Books Read 2012

Books I Read (Minus the DNF) with random commentary.
JAN 2012

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Comments: Incest is icky, but this is a heartbreaking love story between siblings.  And I say this with absolute seriousness. Remember in V.C. Andrews’ Dawn when Philip Cutler is all ‘It’s not incest if we turn the lights off’? and that was um, gross, but in Forbidden, I was really rooting for Maya and Lochan and hoping they’d run away (but not procreate). I felt so TORMENTED after this read.

FEB 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Comments: Pretty Cover!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Comments: Hazel’s quest to meet that Peter Van author dude mirrors my Christopher Pike stalking. I can relate. Unlike Peter Van Mumble Mumble, Christopher Pike is really nice and HE WROTE ON MY FB WALL WISHING ME A HAPPY BIRTHDAY ONE WEEK BEFORE MY ACTUAL BIRTHDAY WHICH MEANS HE HAS ME MARKED ON HIS CALENDER. ZOMG I’VE BEEN MARKED BY THE PIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To quote Hazel: What is this life?????

MARCH 2012

Misery by Stephen King

Comments: The book is much freakier than the movie. I learned a new word: man gland. And when Annie Wilkes threatened to cut off Paul Sheldon’s man gland, I was secretly worshipping Stephen King’s sick mind.

APRIL 2012

Cujo by Stephen King

Comments: Rabid dogs are scary. That’s all. Read with some liberal skimming as there were lots of exposition on ad agencies and whatnot. Could use a ‘man-gland’ now and then.

MAY 2012

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott.

Comments: Stopped page 195. Reason: Library book due. Aspiring dressmaker on Titanic. I liked the pacing and rapid scene breaks, but when my copy went back to the library, I felt like I could live without finishing it. I’d probably pick it back up again when the Titanic mood strikes.

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

Comments: Derek Craven is one sexy gambling kingpin. And he speaks with a cockney accent, much like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, except Derek gets it ON with mousy romance novelist. Not that Dick Van Dyke doesn’t get it ON now and again. If you recall his Penguin dance, he is very flexible and… feral.

JULY 2012

Cracked by K.M. Walton

Comments: The bully and the boy he bullied become roommates in a psych ward. This is neither here nor there, but I kept imagining Biff and George McFly as roommates.

AUGUST 2012

Phantom by Susan Kay

Comments: This is one big mother of a book, but I am obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera and sort of want to marry the man behind the mask. This book is about his life and is so scrumptiously written that I actually looked up from the text to mouth “Wow.” Oh Phantom, you are like the most perfect man EVER. Master architect, magician, composer, tortured genius—who cares about your face? Christine doesn’t deserve you…Please take me to your secret lair and let me play with your mechanical monkey (oh how wrong this sounds).

SEPTEMBER 2012

The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell

Comments: Gothic-y middle grade involving a tumbledown mansion and an aviary filled with creepy birds. Birds freak me out. Feathers. Beaks. Scaly feet. Nasty avian scum! I once saw a man at the beach with two parrots on his arm and nearly tossed my cookies. Do not EVER ask me to pet your pigeon.

God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie Debartolo

Comments: This book is like a love letter to LA from characters who hate LA. This book is hilarious and the voice, my God the voice…Since this is blurbed as “This generation’s Love Story” on the cover, I already knew what was coming and yet, the end felt like a million daggers into my heart all the same. And when I finished picking up the shattered pieces of my heart off the floor, I thought about all the tragic endings I encountered this year. The Phantom. This book. A Fault in Our Stars. Forbidden. It’s the year of tempestuous love and untimely deaths. P.S. I pictured Jacob and Trixie as Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke circa Reality Bites.

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Wallflowers: I’m a Lisa Kleypas fan for life!

Why haven’t I discovered Lisa Kelypas sooner? So recently I’ve been devouring one Kelypas novel after another. They are as addictive as crack or, since I’ve never done crack, they are like… a big bag of hot Cheetos: spicy and finger-licking good. Not that I go around licking my fingers after I read these novels. I checked them out from the library and they came to me severely abused and covered in germs. Ick!

