Monday, August 30, 2010

Penelope's Pros and Cons of Heart Failure


I know this may seem somewhat callous, but honestly there is a silver lining for almost everything in our lives. Even heart failure. Following my August 3rd heart attack, I have come to the conclusion that there are pros and cons for even the most dire of medical emergencies.

Pros and Cons of Heart Failure by Penelope

1. Con= Threat of impending death.

2. Pro= You get a lot of beautiful flower bouquets.

3. Con= Threat of impending death.

4. Pro= Kick starts your weight loss program. I have lost 18 pounds since doomsday! Yay!

5. Con= Threat of.....Okay, okay, I'll think of something else. Con= excruciating pain. Feels like your chest is being ripped apart and your head is about to explode. When the paramedics asked me on a scale of 1 to 10, where my pain was, I answered, "10,000." And I wasn't kidding.

6. Pro= Husband who has formerly eschewed all tedious house hold chores is now doing the laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the kidlets. Eureka!

7. Con= Paranoia about any and all chest pain. When I get indigestion, I start reaching for my nitro tablets. This is going to take some getting used to.

8. Pro= Reinvigorates a 20-year old marriage. Nothing makes you appreciate your spouse more than almost losing her. My husband is paying me so much attention, I am blushing with happiness. He rocks!

9. Con= I am taking enough pills every day to start my own pharmaceutical company.

10. Pro= The outpouring of love and support from family and friends is humbling and wonderful. I seriously have the greatest friends and family in the world.

11. Con= My combination heart healthy/diabetic/lo-sodium/acid reflux diet basically includes celery sticks and water. It's tough. Trying to eat less than 500 mg of sodium a day is almost impossible. However, not sticking to the diet = threat of impending death, which is a great motivator.

12. Pro= Saving tons of money by not going out to dinner/getting take-out. Since my diet is quite prohibitive (see #11), eating out at restaurants and getting take-out is impossible. This is saving our family tons of cashola. With the money I save this year, I'm planning on splurging on some gems (of course!) and a fabulous trip somewhere.

13. Con= Had to cancel our 20th wedding anniversary trip to Jackson Hole. Pisser! On the flip side, I guess it was good I wasn't on a white water rafting adventure when my heart attack struck.

14. Pro= Puts everything in your life into perspective. #1 on my to-do list every day is now....do the things I have to do in order to live....walking (4x/day), eating well, hanging out/talking with my friends, reducing stress, nibbling on a celery stick. Reading is only at bed-time, writing is only for a couple of hours a day. The rest of my life is now non-sedentary, active, mindful of being a extremely lucky heart patient.


Someone asked me if my life flashed before my eyes. No. At least not my past. What flashed before my eyes was my future. I want it. And I'm willing to do whatever it takes to have it. I made a decision in the ambulance....I'm not going to die. And I plan to keep that promise to myself.


Off to take my heart-healthy walk while listening to Britney Spears (soooo inspiring! hee hee),
Penelope


Friday, August 27, 2010

Review of Water Bound by Christine Feehan


Water Bound
by Christine Feehan

Okay, I'm the first one to admit Christine Feehan's stuff is sometimes over the top. Her Dark series is extremely melodramatic, her alpha male heroes are one step short of cavemen, her 80-pg. love scenes go on and on about creamy skin and velvet sheaths. Nevertheless, I love her books.

Why?

Well, Christine Feehan knows something about what women want, and what is the essence of romantic fiction. One man, filled with purpose and integrity and courage, whose entire life centers around one single woman....his lifemate. He would kill for her, die for her. This theme, which is repeated over and over again, is incredibly romantic. It works. It makes for extremely satisfying HEAS, too. My only concern with Feehan is that the violence against women has escalated over the last couple of years, and in my opinion, is not necessary and detracts from the core of her books.

Because of that, I was nervous about starting this next series. I refused to read Hidden Currents because of the disturbing content, and I was pretty pissed off since I'd stuck with the whole Drake sisters series, and was really looking forward to Elle's book. I figured this spin-off series would also be too violent for me, so I was gonna pass on it. However, in a moment of boredom at the grocery store, I saw Water Bound and decided to give it a go.

