Monday, March 30, 2009


The title: Reckless
The author: Shannon Drake
Publication: Harlequin, 2005
Got it from: Reads Saint John

Katherine "Kat" Adair is a young woman living in Victorian England who has two great passions: boating and obsessing over a rich young man named David Turnberry. One day when she's sailing on the Thames, David gets knocked into the water and Kat rescues him. Swimming back to her boat, she is in turn rescued by dashing adventurer Hunter Macdonald, who falls instantly in love with her. As a reward for saving David's life, the father of the woman David loves (yeah, complicated) asks Kat to come with the group (which includes Hunter) to Egypt as an artist.

This is the second book in the Victorian Fairy Tales series, and I've already read the first and third. It's funny, but after having just finished so many good romances I'm re-evaluating my initial favourable feelings toward this series. The characters show up in all the books: the first one, Wicked, is a take on Beauty and the Beast and the third one, Beguiled, is esentially Sleeping Beauty, with Reckless of course being The Little Mermaid. While I love the idea of retelling fairy tales in Victorian times and the premise of these books is interesting, something was definitely missing.

Reckless is the weakest of the series, in large part because of the hero and heroine. Kat borders on the "too stupid to live" category, often doing things that make no sense, such as running heedlessly out into the desert in pursuit of the baddie. She is also very much a Mary Sue character, with every man in love with her, not to mention the improbability of her talents (she can reproduce a map she's seen only once from memory, she learns hieroglyphics in a single afternoon, etc.) Hunter fares a little better, but his love for Kat seems unlikely, and he's too old-school controlling and possesive for my liking.

Overall, the book feels like it's a second or third draft, not a completed novel. The pacing is strange. From the back cover, one would presume the majority of the book takes place in Egypt, but in fact the characters don't arrive there until almost the end, a disappointment for Egyptology fans. I kept wondering when they were ever going to leave, and it weighed the story down in many places. The dialogue was also incredibly, almost laughably, clunky. Characters talk improbably, info dumping for the benefit of the reader in an entirely unrealistic manor, and their actions are often inexplicable. The characters are also drawn in black and white. "She's evil," Kat's sister says at one point, referring to their father's girlfriend. No subtlety here!

Overall, I'd probably put the book in the C-/D+ range. If I were the editor, I wouldn't have let this go to print the way it was. I never really cared about the main characters, and the ending was particularly disappointing. It was ludicrous and so many loose ends never got tied up. But I will give compliments to whoever designed the covers for this series. They're gorgeous.

Here are the other two:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Christmas in March - yep, more PD

The title(s): Holiday Princess & The Princess Present
The author: Meg Cabot
Publication:HarperCollins, 2005 and 2004
Got it from: The Book Depot

Good news, those who are sick of reading about the Princess Diaries! Only four more full-length novels and two side novels to go!

Normally I wouldn't be reading Christmas books in March, but as I vowed to read the whole series, here we go. The Princess Present sees Lily, Michael and about a hundred assorted royals descend on Genovia for Christmas. Will Michael love Mia's present? Will Grandmere's precious Faberge advent calendar be damaged? How could Prince Harry participate in strip bowling? Will Lily find true love with all the men who adore her? Actually, the thirteen-year-old Pierre, Comte de Brissac, who has a crush on Lily, is a brilliantly inspired character. I particularly love when he mutters under his breath, "Mademoiselle, you intoxicate me." When Lily has a romance with the footman, the Compte goes loco and insists "that hireling be flogged for his overfamiliarity with the young lady."

To which Mia replies, in what is arguably the best line in the series, "You are one weird little dude, Pierre."

Holiday Princess is all about how to be a princess during the holidays (although no way do I believe Grandmere writes personal notes for all one thousand of her Christmas cards). Cute, but not a necessary edition to the series. Unless you are a holiday freak like me and enjoy reading about Christmas in other countries punctuated by comments from Mia.
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bridal Favors

The title: Bridal Favors
The author: Connie Brockway
Publication: Dell, 2002
Got it from: Amazon

Can I just gush for a minute about how much I love this book?

Normally I wouldn't read anything to do with weddings, but from everything I'd heard, Connie Brockway was at the top of everyone's funny romance radar. Lucky me, it barely had anything to do with weddings AND it was even funnier than I'd expected.

Evelyn Whyte is a diminutive little woman in the Victorian era who thinks she's unattractive and wears glasses because they add to her bookish image. One day when she's fifteen, she happens to see one Justin Powell coming out of a married lady's boudoir and *thinks* he's having an affair. Justin bribes her with an I.O.U. to keep mum.

