Thursday, October 30, 2008

Anthologies, Anthologies

First, we have to celebrate! Phils win! Phils win!

My preoccupation with the World Series coupled with a quilt deadline has resulted in fewer lengthy chunks of time for reading. So mixed in with the full-length books I finished this month are a couple of anthologies. And I just got started on a third. I love 100-page novellas. I can usually knock one off in an hour and get back to whatever other stuff is waiting for me. It's often chancy with novellas. Some authors are very, very good with them. Some.... eh, not so good.

I pretty much lucked out with these two. The first one, It Happened One Night, is a Regency collection that was an interesting experiment inspired by an idea of Mary Balogh's. What if 4 authors agreed to write stories based on the same basic plot? How similar or different would the stories be. Mary was convinced the stories would be quite different, and she was right. In this case the plot is 2 lovers reunite after a chance encounter at an inn. The 2 haven't seen each other in 10 years. It was fun to see how differently each author did this. Unfortunately, I wasn't crazy about all 4 stories. But I loved the one by Mary Balogh. Truly, she excels at the short format and she can still pack an emotional punch. It was worth adding this to my Mary Balogh collection just for this story. I also really liked the one by Jacquie D'Alessandro. Stephanie Laurens' story was typical in that it involved a bit of intrigue and a hero who insisted on calling the shots. I usually like Stephanie Laurens, but I'm not so sure the short story is a format suited for her. The final story by Candice Hern was sweet, but I couldn't get engaged by it. I'm shallow--I just don't like stories featuring older couples. Oh well. I wish they'd asked Carla Kelly to be part of the anthology. She's another author who excels at the short format.

The second anthology To All a Good Night was a fun read all the way through. My favorite was the one by Jill Shalvis, but I honestly enjoyed them all. These authors are great with witty dialogue and I love watching their characters spar and get to know one another.

Finally there's this one here that I'm just getting ready to start. I'm reading it more for the J.D. Robb story--a tune up for the next full length book due on Tuesday, Salvation in Death.

So, I mentioned a quilt deadline. A very good friend wanted a Halloween quilt for her mother who was born on Halloween. I found this kit and finished it up Monday, just in time to get it in the mail. I heard from my friend that it arrived safely today. Yea! I hope they like it. Anyhow, the color in the picture is a little washed out. But if click on it you can see the colored thread I used on the black fabric. It was a varigated thread in fall colors. It was a dream to sew with and I'm pleased with the results.

And here's a shot of the back. You can see the stars I quilted into the middle border.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

TBR Two-Fer--Two Barbara Metzger classics

When Signet was still publishing traditional Regencies, they would occasionally reissue two older titles in a combined volume. It was a great way for newer readers to acquire classic books from favorite authors. I picked up a few of these back in 2005 and 2006 and this is one I never got around to reading. This particular duo was reissued in 2006. I love Barbara Metzger’s old Regencies. Like Mary Balogh and Carla Kelly, Metzger has a unique voice. Unlike the other two authors, though, Metzger’s books tend to be much lighter. When I want a dash of humor, I can usually count on a Metzger. Her dialogue sparkles and her books are easy to read.

This duo consists of Rake’s Ransom, originally published in 1986, and A Loyal Companion, originally published in 1992. Interestingly, the stories are very similar (other duet reissues I have don’t have stories that mirror one another as much as this book does). Both books include:

  • A young heroine, raised in the country, spoiled by her widowed father, and given free reign to do as she pleases.

  • An older hero, titled, who has served in the Army in the Peninsula Wars.

  • A dog (well, all of Metzger's books have a dog that serves as a notable character).

  • A forced London season (the heroine, being a bit of a hoyden, would rather stay with her father in the country).

  • A villain who provides the conflict and some degree of comic relief.

Given how similar the two books are, I’m not sure it was such a great idea to read them back-to-back. I was just feeling too much deja vu when reading ALC to enjoy it as much as I might have had I put some time between the two of them. But that said, there are some notable differences:

In RR, heroine Jacelyn accidentally finds herself in a compromising situation with the hero Leigh. For Leigh it’s love at first sight and he insists on a “pretend” engagement, fully determined to see it become a real engagement and marriage.

In ALC, Sonia, a girl who rescues strays, finds herself sent to London for a season where she meets Darius. Darius is an outcast (i.e. stray) from society because of a past scandal. He’s guardian to his 3 young nieces and Sonia sees to it that he’s restored to society.

ALC is well-known among traditional Regency fans because each chapter has a section written from the POV of the dog. Yes, the dog. And in the beginning it works. But the dog takes up so much of the center stage that there is little opportunity to see the relationship between Sonia and Darius develop. The dog tells much of the story, breaking the cardinal “show, don’t tell” rule. This wasn’t so bad in the beginning of the book, but at the end when the tension is building it got in the way. Thus, because the story felt repetitive, and the dog part became annoying, I wasn’t so fond of TLC.

