"Sweethearts" - Sara Zarr - 2008

While cleaning up my zillion bookmarks I came across a list geared right to me - "The Most Swoonworthy YA couples of all time" on a site called Forever Young Adult "for YA readers who are a little less Y and a bit more A" - which also applies to me.  There were a few couples (and books) I didn't know including Cameron and Jenna from Sara Zarr's "Sweethearts."  I love that cover by the way - not only is it cute and clean it actually fits the story - (which includes the most dead-on descriptions of food for comfort I've ever read).

This book was not at all what I expected, I thought it would be a light, quick read - it's more than that, and it's more than a romance in many ways.  Zarr's style and prose is sparse and wonderful, capturing both the trauma and innocence of childhood effortlessly.  

Hell yeah, Cameron Quick and Sara Zarr. I see some glomming in my future. 


I just read a little more about "Sweethearts" on FYA and it seems that Tim Riggins (well, the actor who plays him) is universally chosen for the role of Cameron Quick if a movie were made, and I laughed and laughed and then thought, well yeah, a 6'2" emancipated minor who doesn't say much?  
Of course, Tim Riggins. Haha!

"Some Brief Folly" - Patricia Veryan - 1981

When the latest AAR Top 100 came out, many long-time romance readers on the message boards complained about the relative newness of the books and authors.  It seems newer readers did most of the voting or just out-voted some older favorites.  One reader posted about the dearth of iconic romance authors on the list and also mentioned a few names I'd never read - Julia Ross, Patricia Veryan, and Eva Ibbotson.  The library had no titles by Ross, but quite a few by Veryan and Ibbotson - I grabbed at random.

Though it took me weeks to finish "Some Brief Folly" by Patricia Veryan was pleasantly surprising.  It's one of those stories  that isn't so much a mystery as a snowglobe.  The answers are shaken up and trapped, and seem really obvious when they settle down.  Veryan was known for her Regencies, especially the "Golden Chronicles" a series of five novels which was given a DIK review.  While I wouldn't just grab any Veryan again, (she has two "F" grades as well as that "A") As for "SBF" I found the hero pompous in a bad way, but I did enjoy the intelligent heroine and cast of kooky characters, even if the story did tie itself up too neatly in the end.

Resolutions 2010/Looking at 2011

Well, let's see how I did.

My monthly classics reading lasted until May - which is better than the previous attempt which ended in February.  Fell off the wagon with "Jude the Obscure" - and never did finish "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."

Seems I lost my checklist back in May as well - I'm not really sure what happened.  No significant thing, maybe I didn't need it anymore - or maybe I just became too lazy.

The Good:
Shot a lot of film, some that will become paintings.
New series in the works.
Wormed my way into the theater.
Used my sewing machine (a few times...)
Maintained an organized studio - mostly.
Every month in 2010 except January -  I posted more times on this
blog than the same month in 2009.
The checklist was a way to get me into the studio, 
and now I am comfortable there, 
so I just have to do it.

For 2011:

I get overwhelmed easily, and I shut down/avoid things instead of working through issues, so the resolutions this year will be simpler and specific to the month.  Let's try for 10.  


I have some time off while the shop is closed, so there's no excuse not to:

1) Paint the kitchen a lovely shade of tangerine.
2) Paint coffee table, hide the footprints.
3) Grids.  Time to start getting serious.
4) Research (Styling/Titus/Bookbinding/Internet). Ditto
5) Sketch Comedy Marketing/Props - hearts all over town.  
6) Read a novel I should have read (classic or not). 
7) Finish/give away one item from the misc craft box.  
8) Do something with one item in closet. 
9) Use a new fabric.
10) Watch a 'classic' film.  

That should be good, right??

In the words of Mr. Tom Petty, 
"It's time to move on, time to get going..."


"Just One of the Guys" - Kristan Higgins - 2008

Re-reads are a funny thing, I commonly re-read the same sections of my favorite books, but rarely re-read an entire book.  Usually another book by the same author will lead me back for better of worse.  I read "Just One of the Guys" in late 2008 (just before I started keeping this blog) and really enjoyed it.  Now it's two years and at least 4 Higgins novels later and I wasn't quite as impressed.  I wanted to revisit this particular novel because the ending of "All I Ever Wanted" really felt familiar to the finale of "Just One of the Guys." As I said in the "AIEW" review a few days ago, Higgins always has the same elements, and they are all starting to run together.  Also I skimmed my earlier reviews and found I had the exact same issues - no hero's POV and desperate heroines.  While Chastity is a type of heroine you don't often see, tall and very athletic, inside she's the same as any other 'adorable' but hopeless Higgins heroine.  Also she's a nerd and the Lord of the Rings references are a bit much - and this is coming from a girl who just watched the entire appendices of special features last week!  There isn't enough quality page time with the hero, and there's an equal amount with the wrong man.  I bought the ending (no tears the second time around though) but would have loved better circumstances for these two.  I guess it boils down to enjoying this story more before I'd seen it done several times - by the same author.    