SQUEAL!!!!!!  The Wallflower series! This post is a little premature since I am still on waitlist for Scandal in the Spring, but dudes! I cannot get these books out of my mind. Here’s the whirlwind set-up: sick of being snubbed by all the eligible bachelors in upper-crusty Victorian England, four young women band together to help each other catch husbands. Each heroine has a social defect (too poor, too American, too shy) which has previously branded her undesirable in the marriage game until she finds the right man.

For the week, I have been in bliss! So much so that I’ve made collages of my two favorite books in the series (The Devil in Winter and It Happened One Autumn). While I liked Secrets of a Summer’s Night, I didn’t love it enough to make a collage and you should know by now that a collage from me means business! Fair warning, the following will probably make sense for those who have read the books. I will now commence with my fangirl rambling…

The best thing about IT HAPPENED ONE AUTUMN (pictured below) is the hero/heroine mash up. The key to good romance is all the pairing and the best pairings are always between polar opposites. Lillian Bowman is a brazen American soap heiress who can cuss like a sailor and ride like a man while Marcus, Lord Westcliff is the most proper gentleman in all of England and he WILL look down his aristocratic nose at YOU. In fact, his is exactly like Mr. Darcy right down to the “My good opinion, once lost, is lost forever.” This book IS Pride and Prejudice except with sexy times in secret gardens and abductions involving handcuffs and very proper British men fighting, which in it self is hilarious! Think Hugh Grant and Colin Firth’s fight in Bridget Jone’s Diary…yeah, it’s that kind of fighting.

And because Lord Westcliff reminded me so much of Colin Firth, who is, in my opinion, the perfect British gentleman, I’ve put him in my collage

It Happened One Autumn

It Happened One Autumn by LitCon on Polyvore.com

Next up THE DEVIL IN WINTER. This book skyrocketed to one of my top romance picks in such a short time. Sebastian St. Vincent (the villain from It Happened One Autumn) is the most beautiful man in England. In today’s terms, he is a notorious man whore until he is brought to his knees and redeemed by the shyest wallflower: stuttering Evangeline Jenner. Theirs is a marriage of convenience (he is an impoverished aristocrat in need of money, she is an heiress in need of a husband’s protection from her abusive guardians). So yes, I’ve seen this match-up a million times. It’s been done. And yet, so much of Romance depend on the telling and in this case, it was told exquisitely. There’s so much to love about this book, but if I had to choose, I’d say what really got me was St. Vincent’s character transformation from a callow rake to a man of substance. He pretends not to care for Evie and she’s all “You’re not the villain you pretend to be” while he insists “Yes I am!” but then secretly wears her wedding ring around his neck. Ohhh!!!! This reminds me of The English Patient in which Ralph Fiennes is carrying Kristen Scott Thomas’ battered body to their secret cave and he discovers that thimble around her neck and he’s all *Sniff sniff* “You’re wearing my thimble” and she’s all *in proper British accent* “I’ve always worn your timble. I’VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU…” And Ralph Fiennes descends into wrenching man sobs, which I think is utterly HEARTBREAKING but my boyfriend thinks is a shameless bid for an Oscar nod. But you know what? I like to see men cry!!!! Bravo Ralph Fiennes! Bravo! Oh, I am such a sucker when it comes to reading about these indirect displays of affection. P.S. Redemption is my favorite word. During the reading, I pictured Rupert Friend as St. Vincent, who is described as a feral tomcat. The picture of Rupert Friend with his hair blowing in the wind is definitely…feral.

P.S. I wish we could play in real life. We could spend the afternoon acting out scenes from The English Patient. One more for the road. Me as Kristen Scott Thomas. Imagine that I still look good after a fatal plane crash: “Promise you’ll come back for me. PROMISE…” And you could be Ralph Fiennes. You’ll look at me with your signature piercing stare and say “I promise…”  I’ll die and you’ll carry me into your plane. Then we’ll get shot down by Nazi gunners TOGETHER and I’ll perish in the flames and you’ll have your beautiful face INCINERATED and look like Voldermort for the rest of the movie. Fortunately, The Devil in Winter has a much happier ending. Nobody’s face gets burned off.