I am so, so, so glad I did! This book is not typical for Christine Feehan...it's more subtle, more emotional and incredibly satisfying and romantic. I think it's the most romantic book she's written.

First of all, she took a chance on creating an autistic heroine. Rikki is strong and capable in spite of her autism. She is also loving and protective of her "sisters." The first scene in the book where Rikki and Lev "meet" underwater is absolutely amazing....their instant connection is surprising to both of them. I just loved this scene! Honestly, I sometimes forget how spectacular Feehan is in terms of her paranormal creativity. Rikki's affinity for water is one of the coolest things I've ever read....the water sparkles, plays, takes on a life of its own. The descriptions of Rikki connecting with water are astounding. What a great, unique paranormal concept. After an overload of vampire/werewolf descriptions, the water angle is fabulous, mesmerizing, inspiring.

Lev is one of my favorite Feehan heroes. He recognizes right away that Rikki is "different." He is patient with her and takes the time to learn the things he has to do to accommodate her special needs. This is one of the most romantic, wonderful gestures a hero could ever do. It made me fall in love with Lev. He's a trained, cold-hearted killer who learns to love and trust through his relationship with Rikki.

For both of them, falling in love is a huge leap of faith. Rikki has to step outside of her comfortable limits, which is a huge undertaking for someone with severe OCD issues. Lev wonders if he can truly shed his skin as a cold-blooded killer and become a "normal" man with a new identity.

It's simply a wonderful love story.

The only thing that bugged me a little bit was waiting for the conclusion to two separate conflicts at the end of the book...the arsonist problem and Lev's assassin. Didn't need two conflicts here....one would have sufficed.

I was very surprised by this book. It's not your typical Feehan story...but I thought that Rikki and Lev are a truly original and wonderful couple. I hope that the rest of this series continues on this path.
Grade: A

Next week.....Dark Peril is out! Yippee!

Having an awesome reading week and loving every minute of it,
Penelope

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review of Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole


The first time I read A Hunger Like No Other I was blown out of the water. It was like no other paranormal romance I had ever read. Kresley Cole created a paranormal world where fey beings fall in love with werewolves, vampires fall in love with ghosts, female characters are more terrifying and violent than the men, pop culture references abound, and strong, intense characters have incredibly sexy journeys. I was in love....with a new-to-me author and the world she created. I have enjoyed a lot of the other books in the series, but until now, I have waiting for one that matched the awesomeness of AHLNO. Demon from the Dark did it.

Demon from the Dark has three things I love in my romance novels..."alternative" families who pull together over the course of the book, a terribly damaged hero whose journey is breathtakingly satisfying for the reader (and the heroine, too!) and flat-out incredible sex scenes.

Malkom is reminiscent of Zsadist from JR Ward's series in many ways....a blood slave, abused, on the verge of losing his sanity. Unlike Zsadist, who has his twin and the other brothers, Malkom is completely and utterly alone. His journey from savageness to ultra-protective, loving and even gentle is astonishing. He is without a doubt one of my new favorite heroes.

Carrow is a great heroine and counterpart for him...equally fierce, equally protective over her newly adopted daughter, and finally overcome by the depth of Malkom's devotion to her. What a love story!

I love how Carrow, Malkom and Ruby become a family. Wonderful!

I love how Kresley Cole builds the sexual tension. She is a master at this....just amazing. The "bath scene"....oh!

The bath scene!

The bath scene!

The bath scene!

dubba dubba dubba dubba.....OK, I'm babbling. Seriously, that scene is hands-down the best "sex" scene of the year. Jiminy Cricket! At one point, I realized the scene had gone on for chapters, and I was praying it would never end. Sooooooooo good! Whew!

I am completely in awe of Kresley Cole's talent...she has created two amazing characters, a touching and lusty love story, and a HEA that is just what the doctor ordered for my healing heart.

Thank you, Kresley Cole!
Grade: A+

Sighing with happiness and hoping a demon/vampire falls out of the sky and into my lap,
Penelope




Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ferrets, Hedge Hogs and Doxie Puppies: The Week's Menagerie


Here's the fastest quickie updates ev-ah!!!!!!!! (I'm using my heart attack as an excuse not to write any long-winded reviews this week....gotta milk that sucker for all its worth!)....

Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas
Now I remember why Lisa Kleypas is one of the romance masters....wonderful characters who come to life, incredibly romantic moments, very sexy (and satisfying) love scenes. She has the perfect balance of dialogue, deep POV, plot, etc....the pacing is perfect. I love how Leo keeps calling Catherine "Marks"--it reminds me of Emerson calling Amelia "Peabody" in the Elizabeth Peter's books. Adorable! Added Bonus: There's a heroic ferret. Grade: A-

Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
I think this might be my favorite Hathaway story. All my favorites in a historical....quirky, strong-willed heroine, war-damaged hero, and totally kick ass dog. Grade: A-

Bedeviled Angel by Annette Blair
Oh, this book is fabulous! I can't believe Annette Blair made an agoraphobic heroine work, but she did. And the hero is delicious...I want one of his golden (and silver...hee hee hee!) feathers! The sweet, tender moments are to die-for. My favorite moment is when the heroine tosses the twins' uniforms out the window. Blair knows that little gestures like this make a big emotional impact. This book is charming, lusty, fun and sweet. And, it's got doxie puppies. It just doesn't get any better than this! Grade: A

Love in the Time of Dragons by Katie MacAlister
Didn't love it. Not sure why this author always has her heroines being clueless about their identity/their powers, etc. but it's not a great place to be when the story is being told in first person narrative. Don't love that whole angle. Also, there is so much snark that the sexy parts aren't really sexy. This one was missing the magic for me. Animal Attraction: Dragons, but not enough to save this book. Grade: C+

I think I might check out the new Eloisa James' book now...A Kiss At Midnight.
Happy Thursday!
Penelope

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Quickie Sunday Update


1) My morning glories (which I planted way too late) are finally flowering. A nice way to start the morning.

2) I lost 14 pounds since my heart attack. Nothing jump starts your diet like a near-death experience.

3) My "little old lady" walks have graduated from a 90 year old's pace to a 75 year old's pace. By next week, I should be able to outwalk a 65 year old, no problem.

4) I am reading Married by Morning by Lisa Kleypas and really enjoying it. My new "rule" is to only read at night before bedtime. No more sedentary lifestyle for me, which precludes hours of romance novel-reading during daylight hours. I also read Tempt Me At Twilight while I was recovering in the hospital, and I thought it was wonderful. Lisa Kleypas was the perfect post-heart attack read. Her books are romantic, inspiring and filled with hope.

Hard to believe the summer is winding down. I hope all of you will enjoy the last rays of sunshine before school starts.
Happy Reading To All,
Penelope


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

2 (Almost) DNFs and the Unexpected Outcome


Note to Readers: This post was written B.H.A. (Before Heart Attack), so you can take it with a grain of salt (or rather lo-sodium Mrs. Dash! hee hee).....perhaps I wasn't getting enough oxygen due to my faltering heart.

***


I very, very rarely DNF (Do Not Finish) a book. Seriously, it pretty much takes an act of God before I will give up. Even if a book sucks, I still want to find out what happens (pathetic, eh?). Nevertheless, perhaps due to a misalignment of the stars, I had not just one, but two DNFs this week.

Due to some intense forces of nature (other readers harassing the holy hell out of me), I ended up finishing both books.

The unexpected outcome was that the book I thought I would love was just mediocre, and the one I thought I would hate turned out to be fantastic.

First up....Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost. I adore Jeaniene Frost. Her Night Huntress books are the best paranormal thing going right now (in my opinion). They are power-packed, intense, incredibly sexy...can't-put-them-down-books. Frost took a chance with her spin-off series, switching from first person POV (Cat) to third person narrative. I was one of the few folks who actually loved First Drop of Crimson. It was an "A" read for me. Even though it wasn't the thrill ride that the Huntress books are, it worked very well for Denise's story.

Eternal Kiss of Darkness is Mencheres' story. Once again, we have 3rd person POV. Mencheres is a very old and powerful vampire...I was expecting a very compelling and exciting story. Instead, I almost DNFed this book half-way through. Why? I was bored. Nothing was happening. There was way too much deep POV going on and not enough action (reminded me of Julia Quinn's latest book, Ten Things I Love About You.) The pacing was off. I was shocked, because Frost's Huntress books are absolutely spot-on with their pacing and story line.

