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Gobble, Gobble!

October 22, 2010

I’m finding that the more I like a book, the quicker I gobble it up. Seems like an obvious cause & effect, but it really hit home when I finished Power Play in THREE HOURS! It must be the change in seasons and the fact that Thanksgiving is around the corner, because gobbling up books has definitely become a recent trend in my readings habits.

The only things that stood out more than the steamy bedroom scenes were the unexpected and hilarious laugh-til-you-cry scenes. It’s been a while since I’ve literally laughed out loud when reading a book and there were multiple moments where I not only smiled and giggled, but I bellowed out full-on laughs during this book.

SYNOPSIS: Good-girl Emily returns to her hometown to be a bridesmaid in her cousin’s wedding. Since she’s single, she’s always been labeled the ‘reliable one,’ and constantly bends over backward for her family’s requests. Dependable as she may be, Emily refuses to bunk at home and books a hotel room (far away from her family) for the week. As luck would have it, the hotel experiences a bedbug infestation the first night during her stay and she is booted from her room.

Jonah is staying across the hall from Emily when the infestation occurs and the evacuation definitely throws a wrench into his week-long hockey tournament. Because of a hotel mix-up — and because they’re both stubborn — Jonah and Emily become roommates for the week. There is one up side to Emily’s new roommate, however — an excuse to get her family off her back, as she pretends Jonah is her boyfriend. The sheets sizzle between these two and their banter is absolutely hilarious!

The humor may be lost without full context, but here is an excerpt of Emily and Jonah’s back-and-forth:

He could probably be dead and still think about women. So he pulled his trump card. “You can trust me, I’m a cop.”

She seemed less than impressed by this display of trustworthiness. “What are you going to do? Arrest the bedbugs?”

“I thought I might shoot them.” For a second her mouth softened and she almost smiled, then caught herself.

It gets even funnier as the story continues, trust me. Emily is quick-witted and multifaceted, enjoying a cold beer as much as painting her nails, while Jonah is as big (in a sexy, hover-over-you kind of way) and lovable as a teddy bear. The author also adds a secondary romance to the mix which at first seems confusing, but soon becomes a charming touch that adds another dimension to the story. Rounding things out is a climax with an unexpected clinch, and in the end I was left with a chuckling grin on my face.


Harlequin Quickie

October 21, 2010

I recently read Closer… by Jo Leigh and I wanted to briefly share my thoughts about it. Ready? Okay!*

I INHALED this book! I bought it on my Kindle early Saturday evening and stayed up until I finished around midnight on Sunday. Even though it’s categorized as a Blaze title, I thought with the amount of hair-raising suspense that it could have easily been a Harlequin Intrigue. Category aside, Closer… was enthralling and literally a page-turner.

SYNOPSIS: Christie’s life is all-but destroyed, thanks to a persistent stalker. She’s lost her friends, her family, her job and almost her dog thanks to this unknown psycho and she’s finally reached her breaking point. While preparing to run away she comes across a phone number her deceased brother left her in case of an emergency. With nothing else to lose, Christie dials the number and ex-Delta Force and currently under-the-radar Boone comes knockin’ on her door.

Boone promises Christie that he’ll help catch this creep and moves in with Christie to drive the stalker crazy and, in essence, out of his weasel hole. Attempts on both Boone’s and Christie’s lives are made, and amidst trying to catch the bad guy the two of them begin to fall for each other.

Christie and Boone are strong-willed and honest characters and the chemistry between them is hot and enviable. With a surprising twist that complicates things even more, readers will be on edge in anticipation of how things will end!

*I apologize for the cheerleader pun. I was a rah-rah girl (aka cheerleader) in high school and the cheers slip out from time to time.

Over 40 Is the New 20

October 16, 2010

People in their 20s seem to have it all: energy, limited responsibility, firm body parts. But what used to be considered a “prime” age has been bumped out of the picture and replaced by a more — ahem — mature demographic. I’m talking about the over 40 crowd. Sure, many people over 40 are known to have children, spouses, jobs and other responsibilities to juggle, but recently the media has shone a different light on them — one that shows people that age ain’t nothin’ but a number.

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Case and point: Betty White. Best known for her role on the 80s sitcom, “The Golden Girls,” the octogenarian has seemed to have made a comeback in recent celeb-stardom, making hilarious appearances on Saturday Night Live and starring in TV Land’s latest show, “Hot in Cleveland.” While Ms. White is memorable in her own right, she isn’t the only over 40 star making a splash in the media.

Many television shows have taken to using the over 40 premise as their plot hook, hoping to gain both young viewers (through humor) and older viewers (through an older cast). In the last two years alone shows featuring an over 40 cast have premiered: “Cougartown,” which follows the dating adventures of a recently-divorced woman (played by actress Courtney Cox, 46); “Hot in Cleveland,” starring three older women hoping to spice things up in a small (to them) town; and “She’s Got the Look,” a sort of “America’s Next Top Model” for women in their late 30s and older.