A Knight in Shining Armor

A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux

Sexy Times in Medieval Climes!  Here’s to you Ms. Deveraux! Even though your recent novels haven’t been winners, you wrote A Knight in Shining Armor and CHANGED MY LIFE!!! I will always have a thing for Medieval Men. And need I mention time travel? Stashed somewhere in my basement is a prototype for a flux capacitor and a vial of plutonium. Shh…

When her douchy boyfriend leaves Douglass stranded at an English churchyard, she dissolves into hysterical sobbing at the foot of the tomb of the magnificent Lord Nicholas Stafford. Through an act of God or industrial light magic, Lord Nicholas appears in the flesh and speaks in Shakespearian exclamations like “Reverse your spell, witch. I would return!” Naturally, I am tickled. That is how I speak on Twitter and sometimes in real life so I can relate to Nicholas when people look at me sideways-like in a manner I can only describe as a brew of befuddlement and fear.

Douglass and Nicholas travel around England trying to solve the history mystery of “Who Framed Nicholas for Treason?” so they could save him from the block and ax. In the meantime, we’re rewarded with HILAROUS fish-out-of-water shenanigans like Nicholas being mobbed by a group of camera-happy Japanese tourists. “What manner of weapon were the small black machines these people held before their faces? For that matter, what manner of little people were they who held the machines?”

Nicholas has questions. Lots of questions. Like what is a calculator? “Demonstrate its function!”

He does not like to wear pants. “They do not show my legs, and I have a fine pair of legs.”

He is amused by paper currency. “He will take paper for clothes? I will give him all the paper he wants. He is a fool!”

Okay, enough. As you can see, Nicholas-isms amuse me to no end. Given all the heavy YA paranormal romances I’ve been reading, A Knight in Shining Armor is like the light at the end of a dark and twisty emo tunnel. I read this book when I was thirteen; years later, it still stands the test of time. This is a pre-requisite read if you want to be my book soul mate. *Swings virtual mace.* Read it…

P.S. With every viewing of The Tudors, I’ve superimpose my beloved mental image of Nicholas with the chiseled Romanesque physique of Henry Cavill. Now Henry C. is the pompous pillicock knight of my dreams!

Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

If I had to handpick my favorite heroine, it has to be Scarlett O’Hara. Hands down. I’ve certainly read my share of headstrong and willful heroines, but many of them fell flat when compared to Scarlett. You see, I have a soft spot for literary villains and, if the bad guy is well-drawn, multi-dimensional, and sympathic, I will root for the bad guy over the bland good guy any day. Unapologetically selfish, vain, narcissistic, pragmatic to the point of cutthroat, scheming and conniving, Scarlett O’Hara is no heroine; she’s a bonafide anti-heroine. She’s a force, an original, and now I truly understand why she’s the most beloved character of all time.

Since brevity is the soul of wit, I won’t get too much into the plot. I’ll assume you’ve seen the movie. In case you haven’t seen the movie, I ask you this: how can you call yourself my book/film soul mate and not have seen my all time favorite film? Tsk. Tsk. I lower my head in shame. You better rectify this breach in our relationship. *Shakes virtual fist* Rectify…

Okay. Enough threats. I decided to pick up Gone with the Wind because I was disappointed by all the pansy heroines out in the market today. Though I will not name names, you know the sissy girls of which I speak: the clumsy waifs driven hither and dither by the plot instead of DRIVING the plot.

Although Scarlett didn’t start the Civil War, it’s to her credit (more so the author’s) that the war read like it was created to inconvenience Scarlett’s Ashley-coveting endeavors. The magic of perspective, yo.

Scarlett is uber-selfish and her narcissism forbids her to suffer any conversation that doesn’t involve her as the center, and she’s something of a malicious beau-snatcher. So why you ask, do I admire her so? Because she unwillingly performs selfless and heroic deeds like staying with an ailing Melaine during the Yankee siege on Atlanta or looking after her kinfolks in the lean days after the war or whoring herself out to Rhett Butler to pay the taxes on Tara. So what if her heart wasn’t in it and she was more than reluctant to do good? It’s the deeds that matter! That said, if it came down to choosing teams—like in soccer—I want Scarlett on my team, then Rhett, then Melly. Um. Ashley will probably be the last person picked; he is as useless as “a turtle flipped on his back.”

