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Friday, July 30, 2010

Bait and Switch


I am feeling sort of irked right now. I started reading Linda Howard's Open Season based on Amazon recommendations. What I heard....librarian gets a make-over. What I read (in the prologue) is a disturbing account of a young Mexican girl getting raped. Not my idea of fun romance reading. Needless to say, I stopped right there. Even if the rest of this book rocks the house, it is not for me.

So, in order to cleanse my palate, I picked up Lord of Scoundrels. 100% guaranteed awesome re-read. I have been rereading like crazy over the last couple of weeks. Christine Feehan's Dark Series, Amanda Quick's historicals, Stephanie Lauren's Cynster boys, etc. Yesterday I re-read Amanda Quick's Ravished, which is on my top 5 list. It is so good, it propels Jayne Ann Krentz (aka AQ) to goddess status in my eyes. I have a huge number of new books to read on my TBR list, but for some reason I am turning to oldies but goodies.

As for Open Season, yuck. I know a ton of people love this book, but I can't see myself ever returning to it. In my opinion, summer reading should be light, care-free, fun....

Penelope

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Romance Alphabet


My seven year old daughter inspired this. We were playing the alphabet game with food, and I thought...hmmm, I wonder if I can do an alphabet with romance stuff....

A is for alpha male.
B is for breathless. (and beards....hee hee)
C is for chemistry.
D is for destiny.
E is for elegant.
F is for fervent.
G is for gentle giants.
H is for heartbreak.
I is for impetuous.
J is for juicy.
K is for Kindle.
L is for lust.
M is for menage.
N is for nibble.
O is for obsession.
P is for plump.
Q is for quarrel.
R is for ravage.
S is for sensual.
T is for trembling.
U is for urgency.
V is for vampires.
W is for wicked.
X is for xiphoid. (means sword-shaped....get it? hee hee)
Y is for yearning.
Z is for zealous.


Have any favorite romance words? Let me know!
Penelope


Friday, July 23, 2010

Review of Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley


Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley

Following up The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie must have been a daunting task for Jennifer Ashley. That book was brilliant in every way. Creating a hero with Asperger's Syndrome was a gutsy, courageous, and wonderfully successful endeavor by Ashley. The book came alive because of the originality of Ian's character, the raw lust and emotion between the hero and heroine, and of course the incredible appeal of the eccentric Mackenzie brothers.


Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage has taken a very big chance as well, in quite a different way. There has been scandal, heart break, bitterness, neglect, debauchery, isolation and betrayal in Isabella's marriage. But we don't see these things. They have taken place in the past. That's a pretty big gamble for an author to take when writing a novel. The story picks up in the aftermath of these traumatic events, and we are witnesses to Mac attempting to win back his wife. In fact, I think Jennifer Ashley took a huge leap of faith writing this book. We don't get to see the fights, the anger, the hopelessness as the marriage crashes and burns. We get tiny glimpses of things that reflect their history....a cradle symbolic of a lost child, a letter from an estranged sister, failed paintings as an artist struggles to regain his talent.

This book is a love story, pure and simple. Yes, the plot involving the doppelganger "Mac" is interesting and keeps the story moving along, but the true star of the show is the relationship between Isabella and Mac, and how two estranged lovers find their way back to each other. It is a timeless theme, which could be found in a contemporary novel just as easily as an historical. There is an incredible sweetness to this story. Ashley, as usual, has incorporated very lusty scenes into an emotional storyline. The HEA is magnificent and utterly satisfying, just as it should be.

This is why I read romance novels. The book isn't perfect. I wish there had been more interaction with the brothers, the motivation behind Mac's raging alcoholism was never adequately explained, the motivation behind the villain's actions was never adequately explained, and Mac's "baring his soul" at the end of the book didn't make a lot of sense to me. But frankly, I don't give a damn. I loved the book, I loved the characters, and I love romance novels that celebrate the purity of love like this.

Jennifer Ashley is a hugely talented writer, and her magic is totally apparent in this book. I am really looking forward to her tackling the rest of the family. Mackenzie Brothers Forever!