If it seems like only women over 40 are the hottest, new thing, think again. Red, which premiered this weekend, is a film about a retired CIA agent who reassembles his (literally) old team in order to defeat his assassin. The film stars Bruce Willis, 55; Morgan Freeman, 73; John Malkovich, 56; and Helen Mirren, 65. In other words, an over 40 cast.

In an industry that is image-obsessed, it’s refreshing to see a change of pace in the media and through magazines that use people who are not only older, but healthier-looking, as well. It’s my opinion that, by having people over 40, — or who are plus-size, or who are married with children, or are homosexual — Americans (especially impressionable youth) will stop putting so much pressure on themselves and realize that you don’t have to be “perfect” to be happy. I just hope that the media continues the trend of featuring “real” people as role models — regardless of their age.

*Originally written for Cultural Literacy class blog

Hot Chemistry, Chilly Suspense

October 15, 2010

As a fan of romantic suspense, I was curious to see how a romantic suspense by a category publisher like Harlequin would measure up. At 218 pages (most full-length rom-suspense are >350 pp.), I could imagine the challenges the author faced in writing a fast-paced yet intricate book in so few pages. However, after finishing Double-Edged Detective, out this month under Harlequin Intrigue, I can say that author Mallory Kane did an excellent job in delivering!

SYNOPSIS: Nicole Beckham barely escaped a killer during a home invasion the year before. With a new city, a new job and a new apartment, Nicole is determined to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start for herself. Detective Ryker Delancey, however, is convinced that whoever tried to kill Nicole is the same person who’s been murdering women around the same time over the last few years – a serial killer. Nicole doesn’t want to believe Ryker, and neither does his boss. When the killer strikes again, this time using the knife he stole from Nicole the year before, the threat against Nicole becomes all too real and Ryker is determined to keep her alive. Spending nearly every waking moment around each other awakens dormant feelings in them both, and in addition to catching a killer, Nicole and Ryker have to figure out if their feelings for each other span beyond the cop/victim relationship.

Kane’s detailed descriptions and suspenseful plot keeps the story moving and readers on the edge of their seat. We are aware of who the murderer is from the beginning, but instead of dampening the climax, insight into the killer’s mind actually makes the story more riveting. In addition, readers are free to devote more attention to the tension building between Ryker and Nic, who are both strong-willed and stubborn, yet also compassionate toward each other. Although Ryker is a detective, he’s not a brute, which is a refreshing change, and Nic is neither TSTL (too stupid to live) nor whiny and dependent.

While there are a few secondary characters mentioned, none are prominent enough to take away from the couple, who take center stage. The only criticism I have, however, is that the reasons keeping Ryker and Nic from committing are somewhat weak and watered down. While it’s a given that the two of them will end up together, a bit more cat-and-mouse chase would have made their reunion more gratifying. Aside from that, Double-Edged Detective is a can’t-put-down read that will have readers both hot from chemistry and chilly from suspense.

Harlequin Blaze: Shiver

October 8, 2010

Shiver by Jo LeighAnother Harlequin added to the repertoire, this time under the Blaze category.

SYNOPSIS: Carrie is a cynical comic strip artist. Sam is the owner of the “haunted” Crider Inn. Jaded and introverted Carrie doesn’t believe in ghosts or any other spirit mumbo-jumbo, but agrees to spend a week at the inn with her ghost-crazy best friend. While on vacation Carrie meets Sam, who fits into her “vacation fling” category. Sam is undeniably attracted to Carrie, and the two indulge in a week long affair. But after numerous rendezvous and even a few unexplainable phenomena, both Carrie and Sam realize they’re deeper into each other than what they planned.

The most charming thing about Shiver is its cast of secondary characters. They’re both quirky and charismatic, and just as engaging as the main duo. When it comes to geeky ghost hunters, it’s easy to write them as cliche or flat, but the author does a good job of making them cute — in a pocket-protector sort of way.

One thing that I wish had been different is the build-up between Carrie and Sam. The tension between them before they get together is lax and fizzles quickly. Although the story is short and the author probably didn’t want to waste pages on climax, a bit more delayed gratification would have made their encounter that much sweeter.

Oh! Almost forgot to mention the dialogue, which I really enjoyed. The banter between Carrie and Sam was cute, while the conversations between Carrie and her best friend, Erin were true-to-life chats that women readers can totally imagine having with their own bff. It was a change from the dialogue in One Night With His Virgin Mistress, but having an upbeat, contemporary vibe works well in this case.

Overall, I would compare this story to a slice of cake: sweet, quickly devoured and a little bit bad for you. Luckily, this indulgence won’t show up on the scale!

“Next Great Artist” at the Brooklyn Museum

October 2, 2010

From “Project Runway” to “Top Chef” to “Shear Genius”, Bravo TV is no stranger when it comes to reality show competitions. Unfortunately, between flashy editing and interpersonal drama of cast members, the actual talent of these individuals takes a backseat to the drama that is played up during the show. Knowing that, when Bravo premiered their latest reality competition, “Work Of Art,” to find the “next great artist” this past June, I rolled my eyes and flipped the channel. How could art be reduced to a jaded reality show? I couldn’t help but wonder how skilled these artists actually were. For all I knew, the contestants could’ve just been seeking their own 15 minutes of fame.

