Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Progress report

This quilt makes me happy. I think it's the bright colors. I'm having fun watching the rainbow emerge each time I add a set of rows. Next up purple and purple/blue. It's going to be graphic and dramatic when it's finished.

And if this quilt makes you happy, you can own it by being the high bidder in May at the Brenda Novak auction for diabetes research.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I WON!!!

A couple of you have already left a comment at my Oh My! post from 2/25. Yes, I won the "It Happened One Season" contest. Sponsored by Avon/Harper Collins, the contest allowed readers to submit plot suggestions for an anthology to be published in 2011. You can read more about it here on the official web page of the contest.

Voting ended on Saturday and it showed that I had a healthy lead. But the web page didn't formally announce me as winner until this morning. Shortly after that I got a lovely email from Mary Balogh, one of the anthology's authors, and the woman whose books got me back into reading romance again. She congratulated me on my win and told me that she was "thrilled" that my entry had won. She went on to say she looked forward to writing my story. In fact, she's already written a quarter of it.

Excuse me. Who cares about the prize money? I'm going to step aside for a few minutes and have a loud, embarrassing, squeeing fangirl moment.



OK. I'm back. I'm 52. I know how to be mature.

I think.

A huge, huge THANK YOU to all of you who voted for my entry and thought it was worth voting for on its own merits. I was flattered beyond belief that 4 well-respected authors chose my entry to be a finalist. And while I had some friends and family vote for me, it was the votes from all the readers I don't know that put me over the top. That's humbling, and I'm truly grateful.

Christine wants to know if I'll autograph her copy. Ha! Maybe I'll even give away a few. I'm not sure exactly when the book will come out. Early 2011 I believe. I'm sure I'll be letting you know.

Now I get to dream about the $1000 gift card. My kid wants us to get a flat-screen TV. Mama wants a new sewing machine.

TBR Day. The Counterfeit Marriage / Joan Wolf. 1980.

A few years back I spent a grand total of $6.00 and bought a small stack of old traditional Regencies by Joan Wolf, all published in the '80s. Joan Wolf (link provided, but her site is currently offline) wrote a couple of my favorite trads, including The American Duchess and His Lordship's Mistress. The ones I bought were her earliest books. This particular book, The Counterfeit Marriage, was her very first.

I'm sorry to say that I could not bring myself to finish it.

TCM was published February 1980. Perhaps the date explains why the book begins with a rape of the heroine by the hero. When Catherine seems to get over her anger with James by p. 26, I knew I wouldn't go much further.

I did skim through the rest of the book. There's some interesting period stuff there. The book takes place after Waterloo. James had been instrumental in some of the diplomatic stuff after the war, but he leaves Vienna dissatisfied with the political situation and what he sees as a betrayal of the people of Spain. The Spaniards fought valiantly to repel Napoleon, only to see the European powers put a despotic king back on the throne of Spain. Anyhow, Catherine helps James see that hiding in the country pouting isn't going to improve the political situation.

So this whole book could have been made not only palatable, but flat out interesting if there had been some other reason to force a marriage of convenience between James and Catherine. But a drunken, brutal rape? James apologizes and all is good?

Uh, no.

While I was debating whether to finish it or not, I did a little googling to see if any other bloggers had anything to say about TCM. Joan Wolf herself mentions the book in an interview she did on Word Wenches back in 2007. She was not complimentary about her own book. Or you can see the comment by Janine here when Keishon reviewed An American Duchess. That pretty much convinced me to forget about finishing it.

So, what should I do with the book? I don't particularly want to keep it. If someone wants it, leave a comment saying so. I don't want to throw it away, either. That just seems wrong, lol!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thinking about the Brenda Novak diabetes auction

It's that time of year again and I need to get a quilt made for the Brenda Novak Auction to benefit diabetes research. Both Brenda & I have sons the same age who have Type 1. I am thrilled to participate for the second straight year.

This year I'm thinking "rainbow."

And here's a sneak preview of my work in progress. I expect to have the top completed by the end of the weekend.

You should go check out the auction site. There's already some cool stuff posted.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Heart Change / Robin D. Owens. 2009

I have been a fan of Robin D. Owens' Heart series since I first read Heart Thief some 6 or 7 years ago. That book was actually the second in the series, but that was the one I started with. Owens writes fantasy/futuristic books. The Heart books have a strong paranormal element. They take place in the future on a distant planet called Celta. The inhabitants of Celta are descendants of a group of humans who landed there in the distant past. Being on Celta caused the growth of the humans' psi powers.

Over the years I've found this series to be engaging as much for the creative and complex world-building Owens has done as for the romances contained therein. The main society is an aristocratic one, so the idea of "First Families" and "Grand Families" would strike a chord if you're fond of English-set historicals. The belief system has rituals surrounding the sun and moons of Celta that remind me of pre-Christian Celtic beliefs. People who have enhanced psi power (and not everyone does) have a particular talent or "flair." Some are healers, some are warriors. All kinds of flair are important.