Fast-forward ten years later. The book opens with Evelyn having unceremoniously crashed through Justin's window and is lying bleeding on the floor. The laughs in the first two chapters are in the deadly two-per-page area, so be warned not to drink anything too fast while you're reading. It seems Evelyn needs to cash in on her I.O.U. She's inherited her aunt's wedding planning business and she's crap at it. Her last chance to redeem herself is to secure Justin's family estate for her client.

The dialogue between Justin and Evelyn when they first meet is a hoot. Justin is one of the most likeable romance heroes I've ever read, and the way he is completely unperturbed by a woman crashing through his window is a scream. "A lift is the least I can offer you for having such shoddy, easily broken windows," he says in all seriousness after he bandages her up.

Naturally, Justin agrees to have the wedding party at his estate. Because of course the reader has surmised by this point that Justin is of course not a rake, but a spy for England. Ah, the fake rake. I forgot to mention it in my list of favourite romance plots, so I'm doing it now. Naturally, Justin's working undercover so he hangs around the estate pretending to be a bird watcher. A handy cover for a spying on enemy agents and sexy young women.

I don't want to give too much away, but suffice to say there's some priceless scenes with a bumbling German trying to court Evelyn with Justin continually interrupting. I also really don't want to spoil the ending, but all I'll say is that you can expect nothing but total disaster at a fancy Victorian society wedding, of course.

The good news, for me at least, is that Brockway's As You Desire is supposed to be even more funny. Naturally, I've got a copy ordered and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. If you're a fan of Elizabeth Peters but want a little bit more romance, I'd recommend you run, not walk to Connie Brockway.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Halfway there, living on a prayer: Princess in Training

The title: Princess in Training
The author: Meg Cabot
Publication: Harper Collins, 2005
Got it from: Ye Olde Book Depot

Let this be a lesson for you: if your best friend is lusting for power, and nominates you for student council president, you can best believe she wants it for herself! Beware!

Mia is in a tizzy (as usual) at the start of her new school year. She's just returned from her summer in Genovia, where she has unwittingly unleashed an international crisis by dumping snails in the bay to kill off some deadly algae. All this takes second place, however, to the fact that evil Lana Weinberger tells Mia that if she doesn't Do It with Michael, he'll dump her. And you know what? She's right! Because Michael reveals himself in this book to be a complete and utter ass. Meanwhile, Lily pushes Mia into running for student council president.

Things of note:
*They make people decide if they want to run for student council president on the first day of school? Seriously?
* This book is the first book to introduce the mysterious Perin, whose gender nobody can discern. Turns out he/she/it is female.
* Boris, over the summer, has turned into a hottie. Mia is appalled, and still wishes he wouldn't tuck in his sweater.
* Have I mentioned lately what an ass Michael is? I mean other than the fact that Mia is enchanted by his handsomeness, he's a pretty crappy boyfriend. He never takes Mia seriously and continually patronizes her. This is the book that made me lose all respect for Michael. Instead of saying, "We'll have sex when you're ready," he badgers her with, "I'm not going to wait around forever," and "When are we going to do it? Come on!" Which I suppose is realistic for a college boy but he's supposed to be the hero. *Insert snort of derision here.*
* The only balm to my soul is that (I think) J.P. appears in the next book.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Princesses again

The title(s): Princess Lessons, Perfect Princess
The author: Meg Cabot
Publication: Harper Trophy, 2003 & 2004
Got it from: Book Depot

This is a little walk down side princess alley here. Neither of these books fall into the series proper but since they were published around book 5 it seems as good a time as any to stick them in here.

Princess Lessons is all about how to be a good princess, written by Mia and her friends and family. It makes being a princess seem like teh suck. I mean, always looking happy and gracious in public? No thanks. All these "do this's" and "do that's" are scaring me. Thank heavens I was born a commoner.

Perfect Princess is a little better, as it outlines the illustrious lives of princesses past and present, real and fictional. Everyone's here, from Princess Grace to Mononoke.

Cute, fun reads but not necessary to enjoy the series.

Random fact:

My wedding hairstyle was modeled after Princess Mia's from the Princess Diaries movies. This is the picture I showed my hairstylist:

Here's mine:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Princess in Pink

The title: Princess in Pink
The author: Meg Cabot
Publication: Harper Trophy, 2004
Got it from: Amazon

So - we're halfway through the series, if you don't count the side novels. Which I don't.

Mia turns 15 in this novel and her birthday turns into a complete disaster (naturally). Grandmere brings her dog to the fancy French restaurant and he runs amok, causing the waiter to spill soup all over Grandmere. The waiter (a hot young Tibetan named Jangbu) gets fired. Lily gets all upset over this (mostly because Jangbu is hot) and soon all of New York's hotel industry in on strike. Which bums Mia out because she wants to go to the prom with Michael. Only Michael thinks the prom is lame, and it doesn't look like the hotel is going to be able to host it.