Books to Look for - A Reminder to me

Because I'll just lose the scrap of paper I wrote them on.

"Knight of a Trillion Stars" and "Mine to Take" - Dara Joy (Paranormals 1997-8, A and A+ on AAR)
"The Famous Heroine" - Mary Balogh (one I've never heard of)
"The Vicar's Daughter" - Deborah Simmons (highly recommended and a plot I love)
"Jackson Rule" Dinah McCall (DIK - 1996)
"Bewitching" - Jill Barnett (1993 - paranormal)
"By Arrangement" - Madeline Hunter
"Daughter of the Game" - Tracy Grant (2003 at library)
"Scoundrel" - Elizabeth Elliot
"Broken Wing" - Judith James
"The Duke" - Gaelen Foley
"A Bride Worth Waiting For" - Cara Colter
The Seduction - Julia Ross

"All I Ever Wanted" - Kristan Higgins - 2010

All I ever wanted was a lime green house, rocking chair, cute shoes, cute dog and a lap to sit on.  
Well, I'm down for all of those things, especially the lime green house!  Kristan Higgins has great covers with dogs and bright colors, but this one is my favorite - it really fits the book right down to the rocking chair. On the flip side the back cover blurb was so off-putting I had this book in my hand to purchase it and put it back. However, the next book store visit I took a gamble on Higgins and ignored the blurb.  

When Kristan Higgins is on her game she writes some of the best contemporary romances around.  She’s a funny comfort read, and you can always count on a crazy family, a charming small town
and a neurotic heroine desperate to meet Mr. Right.  While I always love the towns and the families, the heroines’ first-person POV can be a bit much.  It always comes down to spending too much time in the heroine's brain and never enough page time with the hero.  With every new Higgins novel I read I find myself longing for the hero’s perspective - an insight to the hero’s thoughts and feelings could take her novels to a Jennifer Crusie-esque level for me.  I have no issues with first-person perspective in other genres, but the only time I feel a standard romance needs a first-person POV is when the heroine has two options for who the HEA will be with.

"All I Ever Wanted" has two love interests, but not really.  One is a d-bag straight out the gate - and the heroine's fixation through the first half almost kills the book for me.  Thankfully instead of getting crazier she gets practical - instead of madcap nonsense to get her man she gets to know a complicated and unexpected hero.  And thank god she did.  The hero of 'All I Ever Wanted' made me laugh out loud - AND - tear up a little, not an easy feat on either account!  He's a 'Darcy'ish cold fish - how can you resist that? Put him a room with a Brownie Troop and it's pure magic.

I love when the timing is right and not only do you have an entire evening to read, you want to finish the book, because it's so damn good.  I spent most of an evening being anti-social and completely wrapped up in Callie and Ian's story, way too late for how early I have to wake up - I ended up falling asleep with 4 pages to go! Ridiculous. Unfortunately, I lost a bit of emotional momentum by finishing the next day. The dramatic ending struck me as a bit rushed and, something that's been done before - by Higgins herself.  For all it's good points, Higgins used that awful plot device - the big misunderstanding to pull apart and reunite her lovers. I could have done without it.  Other than that I'd say Higgins is back on top of light contemporary single title romance (for me anyway) and if I ever got to hear the hero she would write a keeper every time, I just know it!  

The results are in...

...and I was pretty far off.  The 2010 Top 100 on AAR results are in.  I called P&P for #1, but "Lord of Scoundrels" held on.  So did Lisa Kleypas "Dreaming of You" at #2 - and I was very wrong about "Devil in Winter" - not only did it stay in the Top 10 it moved up to #3!  Lizzie and Darcy dropped to #4, and "Outlander," "Flowers from the Storm" and "Slightly Dangerous" each bumped back one in the standings. However, "The Viscount Who Loved Me" jumped from #10 to #8 - and two "upstarts" made their way in to the current Top 10.  Elizabeth Hoyt made quite a splash a few years ago with her "Prince Trilogy" - seems the first, "The Raven Prince" (2006) stayed with lots of readers (the other two novels also made the list).  Congratulations to Jennifer Ashley for her complicated hero everyone loved in "The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie" (2009).  "Bet Me" is still my fave, but it fell to #16 - and my girl Jennifer Crusie fell out of the Top 10 altogether!  "Welcome to Temptation" landed at #35 - I blame those partner books with Bob Mayer!

