Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Healer / Sharon Sala. 2008

Sharon Sala (aka Dinah McCall) is a new-to-me author. I ran over to the library to pick up her latest book after seeing the very hilarious Author Talk interview with her, found here. The Healer is a wonderful story that I read in a day and thoroughly enjoyed.

The Healer is the story of Jonah Gray Wolf, a man with very unusual gifts: he can heal people's injuries and illnesses through touch and he can communicate with animals. His life is destroyed, however, when Jonah heals a man who believes that he can achieve immortality if Jonah is under his control. Jonah goes on the run and stays on the run for 10 years until he winds up in a small West Virginia town. This is where the main part of the book begins and here is where he meets Lucia Andahar, a woman who has experienced trauma of her own. At the time of their meeting, Lucia is being stalked and she is increasingly fearful due to the threatening notes the stalker keeps leaving her, as well as an attempt to kill her dog. She and Jonah are instantly attracted to one another and soon she's told Jonah of her stalker. When he finds and confronts the stalker, it brings media attention to their small town. This in turn brings the ones hunting Jonah into their midst. Jonah decides it's time to take a stand and stop running.

This is a very quick read. Ms. Sala tells an interesting story. Jonah's gift is a mystery--both to him as well as to us. Jonah is an orphan. Since he knows nothing of his parents he doesn't know how or why he came to have his gifts. It is an unusual way to weave in a touch of the paranormal. I think the author is telling us that some things simply cannot be explained. Another thing that's very quick is how fast Jonah and Lucia fall in love. Within 48 hours they know they were meant for one another. I usually question this in a book, but when the characters themselves acknowledge how strange it is to find themselves in love so quickly, it makes it a little easier to swallow. Since it ties into Jonah and his mysterious gifts, it works.

I thought the book had excellent pacing, well-drawn characters, and I could easily imagine the small town of Little Top, WV, where most of the book takes place. Jonah and Lucia's relationship was believable as was the way people reacted to Jonah when they discovered what he could do. I definitely recommend this book and I'll be looking for more Sharon Sala/Dinah McCall books.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I finished some stuff recently...

It's been awhile since I posted any quilt pictures. Here are some small things that I recently finished:

I posted a picture of this back in April when it was just squares up on my design board. This was a gift for a co-worker's baby shower.

I made another "Waffle Time" table runner. The first one is here. I do like this pattern and I'm sure I'll be making more of them. Anyhow, here's the latest:

Both quilts above were done entirely by machine. Here's one that I did entirely by hand. It is only 15" x 15", so it didn't take very long to make it.

I have a friend who re-did her kitchen and collects roosters for it. I found this rooster fabric and knew I had to make something for her. Just because.

I do do something besides read all the time. Ha!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

TBR Day. This Rake of Mine / Elizabeth Boyle. 2005

Elizabeth Boyle writes that style of romance that I consider “Regency Lite.” I honestly don’t mean that in a derogatory way, although some may take it that way. Her books are usually fun and easy to read, but because there’s a bit too much 21st century sensibility, they aren’t stellar historicals. Nonetheless, I am a fan of Ms. Boyle’s writing because I like her voice and her humor. I remember buying this book when it was published, but there were some disappointing reviews of it, so I didn’t get around to reading it until now.

I must add that I am enjoying going through my TBR shelf each month trying to decide what to read this time around.

This Rake of Mine is loosely related to her series of books on the Danvers family as well as the book previous to this, Something about Emmaline. However it stands on its own quite well. The back blurb tells the story well enough, so I'll be lazy and copy it:

When the rakehell Lord Jack Tremont kissed Miranda Mabberly, mistaking her for his mistress, neither realized his reckless act would cost Miranda her reputation, her fiancé, and her future. But for Jack, it was a kiss that would haunt him-- an intoxicating memory of a woman lost to him forever.
Years later, hiding incognito far from London -- a teacher at Miss Emery’s Establishment for the Education of Genteel Ladies -- Miranda has made a respectable life for herself, away from the ton and the dangerous men who inhabit it. When a penniless, much humbled, though still damnably attractive Jack arrives at the school to escort a rebellious young niece home, Miranda does her best to avoid the rogue only to end up tumbling into his arms -- and reawakening a desire that is anything but proper.
She might want to deny her heart, but Miranda’s resolve is no match for a trio of schoolgirl matchmakers who knows true passion when they spy it. Now they won’t rest until their all-too-proper teacher and the reprobate lord discover the love that is their destiny.