So, I gave up.

I started reading Linda Howard's Open Season, which I was told was a funny, great read. I was so peeved after reading the prologue (young Mexican girl is drugged and raped), that I DNFed that book and went back to Eternal Kiss!

Well, I finished Eternal Kiss of Darkness, and it got slightly better by the end, but I was still disappointed. For some reason, she is not translating that crazy sense of urgency and excitement from the Huntress books to this new series. I didn't like Mencheres and Kira's love story nearly as much as Spade and Denise, and I thought the final scene was too short and a let-down. Also, I felt that the end of the book shortchanged Mencheres and Kira's romance....we did not to get to see them together at the very end. In my opinion, that's a really important part of the HEA. All-in-all, this was an average read for me (B-/C+), and not what I was expecting from one of my favorite authors. I am really looking forward to Cat and Bones' next book!

Now, onto Almost DNF #2, Open Season. This book is all the rage on the Amazon boards...everyone loves it. I heard it was funny. I heard it was about a librarian who gets a make-over. So, even though I generally hate contemporary romance, I decided to give it a go. After the prologue, which pissed me off no end, I DNFed this baby. There is nothing remotely funny about a young girl getting drugged and raped. However, many readers implored me to continue reading. They said the book is great and I needed to give it another chance.

Holy Hellfire, they were right!!!!

I loved this book. Even though I sped-read over the creepy sex trade parts (weak stomach, you know), I adored the love story between Daisy and Jack. Linda Howard did a terrific job showing how Daisy went from being totally turned off by the alpha police man to falling madly in love (and lust) with him. The book is funny, well written, has wonderful characters (including the supporting cast), and a successful suspenseful story line. I love how we get a lot of different POVs in this story...that is one of my favorite things.

I would just like to say....thank-you to all of you folks who cajoled me into finishing this book. I can't wait to read my next Linda Howard book. Any other suggestions?


Happy Reading,
Penelope

Friday, August 6, 2010

Penelope's Heart Took A Lickin' But Kept on Tickin'


Hi everyone! I wanted to write a very quick note to say I will be taking a little break. I had a heart attack on Tuesday morning. Luckily, I was whisked to BI Deaconess for heart surgery to repair a blocked artery and everything went very well. I am completely overwhelmed by the awesome support of my friends and family, and reminded of how blessed I am.

Huge thanks to everyone for love and prayers!
In the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I'll be back!
Penelope

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Another Quirky Release! Surviving Eden Is Here!


I'm thrilled for fellow Quirky Lady Michelle Picard, who has a new book out with Crescent Moon Press. It's the sequel to Ruling Eden, called Surviving Eden. (How gorgeous is that cover?) Surviving Eden is the sexy and exciting continuation of Rachel's and Gabriel's story....don't miss it. Here is the blurb and an excerpt! Go, Michelle!

Book Blurb....

Rachel Rieh wields enough magic to make a goddess jealous, or so she learned three weeks ago when she thought she was an ordinary, reclusive, and short-tempered gal from Boston. In this second story of Eden’s Court, Rachel, now the new ruler of the Kesayim, (angels, demons, dragons, faeries, vampires, shapeshifters and witches--the goddess-created protectors of mortalkind) finds herself faced with the task of stopping vampire hunters from annihilating the vampire race. Her lover, Gabriel, half-angel, half-demon, stands by her side to help if she can escape her obsession with protecting him at all cost.

Earth is already on the verge of destruction within six months because magic is out of balance. The new threat to the vampires destabilizes the situation more. In her race to save the vampires, Rachel meets Lilith, goddess, creator of all Kesayim and humans, and the one with all the answers to Rachel’s problems. But is the cold-hearted goddess intent on changing Rachel into her image the greater threat to Rachel and everyone she loves?


Excerpt:

Moonlight filtered through the windows of my bedroom, softly draping Gabriel’s naked body as he lay next to me on his stomach. His thoughts seemed to be somewhere else entirely. I loved how the pale light played along his flawless limbs, his smoothly muscled body. The silken sheets teased my already sensitive skin. I let my thoughts drift away from my gnawing guilt as I avoided discussion about my date with Colin. As Gabriel relaxed by my side, his aura glowed bright with his pleasure.

