despite that, she is dead on with her recommendation of  "Stay."  

Based on the description and Giffin comparison, I feared
this book would be "Something Borrowed 2" just a rip-off of the engaged love interest plotline.  "Stay" could have gone that direction, but was so much better that it didn't.  

The heroine, Van (short for Savannah) is likable, but flawed.  She just watched her best friend marry the man she's loved for years, and goes home and drunkenly buys a dog on the internet.  The dog, who will be called "Joe" isn't a tiny puppy as thought, but is a purebred German Shephard who answers primarily to Slovakian commands and cost $6000 dollars.  But Joe is the keystone in Van's new life leading her to the life she's meant to have including a hero I would have liked to see a lot more of and some wonderful unexpected friends.

I know I would have gobbled it up in one sitting, if I hadn't been forcing myself to stop and get some work done!  Larkin also runs a blog called The Greenists for the environmentally minded,  which is cool, but I hope she's working on another book, I can't wait to read more from her.  "Stay" was the most enjoyable story I've experienced in quite a while -  not just in "chick-lit" but any genre.  

Real Brains

Now that I work in the mornings I like to start my day with NPR and "Fresh Air."  Sometimes I get funny looks (like the segment about movie musicals) from the regulars, but usually it's the most peaceful part of my day.  Whether it's celebrity interviews (I love you, Dolly!) or horribly depressing poets it's still great - and sometimes I get introduced to a whole new person or idea.

One morning, a few weeks back I heard a great interview with author Jack Clark who worked as a cab driver in Chicago for 30 years and has published three novels.  He was so down-to-earth and even self-published his first novel and  sold it in his cab for $5!  He had a great quote when asked about why he chose to drive cab - he said "he never wanted to use his 'real brain' for his job."  Not an attitude you hear very often, and I just love that, because I happen to agree wholeheartedly.  Here's a link to the whole story:  Fresh Air Interview

"Heart of the Matter" - Emily Giffin - 2010

Thankfully, I wasn't reminded of Don Henley until the final pages.  What is up with the song titles for book titles trend?  It drives me crazy, but that being said, that title is pretty dead on - this book is all about forgiveness.  This is the story of two women, a wife and the other woman, told in alternating chapters and interestingly one in first person, and the other in third.  The husband is actually a pediatric surgeon, like the fake boyfriend in the last book I read.  

"Heart of the Matter" surprised me with a guest appearance from my favorite Giffin novel.  I often complain about couples who re-appear in novels after their own HEA but, I loved seeing Dex and Rachel's "perfect" marriage and the little head nod to her daily conversations with Darcy (the somewhat-scorned heroine of 'Something Blue').   I worried that "Heart of the Matter" would read as "Something Borrowed" the sequel, but it holds its own and showcases a completely different sort of love story.  

I flew through "Heart of the Matter" during a lazy Labor Day Weekend afternoon, and it has inspired me to try to get in one more re-read of "Something Borrowed" before Hollywood completely ruins it!  

"Too Good To Be True" - Kristin Higgins - 2009

I wish Kristin Higgins would just suck it up and write the male perspective.  

She's talented and funny, and when she's on, her books are tugging my heartstrings left and right.  

However, she only writes first-person POV and 300 pages or so are just about 150 too many to be trapped within those neurotic ladies brains!  Take Grace in "Too Good To Be True" for example:  she's a history nerd, a "Pleaser" middle child who just got dumped by her fiance - and gave her blessing for him to date her little sister - so she makes up a fake doctor boyfriend to compensate and avoid pitying looks.  No, she's not 15 - she's 30 something.  She also accidentally beats the shit out of the hero and focuses on his past over and over again - I find it hard to understand what appealed to him about her. Which brings me to another issue with the first person POV...
Sometimes Higgins' novels seem light on actual romance.  You don't see a lot of the hero, or he doesn't become a potential hero until the last 50 pages, etc  - but I'm convinced she could kill it if we finally got to hear what the hero is thinking.  Maybe then these "tragic spinsters" would be a little more likable and a lot less annoying.