Heart Change opens with Signet D'Marigold contemplating her very lonely life. She knows she has flair, but she's never been able to discover what it is. Her family is all dead and gone and she has no real friends. Suddenly she is asked to take a young girl into her home to help the girl make it through her first "passage," that point in a person's life when they begin to exhibit flair and must learn to control it or die. Overnight Signet's life changes. Besides young Avallana, Signet also welcome into her home Cratag Maytree, a guardsman who has been sent to watch over Avallana and Signet.

Cratag left an unhappy home life on the Southern Continent many years before and has made a life for himself as a valued member of the Hawthorne family household. He is perplexed by this assignment and sees it as a demotion. The bright spot for him, though, is being with Signet, a woman he has seen at a handful of rituals and has been attracted to. Cratag has very little psi power and doesn't see himself as worthy of a relationship with Signet.

In the course of helping Avallana, Signet is able to discover just what her flair can do and how she can use it to help others and become a productive part of her society. And Cratag himself discovers he has more psi talent than he thought. It also turns out that someone wants to harm Avallana, so Cratag's presence is especially important.

The book has an engaging story as two people discover that they each have more than they thought they did--individually and together. Avallana is an unusual little girl (her differences are in part the result of a serious accident that happened when she was young). The minor suspense plot is believable, although I was not surprised by the identity of the villain. I had a hard time putting the book down.

I have to say I appreciate the way Owens has built such an interesting world. There are many parallels to things that are familiar to us. I mentioned the aristocratic society. Another example is the way cats play a huge part in these books. The cats are major characters. They behave in that aloof way that we're familiar with, yet still crave attention. Cats and people speak to one another telepathically. I'm not a cat person, but I do have to say I have fun with the way cats are portrayed in the books. It's done with a lot of love, I do believe.

Owens has also developed an interesting vocabulary--she uses certain words to identify things that are familiar to the reader. It is easy to figure out the meaning of the word through the context. In this particular book Owens also used color and light/darkness to set the scene and the tone in a very effective way.

An engaging story, a touching romance, a well-built futuristic world, and creative prose make it easy for me to recommend this book.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Phyl's 5 Phaves from February

5. Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl. I have to admit I wasn't sure that I was going to like this book. I read some reviews that seemed to over-emphasize Jane's snobbiness and so I thought I wouldn't like the heroine. But instead I was interested in what made her tick, how long she would be able to maintain tight control with so many pressures on her, and how she would finally learn to resolve her past with the woman she wanted to be. I found her to be very interesting and very human. And I also liked Chase. He comes across as a normal guy who was very patient and persistent. Yet he was not without issues of his own. I found them to be a believable couple and it made for an entertaining read. I am glad I decided to read it after all.

4. Lord Wraybourne's Betrothed by Jo Beverley. This was Ms. Beverley's first published book (1988) and it was recently reprinted. It's a sweet traditional regency. Lord Wraybourne needs to marry and he chooses the daughter of a wealthy family. Jane has had a strict and sheltered upbringing and Lord Wraybourne believes he's gaining a quiet, dutiful wife. When she is allowed to go to London to prepare for her marriage, the real Jane emerges. This is a very enjoyable story and well done, especially when you remember it was a first book.

3. Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter. This is the first book in a new quartet by Ms. Hunter. Sebastian and Audrianna are each trying to solve the same mystery. Audrianna is trying to clear her late father's name (he is blamed for sending poor gunpowder to British troops in Spain) while Sebastian wants to know who his co-conspirators were. When they meet and are found in a compromising situation they are forced into a betrothal. The book is the story of them solving the mystery as well as their deepening attraction to one another. As usual, Ms. Hunter's wonderful prose makes the book a treat to read. The other books in the quartet are set up here, but not with a heavy hand. I'm looking forward to the next book which is already out.

2. Upon a Wicked Time by Karen Ranney. Jered is a Duke who needs a wife to produce his heir. He chooses Tessa, who coincidentally is a young woman who had fallen in love with him at the age of 16. Jered is not a nice man. He is a selfish hedonist. Tessa learns quickly that she fell in love with an image, not with the real Jered. Yet while Jered is busy pushing Tessa away, she is more and more determined to make a success of their marriage. This was a hard book to read because of who Jered is and the choices he makes. Jered does not change overnight, and indeed has some hard lessons to learn. I liked how Ms. Ranney portrayed Jered's natural arrogance, which was in large part due to simply being a duke and the way others treated him. Tessa's parents make interesting secondary characters; they are loving and protective of their daughter and have to learn to let her go. This is a rich and sensual story that may not be for everyone, but I was certainly thoroughly engrossed in it.

1. The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig. This is hands down my favorite in Willig's Pink Carnation series since the very first book. The heroine is disgraced Penelope who is hastily married to Sir Frederick Staines when they are caught in compromising position. Freddy is sent off to India and of course Penelope accompanies him. As with the rest of the series there are French spies, more adventure, and true love for Penelope. Interspersed is the continued story of modern-day Eloise who is "researching" the story of the Pink Carnation network. I loved the setting in India (so nice to get out of England once in awhile) and the plot was a little more straightforward than some of the previous books (my poor brain!). This was a very entertaining read, although I would suggest some familiarity with the previous books.

Oh, and I re-read Lord of Scoundrels. As ever, an example of the finest in the genre. I love that book.