I broke down where I fall in this year's survey.
I have read 67 of the 100. 
I will not read 13 of the remaining 33. 
I will look for 14 of the remaining 20.
The remaining 6 are either books I may have read but can't 
remember - or books I'll get around to reading maybe.

As for the 2007 survey...
I have read 56 of the 100.
I will not read 21 of the remaining 44.
I will look for 14 of the remaining 23.
The remaining 7 are up in the air - maybe I did, maybe I won't.  

In 2004 I was pretty new to Romance a year or two in...
I have read 56 of the 100 (not the same 56).
I will not read 16 of the remaining 44.
I will look for 20 of the remaining 28 .
I am not sure about the other 8.

In the year 2000, In the year 2000 (higher)
I have read 51 of the 100.
I will not read 16 of the remaining 49.
I will look for 15 of the remaining 33.
I am unsure about a whopping 18 this time.
The older list includes a few authors I'm unfamiliar with or never found.
And I'm starting to get worn down by seeing the same keepers from
Linda Howard, Suzanne Brockmann and Nora Roberts!
I'm wondering whether they are worth another chance, then I look at Navy SEAL plots,
murder and policemen and think, no.  I'm good.

"Not what they seem..."

Owl Lover 2011 Calendar

but they are adorable and free!

"The Wives of Bowie Stone" - Maggie Osborne- 1994

The heroine of "The Wives of Bowie Stone" wife #2, Rose Mary Mulvehey is the most interesting female character I can remember in any romance.   She only bathes after spending a night in jail - she goes to jail for getting drunk and shooting up the saloon, she smokes, rides fast and lives rough as any cowboy in the west.  She was also abused by her step-father, and depends on alcohol to cope.  She is complex and difficult - she would never have 'caught' a husband without a post-war town loophole.  The town of Passion's Crossing (sounds like a soap opera name doesn't it?) needs men, and they are in such limited supply a woman can save a man from a hanging if she marries him.  Rosie chooses Bowie Stone - who escaped the noose and fails to mention wife #1.  

Rosie sees a profitable harvest as the ultimate revenge on the step-father who died before she could kill him.  She needs Bowie to be her 'roustabout' or man of all work and over the course of a year he pulls the plow because her horse is the only good thing she owns, they work until they bleed and do it despite the town's mockery.  Bowie and Rosie fall in love slowly.  Which makes sense as she looks like 'Calamity Jane' from HBO's "Deadwood" for most of the book.  I must admit that's kind of how she talked in my head too, it was pretty distracting. 

Bowie discovers the beautiful woman underneath the liquor, dirt and men's clothing - but most importantly he helps Rosie dry out and see the beautiful woman she is.  

There's a nice subplot with Susan Stone - wife #1 - learning to take care of herself without the support of a man.  Bowie never loved Susan, his brother died while she was pregnant, Bowie marries her to give his nephew a name.  She's never had to do more than plan menus and act as hostess.  In the west she meets a man who expects more and finds more courage than she knew she had.     

My only issues with "The Wives of Bowie Stone" are plot issues.  There were a few loose ends that tied up too neatly and unnecessarily in my opinion.  But overall this book is wonderful at showing a completely new heroine and a real hero to love her.  

"Kisses To Go" - Irene Peterson - 2007

 Why do people keep sneaking magic and new age shit into perfectly harmless (i.e. ho-hum) contemporary romances without mentioning it ANYWHERE on the outside covers? New Age readings, dancing at Stonehenge, and a sworn secret about King Arthur's grave??? I didn't sign up for that!  I picked this book up while on a restaurant romance kick - yes, the heroine is a chef, kind of, maybe - diner food vs. gourmet? I don't know.  The hero was a jerk and the plot sucked all on it's own, too,  separate from the 'magic.' 

I can handle reading a less than average novel when I haven't read any reviews first, that's a risk I take when I don't have internet access, but I hate being mislead by back cover blurbs and the lack of "paranormal/fantasy" listings on the spine.  Zebra is trying to sell more books to a wider audience, I get it - but it's also bull shit.