Grade: A-

Happy Reading,
Penelope

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hydrangeas, Carpathian Vampires and Big Buck Hunter Pro


My week is coming along nicely....

1) Hydrangeas are rocking out in the garden. So are nasturtiums, basil, dill and the pumpkin patch. Bunnies are still happily chewing on the weeds. Today my son sprayed the weeds with vinegar (a good old-fashioned organic approach to weed extermination). I have a feeling the bunnies will think we are "dressing their salad"--hee hee hee!

2) I am having a crazy re-reading week....I am starting to plow through all of Christine Feehan's old Dark novels....just finished Dark Fire, which I adore. I think Darius is probably the sexiest, most bad-ass Carpathian in the series.

3) For some inexplicable reason, I allowed my daughter to purchase Big Buck Hunter Pro at Target, not realizing what it was. Turns out, it's a TV game that involves shooting deer and watching their dead carcasses fall to the ground. Totally and completely politically incorrect. Bad mommy. To add insult to injury, I freakin' love it! We are all obsessed and crazy competitive. My son is so good at it I am afraid he's going to ask for a gun soon.

All in all (other than the dead deer), it's shaping up to be a great week.
Ciao!
Penelope

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jean Luc says...Panzanella Rules!



I know...this is weird. I am combining my Beard of the Day post with a recipe. But what the hey....it's summer! The living is easy!

First, let's comment on Jean Luc, aka Sir Patrick Stewart. Ahhh, my most favorite of combinations....the bald head, the deliciously neatly groomed salt and pepper beard. It just doesn't get any better than this. Also, he has that naughty little twinkle in his eye. Mix in his buttery accent and he is swoon-worthy.






Next up....my quick and easy recipe for panzanella, aka bread salad. This is probably my favorite summer recipe. It's a great side dish for a night of grilling, or perfect for a vegetarian entree all by itself. Here's my very simple version.....

Penny's Panzanella (like the alliteration?)

1 loaf of really good rustic white bread, sliced into thick pieces
1 cucumber sliced into chunks
2-3 tomatoes sliced into chunks (can also use cherry tomatoes halved)
big handful of fresh basil chopped up--I use lemon basil, sweet basil and cinnamon basil from my garden
small bit of red onion, sliced very thin
olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper

First, drizzle slices of bread with olive oil and salt and pepper. Put them on the grill for a couple of minutes until nicely browned. Turn them once and brown on the other side, too. This will go really fast! Don't burn them. Set them out on a plate to cool a bit.

In a bowl, mix together cukes, tomatoes, basil, onions and a nice drizzle of olive oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper and mix gently.

Tear up pieces of grilled bread into chunks and place in another separate bowl. (I don't like soggy bread salad, so I keep the components separate until I am just about to serve the salad.) When ready to serve, toss the grilled bread into the cuke bowl and gently mix together. Yum! Sometimes I add boccini (fresh mini-mozzarella balls) to the salad also.

My carnivorous husband doesn't like bread (he is Filipino) and he doesn't really like salad either. Needless to say, he makes fun of me big-time when I make this salad!

Happy Friday,
Penelope


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reading Update


My TBR pile is growing...and I'm not sure when I am going to have time to read. Soon, I hope! I still have Jennifer Ashley's Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage, Katie MacAlister's Love in the Time of Dragons, and Killer Mousse by Melinda Wells. I am re-reading Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr right now...Go, Preacher! Gentle Giants Rule! Also, one of my husband's roomies from college days has a new book out...The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer. It has been getting fabulous reviews and sounds really cool. I also just got Linda Howard's Open Season, which was very highly recommended on the Amazon boards this week.

Hope all of you are busy reading fabulous books and enjoying the summer!
Penelope


Monday, July 12, 2010

Nice Summer Cottage!



My mom and I just got back from an awesome girl's weekend in Newport...our favorite activity was touring Marble House, one of the gorgeous mansions on Bellevue Avenue. This "summer cottage" originally belonged to William and Alva Vanderbilt. It is truly stunning. If you ever get the chance to see it, don't miss it! The history of Newport is fascinating, and the love affairs, divorces and angsty family relationships in all of these upper crust families are better than a romance novel!