The problem here is that the set of circumstances that leads Miranda to her reunion with Jack on his estate is just wildly improbable. In truth, I had a hard time accepting most of the plot. I could list a number of things that bothered me, but I just don’t want to take the time. Had I been in the hands of another author, I wouldn’t have finished the book.

What did keep me reading is what I said above. I like Ms. Boyle’s voice and how she can smoothly tell a story. Her characters are often vibrant, witty, charming, and easy to like. I could get invested emotionally without a lot of effort. The book is not long, so it was a pleasant way to pass time on the bus to and from work last week. But I’d far rather recommend One Night of Passion or Stealing the Bride than this one.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

With Every Breath / Lynn Kurland. 2008

I discovered Lynn Kurland’s books around 4-5 years ago and blissfully read my way through her entire back list. I’m unabashedly a big fan of her writing. A couple of years ago on a reader forum somewhere I read that her books are full of anachronisms and I realized that she has quite a few harsh critics. But I love her stories and characters so much that I just cannot get worked up about the stuff that obviously bothers others. So because this one wasn’t available on Fictionwise the day it was released I did something I never do anymore—I bought it in print. And I am so glad I did. I had to force myself to read it slowly as it’ll probably be a year until her next release.

With Every Breath is another of her time travel stories, pulling in characters from previous books and novellas. While this stands alone quite well, it’s certainly more entertaining if you’ve read the other related books. Heroine Sunshine (Sunny) Phillips is the sister of Madelyn, heroine of A Garden in the Rain. Sunshine is drawn back to the year 1375 when Robert Cameron comes knocking on her door seeking help for his wounded brother. They fall in love, adventure ensues, and danger sends them running, eventually catapulting them back to the present. Only when Sunny wakes up, Cameron isn’t with her, and Sunny has to assume he’s lost to her. But not long after her return she meets business tycoon Robert Cameron—her Robert Cameron (she recognizes his scars, so she knows it’s him), only he has no idea who she is. Sunny is hurt beyond belief that he doesn’t know her while Cameron is strongly drawn to this woman who apparently knows him, but he has no idea how. Apparently when the two came back to the future they wound up in different years.

(This is probably the kind of thing that drives LK’s critics up the wall. There’s little logic to this time travel business in her books. To me, that’s the charm. Your mileage may vary.)

There are numerous interesting twists to this story starting with Cameron’s amnesia when it comes to Sunny. I’ve only read a handful of books with an amnesia plot, but to the best of my recollection, this is the first one I’ve come across where the hero is the one suffering amnesia. Cameron quickly falls in love with Sunny again, but things are complicated because he’s engaged to a bitchy woman he doesn’t love, but agreed to marry out of loyalty to the woman’s father. Sunny is still in love with Cameron, but doesn’t want him coming around her while he’s still engaged to another woman.

There’s a section in the middle of the book where Sunny is constantly crying and running away because there’s Cameron only she can’t have him because 1) he doesn’t remember their shared past, and 2) he’s engaged to someone else. It was starting to get old and I was on the verge of deciding that I didn’t like Sunny very much, when she finally decides to suck it up, trust Cameron, and wait for him to be free. That change on her part did not come a moment too soon, because I dislike characters who run from their problems. Sunny reverts to the Sunny we met in the very first part of the book who dealt with everything head-on. Whew. I suspect this inconsistency in Sunny’s character will bother some readers.

But Cam, now he totally redeems the book. Cameron was easy to like—a hero who combined the best characteristics of both alpha and beta heroes. He’s been in the future for 8 years before he sees Sunny again. He was aided by Alistair Cameron (a descendant of one of Robert Cameron’s brothers) and in a mere 8 years has adapted to the future, become well established in the business world, and earned himself a fortune. Don’t fictional heroes have all the luck? Interestingly, he is unaware that there are others like himself who have traveled from medieval Scotland to the 21st century. There’s a very poignant moment when Cameron realizes he’s not alone.

A part of the plot involves the fact that someone is trying to destroy Cameron and his business. Because he doesn’t want Sunny harmed by those trying to harm him (and that includes his fiancé), he wants to postpone dumping his fiancé and having a public relationship with Sunny. This part of the plot seems a little far-fetched until we learn who’s been manipulating everything behind the scenes. It’s a fun little mystery, but it doesn’t overwhelm Cam and Sunny’s story.

In the end, this is a largely character-driven romance with two characters I liked very much, especially Cam. Ms. Kurland’s appeal for me is her ability to convey genuine emotion with smooth prose and a good bit of gentle humor. She scored again and I happily recommend this book.