I’d given up on trying to shut-off my perception of auras. The dizzying visuals superimposed over everyone’s bodies were now becoming familiar, natural. Gabriel’s included the outline of a pair of wings jutting from his back. Their ghostly image had been present even before he manifested those wings for the first time during his battle with Michael in council.

Tonight was no exception. With downy feathers tucked magically away inside his body, a trick he alone of his angel counterparts could accomplish, his aura reflected their shining outline. The shadow wings were almost as lovely as the real thing.

I couldn’t resist running my fingers down the raised skin on both sides of his back while I lay beside him, my head supported by elbow and hand. I’d convinced myself Gabriel felt shy about the wings. I’d only seen them twice, including the time they manifested. But his hesitation to show them to me hurt. Perhaps he didn’t fully trust me. I dismissed that thought as ludicrous, but it still nagged at me.

My light tracing of the soft, barely perceptible tissue ridges sent pleasant tingles into my hand. His body tensed under the movement of my fingers and I felt his discomfort in the contact. Disappointed with his response, I stilled my fingertips.

“I won’t touch them if you don’t want me to,” I whispered into the hushed night of the room, holding my breath for his reply.

After a moment he relaxed, as if he’d fought through his initial hesitation to some decision. “Please continue,” he said, voice sleepy. “It feels good.”

I smoothed the ridges once again, delighting in the tiny shocks sparking into me. Gabriel’s voice bounced out into the moon-touched room, filling the space with its rich tones, surprising me with its serious intent. “When I was a child I fell asleep most every night dreaming of wings. I hated being born without them.” He paused. “The dream died long ago and I never thought to gain them. Yet… Here I am.”

My breath hitched hearing the pain of the memory in his cautious words. He sounded surprised to be speaking them. Guilt flooded through me for forcing him to expose himself to this hurtful past. Every day he walked into that negotiation room to manage the talks between the angels and demons. It was one thing for me to insist on facing my own memories head-on; another to see someone I loved forced into the same.

Gabriel caught my eyes before I could glance away. “I recognize that look on your face,” he chided. “You are blaming yourself, again.”

I kept my gaze on the window, the shadows of the garden just outside, wishing I could hide the waiver in my voice. “Don’t badmouth a little good old-fashioned guilt.” I tried to joke away his point-on comment. I swallowed past the lump in my throat and the will to give my smart-mouth rein died a sudden death. “My decision puts you in that room with them everyday.” I removed my hands from him, unable to continue my caress.

He shifted on his side, reaching his hand to cradle my face. “Being in that room may be frustrating, but it is valuable to me as well. I feel less need to run from them.”

My indignation surged on his behalf. I wanted to insist that he never ran, but hadn’t I accused him of the same weeks ago? My words had been to the effect that he’d bought into their crap about being an abomination. I’d wanted this experience for him--a chance to put to rest the ghosts that haunted him. I just hadn’t counted on how witnessing his pain during the process would shred my heart.

He smiled as if he’d recognized the play of thoughts and emotions running across my face and valued them. “I did run, in my own way. But being forced to watch the angels and demons confront their issues, I feel less like I am some shameful secret that must be denied.”

“I’m sorry this hurts you,” I blurted, my words choking me. I hated how out of control my emotions became with him. I valued my control.

His voice roughened with irritation. “You never forced me into the room. It was my choice, if you remember.”

“Yeah, but--”

“Do not make less of what I do by claiming responsibility for that choice. I survived hundreds of years making my own decisions before you were even born.”

Gabriel’s tone made my hackles rise for just a moment before I remembered his pain. He had a point, but I wasn’t about to give up on blaming myself in this matter. Call me masochistically stubborn.

His momentary anger dissolved, shifting into an all too different mood. His fingers moved in a caress of my cheek. He was a master at distracting me when he wanted and I’d sullenly noted before how most of the time this was a good thing. “Besides,” his voice lazed, “I need your mind focused elsewhere. It has always been my fantasy to make love to a woman with wings wrapped around us, brushing along our bodies.”

My mouth quirked up as my nipples tightened. “Any woman in particular, or will you just put out a personal ad? Wanted: female with wing fetish. Only those already butt naked need apply.” His chuckle tightened all things lower on me and I shifted on the bed, anticipation licking my skin.