Here's a photo of the Chinese Tea House, perched just above Cliff Walk...so cool!

Happy Summer Travels,
Penelope


Friday, July 9, 2010

Beard of the Day


I have just one thing to say...Halle Berry, what were you thinking?

Gabriel Aubry is sultry, sexy, and ridiculously gorgeous. His scruffy little beard is the perfect way to rough up those pretty boy good looks. And he even has some delicious chest hair peeking out in this photo! He is just begging to get mussed up, don't you think?

I have no reading update, because I haven't had time to read! My mom is visiting and we are about to take off for a girl's weekend in Newport...mansions, garden tours and martinis. Hip, hip, hooray! I cannot wait to read Jennifer Ashley's Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage...hopefully next week. The Brazen Bride by Stephanie Laurens is getting very mediocre reviews, so I might wait (permanently?) to read that one. I still have Katie MacAlister's Love in the Time of Dragons to devour, also.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer so far!
Penelope

Monday, July 5, 2010

Review for Death by Diamonds by Annette Blair


Death by Diamonds by Annette Blair

I am always on the lookout for a writer who is a little bit different, a little bit quirky, fresh, original, etc. That's why I was so excited to discover Carolyn Crane and Gail Carriger this year. A favorite "quirky" author of mine, who has branched out from romance to mysteries, and whose writing keeps getting better and better (what a breath of fresh air that is!) is Annette Blair. I do believe her new mystery series showcases the very best of her writing ability. She has such a lovely, snappy cadence to her prose, it's a delight to read. Her "voice" is fresh, modern, peppy. Her heroine is adorable....obsessed with vintage clothing and hiding a paranormal secret. She can "read" old clothes when the time is right. This series is told from first person POV, but instead of the heroine being a snarky, irritating bitch, she is actually a smart, caring, creative and fashionable sleuth/shop-owner/vintage clothing aficionado.

There is a delicious love triangle going on in this series. The sexual tension is fabulous...Madeira has not one, but two hunky law enforcement officers lusting for her, and I can't decide who to root for! Werner is the straight laced cop, and Nick is the sexy, alpha FBI agent. Decisions, decisions! (Although I guess I am leaning somewhat towards Werner...I'm thinking of making a T-shirt that says "Team Wiener"--and no, I'm not talking about dachshunds. Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm not talking about that either!).

Throw in a bunch of wonderful settings (mansions, the theatre, a charming small town, etc), gorgeous descriptions of vintage clothes, quirky family members, really cool paranormal stuff, and a snappy mystery. And you've got Death By Diamonds.

For some bizarre reason, I find myself crying a lot when I read Annette's books. First, I cried while reading her dedication page, which is written for her husband. Oh, Jiminy!--"my heart's haven"!!!!!! I love that! Then, I found myself crying at the end of the book. Beneath the vintage clothes and curious mystery, this story is ultimately a love story, which is illuminated in the final pages of the book. It is very sweet and very touching. Blair's writing is an awesome juxtaposition of modern, snappy prose with a very sentimental, old-fashioned heart underneath. I love it!

Another cute thing about this book: Madeira uses hilarious seamstress-inspired fake swear words/expressions all the time...Wooly knobby knits!, Tucking A! and here's a good one: Double scrap with a 'tucking A' thrown in for trim!..hee hee hee! Not since Spongebob got me saying "Oh, Tartar Sauce!" have I been so inspired by new cuss words.

I hope the rest of my summer reading goes this well! Grade: A

Happy Summer Romance Reading,
Penelope

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!


I am back from a wonderful and relaxing vacation in Rhode Island. The next two days will involve fireworks, BBQs, parades, and doing piles of laundry! Although I didn't get to read all of my books, I thoroughly enjoyed Julia Barrett's cougar-ish quickie You Just Might Get It, found a new favorite culinary mystery series by Melinda Wells, and laughed out loud on the beach while reading Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men by Molly Harper. These were all perfect beach reads....fun, sexy and light.

I will be posting a review tomorrow for Annette Blair's new mystery Death By Diamonds, another huge winner from one of my favorite authors.

Happy Fourth of July to All!
Penelope