The prose was flawless: unobtrusive enough to suck me in, elegant enough to warrant praise. Some authors have to slave to be good; some authors are just born talented. Margaret Mitchell falls in the latter category. I am one part in awe and two parts jealous of Mitchell’s writing superpowers.

P.S. I wish that there were more characters like Scarlett out in the market, particularly in the YA market. Am I the only one who thinks the YA genre could benefit with say, a vile scheming high schooler defending her turf against all odds?  YA heroes/heroines could still come of age, but wouldn’t it be more interesting if they came-of-age AND had strong wills AND did non-virtuous things BUT performed redeemable deeds? Character complexity, people. Just a suggestion….

A+

A Woman of Substance

A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford

I have a fondness for Emma Harte, the heroine of Barbara Taylor Bradford’s sweeping rags-to-riches ‘70’s blockbuster, which is to say, I like a woman who grabs the world by the balls and hangs on for dear life.

A Woman of Substance begins with a nearly eighty year old Emma perched on her corporate throne. Her children, she’s learned, are no better than a pit of treacherous vipers waiting to sink their fangs into Hart Enterprises. When Emma succumbs to pneumonia, her children waits with glee for her death.  So Emma, like Yours Truly, has sworn to live forever and wills herself not to die. She recovers in three days. She rings up her lawyer and draws up a new will which would nullify the old will and presumably, piss a lot of people off.

On the eve before the reading of her new will, Emma stares longingly into the fireplace and embarks on a seven hundred page flashback. It’s 1905 and fifteen year old Emma is a plucky parlor maid at Fairly Hall. Her father toils in a mill owned by Lord Fairly, her mother is an invalid hacking up a lung from consumption. At work, the Fairlys are an odd assortment of Discontent Master, Looney Mistress, Fat Son, Hot Son.

I don’t need to tell you that Emma and Hot Son have their sexy times in a cave during a thunderstorm. That’s a given, so is this line spoken by Edwin Fairly: “Oh dear, my trousers are damp. I must take them off…” You’ve just witnessed a smooth operator in action.

Suffice to say, Emma gets pregnant and Edwin, out a strict adherence to the class system, refuses to marry her. Emma tells him where to stick it and stomps off to Leeds to make her fortune and plan her revenge. Several hundred pages, several husbands, and two world wars later, Emma is rich and her shoulder pads are the broadest I’ve seen since Working Girl and I am exhausted because “holyshit this book, like this sentence, is too long!” YET I am satisfied because “woot woot! Girl power!”

As far as memorable heroines goes, Emma Harte ranks just below Scarlet O’Hara, though, I’d like to see them duke it out for the title of “most driven.”

B.

An Echo in the Bone

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

Let’s dive into the meat and potatoes and dispense with back story. If you haven’t read Outlander, I will slap you upside the head: “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you want to be my book soul mate?” In a few words, Outlander is a historical romantic epic with a time-travel bonus and Jamie Fraser—the hottest, most complex male character ever created by a woman. Also, I want to give him my flower and he will make me BLOSSOM!!! But that’s private talk for later…

An Echo in the Bone is the long awaited Book 7 and there really is no way to talk about it without spoiling its predecessors, so if you’re an Outlander virgin, look away.

When last we left Jamie & Claire, they were perched on the eve of the American Revolution and there’s talk of returning to Scotland to fetch Jamie’s printing press. Jamie, being older and wiser, will fight this war with his words instead of with his broadsword. Meanwhile, there are misadventures involving pirates and espionage and 18th century amputations.

There are complications heaped upon complications and run-ins involving characters who you thought were dead but were MISTAKEN and the adopted son of a certain man-rapist crosses paths with the bastard son of a certain red fox and there’s a paternity issue that’s Star Wars “Noooooo!!!! You’re not my father!!!!!” all over again. Unless you are a diehard Outlander fan, you will have NO IDEA what I’m talking about.