I loved RR, though. Jacelyn is 17-18 years old and she acts that way. Many of her actions are impulsive and immature. Leigh is 28-33 (can’t remember and don’t want to try and find out) and he realizes that he needs to take it slow with Jacelyn. I really thought the characterizations were accurate, and it made me realize how often I read books where the 17-year old heroine somehow has the maturity of a 30-year old woman. I loved that Leigh falls for Jacelyn right away, uses terms of endearment that he really means, but doesn’t push himself on Jacelyn until she’s ready for him. There’s lots of dialogue between the two of them and you can see their relationship grow and develop. You even see Jacelyn grow up as she learns to live within society’s expectations and recognizes that she no longer has the personal freedom she enjoyed sheltered away on her father’s estate. This one I can definitely recommend.

I have Barbara Metzger’s last 2 books sitting on my TBR pile, one of which was published this past summer. After reading this month's TBR I have to go find those 2 books.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sharing blog love

Last week Jace tagged my blog as one of her favorites. How flattering! I'm supposed to tag some other blogs, but since several of my favorites have already been tagged, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what's in my feeder so you can learn a little more about me. So apologies, Jace, for breaking the rules, but I hope the 3 or 4 of you who read this blog enjoy seeing where I hang out! OK, technically this isn't a blog, but my guys are halfway to the Fall Classic and I am obsessed with baseball right now. I also follow Penn State (we're Number 3! we're Number 3!) and the Eagles. I love the fall when I can quilt while I listen to football or baseball at the same time.

My favorite quilting blogs include:

Valori Wells. Valori is a talented artist and designer. I enjoy learning about her design process coupled with glimpses of her beautiful family.
SHNOODLE.A block a day. Seriously. I'm beyond impressed.
Will Work for Fabric. And you think I'm productive? Not!

I subscribe to over a dozen author blogs. A couple really make me laugh as well as make me think. Check out Jill Shalvis and enjoy her pictures of the beautiful Lake Tahoe area while you giggle. Or Word Wenches where the world's best historical romance authors have gathered together to talk about their research, their process and their books. Always interesting reading.

I subscribe to a boatload of reader blogs too. I pop around from place to place, but I have to give a shout out to Kristie J, as hers was the first reader blog I ever found. From there I clicked on all her links and found one great blog after another. Addictive stuff.

Food. I love my food. But I'm not so fond of cooking. I like ideas that make healthy cooking easy. The Crockpot Lady has it down.

And there are some serious ones too. Work-related (boring!--we'll skip those) and health-related. Since our family is touched by type-1 diabetes, I also read a number of diabetes blogs that focus on type-1 and the unique issues we face.

Geez, that's a lot of reading! No wonder I have no time to post more often!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Phyl's 5 Phaves from September

Well, according to that list on the right I only read 10 books last month. Unusual for me as I tend to average 15-20 books per month. But I guess it makes it easier for me to choose my 5 phaves:

5. Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs. This was my first book by PB. And I know some other bloggers have said this book can stand alone, but I strongly disagree. The novella "Alpha and Omega" appeared in the anthology On the Prowl and I am so glad I read that first. I think many nuances would have gone straight over my head had I not. Several times I saw references to what had come before and I couldn't imagine NOT having read AaO first. That said, Cry Wolf was very entertaining and an interesting way for a newbie to enter PB's world.

4. One with the Darkness by Susan Squires. This is her latest entry in her companion series, a different take on the whole vampire thing. This was done with a time travel (TT) twist. The book begins and ends in 19th century Italy, but the bulk of it takes place in 1st century Rome. The unusual historical setting alone made it worth reading. In the best of situations, TT is hard enough to wrap my poor brain around; this book seemed a tad too illogical in its explanations of the consequences of the TT. Nonetheless, I liked the story and the main relationship well enough that I had a hard time putting it down.

3. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. See my post from 3 days ago.

2. Hostage to Pleasure by Nalini Singh. This is another strong entry in NS's Psy/Changeling series. I do agree with some bloggers/commenters who feel that not enough attention was paid to the central relationship. However, there is some great world-building going on in these books and I was drawn in by the ongoing conflicts between the psy and changeling groups, and hints that humans have entered the fray as well. The romance was satisfying enough, but I wouldn't have minded had there been more of it.

1. The Price of Desire by Jo Goodman. I should have blogged about this when I read it. I meant to, honest, but then we had that stupid wind storm; the power went out, blah, blah, blah. This was one awesome book. Layer upon layer gently peeled back in this story that focused primarily on the relationship. There is a small suspense part to the plot, but it doesn't take away from these wonderfully long, intense scenes between our main protagonists. I come away from reading JG's books totally in awe of her talent as a writer. This was no exception. I wish she wrote more than one book a year, but when they're as well-written as this one, she should take all the time she needs.