Things of note:
*Not many lists in this one (boo).
*Mia's mother is way pregnant at this point. I won't give away the ending but I think you can guess what happens.
*Boris, distraught over Lily's leaving him for Jangbu, drops a globe on his head and has to get stitches.
*Tina decides Boris is her Mr. Rochester and they start dating.
*Not bad, but when are they EVER going to get to J.P., aka Guy Who Hates It When They Put Corn in His Chili?!

If only someone could tame him, or; Goddess of Spring

The title: Goddess of Spring
The author: P.C. Cast
Publication: Berkley Sensation
Got it from: Freemount Books

Dang. I feel like I've been tearing through books like a woman on fire, and I can barely come up with three snarky things to say between them all. I hate to say it, but I keep coming up with winners here. Goddess of Spring was just too good.

Basic premise: Lina is a 43-year-old baker who needs money for her business, badly. So she summons the Goddess Demeter (half jokingly) and asks her help. Presto, Demeter appears and tells Lina she'll exchange Lina's body with her daughter Persephone's so Persephone can save Lina's business. All she'll have to do is spend six months as the Goddess of Spring. Easy! Oh wait, wasn't there something about Hades and a rape?...crap, too late!

I didn't think I was going to like this book for the first 100 pages or so. I have to admit, it was a bit slow going. Not bad, mind you. It was like wading through gummi bears while the rest of the book was swimming in chocolate silk. I like gummi bears, though. Just like I liked the description of Lina's bakery. I happen to have a strong interest in the pastry business, since my two favourite men work there. (One is my husband and the other is this guy). So I felt like I could really picture Lina's shop. The way the author described everything made me hungry.

Once Lina descends into the underworld to pay a visit to Hades (the rape doesn't happen here) things really pick up. Lina continually describes Hades as her "Batman" and I think the comparison is apt. There's definitely a case for describing Hades as the original model for all the brooding, misunderstood Batman/Mr. Rochester types out there. How could any woman read this book and not love Hades? Apollo seems like a whiny sissy boy next to this guy. Hades is passionate, he's devoted, he's romantic. Even the Underworld seems like a pretty great place to be when he's around. And it's full of DEAD people.

You don't have to be familiar with Greek mythology to understand or enjoy this book, but it helps. For instance, if you know the story of Orpheus and Eurydice already, you'll know where their characters are coming from (although Orpheus only makes a brief appearance). Also, knowing the various gods and semi-gods make their appearances funnier (Lina refers to the Limoniades as the "Lemonades").

Greek mythology is already fully of hilarity and sexiness and it's nice to see the stories updated so skillfully for a modern audience. I'll definitely read the other books in the series if I have the chance.

One teeny, tiny, complaint:
I am so, so sick of every single woman in the romances I've read recently having a cat. I don't have anything against cats, but why does every romance heroine have to have one? Not every single woman, or every woman in general for that matter, likes cats. Also, if you're going to give your character's cat the stupidest name ever (Patchy Poo the Pud), please don't tell me in your author bio that your OWN cat has the same stupid name. It isn't cute, it's vomit-inducing. It almost made me want to stop reading the book, and that would have been a terrible shame since I ended up loving it so much. Thank Hades that Lina left her cat back in the mortal realm.

Sorry, P.C. Cast, if you ever read this. I think you're an incredible writer, but that cat name - don't. Just don't.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

But I thought he was a gigolo! or; Slow Hands

The title: Slow Hands
The author: Leslie Kelly
Publication: Harlequin Blaze, 2008
Got it from:

Remember when I downloaded all those free Harlequins and I promised you reviews? Well, the time has come!

Many people do not like Harlequins. They say they don't get enough book for their buck. Or that the characters are just caricatures and there's no time for personality development.

Being someone who cares about quality rather than quantity, I don't care about the first one. As for the second one, I say judge each author individually rather than a whole publishing company.

Besides, the book was free! What am I going to do, demand my non-existent money back?

I am here to say that this book rocked my socks. Despite being a "dreaded" Harlequin and a contemporary, which I don't normally read, I couldn't put it down. ("It" being my laptop, which I had to balance on my lap while reading, which gave me a pain in my neck). Leslie Kelly is freaking hilarious. I found myself genuinely laughing out loud at several points. Me, the stone-faced reader whose general inclination is to hurl books at walls.

This book had two of my favourite plot elements: mistaken identity and bachelor auctions. I love a good bachelor auction story. Especially when you put some shy, skittish dude on the auction block, it's gold. It's right up there on my top ten list of favourite romance novel plot elements.

Twins who switch places to fool the ones they love, with hilarious results
Heroines who think they love someone else, but really love their hot best male friend
Brothers who bet their sisters while playing poker
Matchmaking ghosts
Bachelor auctions*** see, there it is!
Nerdy guys being dragged on adventures with hoydens
Time-traveling hotties
Sexy kidnappings
Ones where the heroine falls in love with her stableboy
"That hot guy I fell for turned out to be my husband!?"