By this time, Jamie and Claire are old enough to be my parents but they still do the deed…in the barn where Jamie touches Claire THERE and in the garden where Jamie touches himself THERE…and I am blown away and fanning myself because their middle age deed doing is still as hot as their young and supple mmmphing. *Cranks up electric fan to full blast*

And speaking of hot, I’m in love with Young Ian who has morphed into this ridiculously feral Last of the Mohicans frontiersman. There is a love triangle involving Young Ian, William (Jamie’s bastard son) and a feisty Quakeress—I am hereby drawing a line in the sand in favor of Team Ian! I’m also officially in love with Diana for jumping on the love triangle bandwagon and heeding the universal fangirl call for choosing Teams.

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: serious shit goes down in the last 100 pages. Shit that you won’t believe CAN happen WILL happen and said shit won’t be resolved until the next book which better be drafted and in the editing stage by now… I can’t wait 4-5 years!

You’ve just read a review written by hormones alone. To summarized: I am still in love with Jamie Fraser, but I wouldn’t mind giving my flower to Young Ian…and Roger…and William…also, the Beardsley Twins, maybe Lord John. This flower is starting to resemble Lindsey Lohan’s flower: soiled beyond recognition.

Cleopatra’s Daughter

Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

Juba. Repeat after me: Juuubaaaa. I like to roll that name over my tongue like a Jolly Rancher. Ditto the character.  I’m speaking of Juba the Roman spy whose sardonic one-liners reminds me of Nat Eaton…in a toga.

R-rated opening line aside, Cleopatra’s Daughter is so PG-13 I expected dinosaurs to pop up and spray me with black goo Jurassic Park-style.

That being said, I loved Cleopatra’s Daughter so HARD. I even reminisce about that time I spent three blissful nights reading it. When I had to return it to the library, I knelt by the book drop and stared longingly at the cover; you had to pry the book from my cold dead hands because I couldn’t part with it!

Cleo’s Daughter picks up immediately after Marc Antony falls on his sword and Cleopatra opts for death by snake. Their children, Selene and Alexander, are swept away to Rome by the diabolical Emperor Octavian as trophies in his game of Risk or pawns in his game of chess or pieces in his game of Battle Ship.

While Alexander is seduced by the chaise lounging, chariot racing Roman way of life, Selene longs to reclaim the Egyptian throne. Plus, Selene lives in perpetual fear that Octavian might, and I quote the great Keanu Reeves, “Shoot the Hostage” to secure his Caesar-ship.

In the meantime, there’s Rome and stab-you-in-the-forum DRAMARAMA. I’m rubbing my palms together and jumping up and down in glee because there’s so much Ssscandal in Cleo’s Daughter I don’t know where to begin! Should I tell you about Octavian’s bitchy empress and how she mastermind a SLAVE RAPE? Or about the dashing Red Eagle who is Robin Hood, Spartacus, and the Scarlet Pimpernel rolled into one?

*Fans self* As I’ve mentioned before, JUBA! How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways. I’ve already compared you to Nat Eaton, who is practically the Puritan version of Mr. Darcy, ergo, Juba, you are Mr. Darcy and I am smitten by your cheese grater abs, your chiseled bust, your fine stallion-riding legs and your George Clooney circa ER haircut.

A+

Let me be your book pimp. Read this book.

While you’re at it, I’m going to get down on my hands and knees and beg you to watch HBO’s ROME (my favorite TV show that is no longer on TV). Due to an overpriced set and costume budget, HBO canned ROME during its 2nd Season and I was devastated. Inconsolable. Reading Cleo’s Daughter was like reading the non-existent 3rd Season.  No, don’t go ‘yeah, yeah, I’ll put it on my To Be Watched list and forget about it.’ DO. IT.

Don’t make me shake my virtual fist!

In order to get you to do my bidding, I give you this analogy.

Rome:TV::Outlander:Books.

I am comparing this show to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I am a die hard Outlander fan. A quarter of my blog’s content is dedicated to Outlander casting. Notice how I bolded and underlined the above phrase. Unfortunately, there’s no double triple underline, so I am literally grabbing you by the shirt and shaking you until you say ‘Uncle.’

I grovel at your feet. “Please…PLEASE! I want to be your TV pimp.” If you ignore my pleas, I’ll whine and throw a tantrum on the floor and chuck my snot rag at you and then I will become so distraught that I will do like the Romans do and FALL ON MY SWORD. In short, you must watch ROME to save my life.

Also, every guy in ROME is hot and they get naked. There. Point made.