Coming soon, I will compile a list of my top ten least favourite romantic elements. For now, I will concentrate on the good stuff.

The curtains open on two photographer sisters who've completely screwed up the bachelor auction brochures by messing up the pictures and the bios of the bachelors. They've sorted everyone except two: one's a paramedic and one's a gigolo.

Gee, can you guess how it's all going to go down?

Yep, frosty-but-buxom Maddy heads to the bachelor auction to stop her cougar stepmother and stepmother's friends from humiliating her father by bidding on Mr. Gigolo. So she outbids them all. Of course, Jake's not a gigolo, he's a paramedic. She doesn't figure out the truth until near the end, and he finally clues in about halfway through what she really thinks he is.

I don't think this book would have worked so well if the two main characters hadn't been so likable. Jake's a genuinely nice guy, not just a cardboard nice guy. I loved him from the start when he's backstage waiting to be auctioned off. Listen to his inner dialogue when he's trying to justify being auctioned off for a children's charity:

"Right. Good cause. Kids. I like kids. Don't have any, don't really want any for a few more years, but they're cute in a long-distance way. As long as they're not sticking raisins up their noses or falling down sewer drains or following the family cat up a tree.

Okay, so maybe he didn't like kids so much. Not enough to go through this humiliation." (p.17)

Leslie Kelly keeps the zingers and one-liners going throughout the books. The puns, they come fast and furious. The passage where Maddy remembers her cheating ex-boyfriend is particularly memorable in the hilarious department:

"That Roddy had been a nickname for Rhonda, a twenty-year-old ski bunny, had been something he'd failed to mention. Maddy had found out the hard way when she'd decided to surprise him one weekend. She'd found him in his room, engaging in some serious downhill action with the snow ho.

There were no skis involved, but his pole had been getting quite a workout." (p.44).

Memo to romance writers: put more hilarious in your books, with lots of puns! See above paragraph for example. That is all.

I don't want to say too much more about this book, because I think you should go download it from Harlequin and read it yourself. The characters are funny and sweet, the story moves along nicely and even the cliches are enjoyable.

I'll only add one more thing: I just found out there's a sequel. It's about the woman who thought she bought the paramedic, but - surprise!- he's the gigolo.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Vol IV 1/2, not to be confused with Volume IV 3/4: Project Princess

The title: Project Princess
The author: Meg Cabot
Publication: Harper Trophy, 2003
Got it from: Amazon

Q: Does this count toward my total book count if it is only 50 pages long and I read it one morning in the bath before work?
A: It is if I say it is.

This was a special mini-book, the proceeds of which go to special housing development. In this slim volume, Mia and her friends spend spring break building a house for a needy family in West Virginia. As you can imagine, not a lot happens in fifty pages. Boris throws up on the bus and everyone is horrified they have to sleep in tents and wash with wet wipes. Mia gets to make out with Michael and everyone goes out for Dairy Queen. The End.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Princess in Waiting

The title: Princess in Waiting
The author: Meg Cabot
Publication: Harper Trophy, 2003
Got it from:A used bookstore in a time and place I know nought

Hey. I know how you're feeling. No hilarious book reviews in ever so long. But fear not. More good stuff is on the way.

So here we are at Volume 4: Princess in Waiting. Basically, not a lot happens in this book. Mia spends Christmas break in her future country of rule, Genovia, and pines for her new boyfriend Michael. Grandmere gives her some advice to not chase boys and makes her read Jane Eyre as a guide. Mia arrives home and is conflicted over whether or not to go to the Countess Trevanni's Black and White ball and please Grandmere or have her first date ever with Michael watching Star Wars.

Brain musings:
*Okay, is it normal for a high school to have a Christmas break that extends to January 20th?! I don't think that's normal.
*Mia gets lost in Prince William's brilliant blue eyes at a ball. Heh.
* Three lists in this volume! My favourite things about this series are all the lists Mia makes. In this one: "Mia Thermopolis's New and Improved List of Hottest Guys (with commentary by Lilly Moscovitz)"; "Lilly Moscovitz's Guide to What's Hot and What's Not on TV (with commentary by Mia Thermopolis)"; "Mia and Lilly's List of Romantic Heroines and the Valuable Lessons Each Taught Us." My favourite: "Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice: boys like it when you are smart-alecky."
*Two more references to future J.P., aka Guy-Who-Hates-It-When-They-Put-Corn-in-His-Chili! Ooh, foreshadowing!
*Mia steals a present from the Genovian Museum for Michael's birthday. It is a moon rock given to Grandmere by her dear friend Richard Nixon.