Fast forward five months later. Abdi Farah, the winner of “Work of Art,” debuted his exhibit to the public at the Brooklyn Museum. While I had never watched more than ten minutes of the show, I was curious to see whether Farah’s win was legitimate.

The exhibit, entitled “Luminous Bodies,” opened August 14 and will be on display until October 17. Upon entering, visitors are immediately confronted with two slightly-larger-than-life-size sculptures of men laying on their back, dressed in basketball shorts and Nike tennis shoes. “Libation,” as they’re titled, are made of resin, spray paint and mixed media. I was immediately reminded of “The Awakening” statue at the National Harbor in Maryland, as both installations depict gnarled, contorted facial expressions.

While the contours of the sculptures are impressively detailed, my favorite piece was”Grey (Farewell Line),” an oil painting of the backside of four people dressed in street clothes. The stark gray background is an ideal backdrop for the figures, enhancing the shadows in the their clothing.

I admit, I was surprisingly impressed with the quality of Farah’s work. While at the exhibit I also learned that in the past, contests were held to discover talented unknown artists; Apparently “Work of Art” was inspired by a history of juried-exhibition tradition. According to the Brooklyn Museum, the Louvre held competitions in nineteenth-century France for artists to enter their work.

Perhaps Farah’s talent will last longer than 15 minutes. After all, there have been reality competition winners that have maintained their success. Take for example, “Project Runway” season 4 winner Christian Siriano. Four years after winning, Sirano is still going strong, with fashion shows at New York Fashion Week, a shoe line, a makeup line for Victoria Secret, and most recently, a book deal.

Here’s hoping Farah’s career as an artist is just as “fierce!”

*Originally written for Cultural Literacy class blog

Book Cover Embarrassment

October 1, 2010

Romance booksI am a romance book junkie. While I love reading all types of books, I gobble up romance like Hershey’s kisses. It’s a shameless addiction that I fuel by perpetually downloading genre titles on my Kindle, which currently holds more than 20 romance books alone, spanning from Susan Elizabeth Phillips to Rachel Gibson to Carly Phillips, just to name a few. In the past, I mostly consumed contemporary romance, but was recently presented with an opportunity that introduced me to a new type of romance: category romance.

Category, or series, romance are books that are shorter (usually 200 pages or less) and are released as part of a numbered series each month, as opposed to single titles that are longer and aren’t released as often. Category titles also follow a set plot-line, often based on whatever imprint they fall under. The most popular and well-known category romance publisher is Harlequin, which has more than 15 different categories and releases 120 titles each month.

By now I’m sure you’re wondering, “what’s the point?” Well, over the years category books have developed a stigma for being “trashy romance,” more often than not, because of the titles and cover art of the books. I’ll admit, seeing something called The Playboy Sheikh’s Virgin Stable-Girl with a scantily-clad couple breathing each others’ air with pouty lips doesn’t exactly lure buyers. Whoever said to never judge a book by its cover clearly never worked in advertising.

That being said, I finally decided to ignore the “trashy romance” stigma and give a corny-titled, embarrassing-cover Harlequin category romance book a try. It actually happened by accident. A couple weeks ago I received a package from a friend with a cheeky (and humorous) note about how she thought of me when she came across two category romance titles: One Night With His Virgin Mistress and Pregnant by the Boss! (Yes, there’s actually an exclamation at the end). At first I laughed, turning my nose up. But then, faced with deadlines and desperate for any means of procrastination, I figured, why not? I’ll give it a try.

One Night With His Virgin Mistress by Sara CravenAnd so I cracked open One Night With His Virgin Mistress.

SYNOPSIS: Tallie is a young, small town girl who moves to London to write a book. After saving money from doing odd jobs, she finds a gig house-sitting for a millionaire bachelor. Tallie, however, doesn’t know that the person who gives her the job isn’t the owner of the house, and when Mark (the real owner) returns and catches Tallie in the shower, the two shock each other with their presence.

Mark begrudgingly agrees to let Tallie stay while she finishes her book and the two live in a tense, but sometimes comfortable silence. One night, after returning from a bad date, Tallie propositions Mark to “deflower” her, no strings attached. Of course, there are always strings, and they pull heavily on Tallie’s heart. If only she can decode what Mark is thinking and – better yet – if he feels the same about Tallie.

“Trashy romance” connotation aside, once I got into the story I realized that it was actually written quite charmingly. This was also the first British romance story I’ve read and it took some getting used to – both grammatically and syntactically.  I don’t know if all UK books are written the same way, but the author (Sara Craven) definitely has a way with words, and spun them together to create lyrical sentences. As someone obsessed with words, I appreciated her use of flowery language to depict an otherwise simple scene.

In regards to the plot, it too was enjoyable. The ending was predictable, as with most genre romances, but the path leading up to it was interesting and filled with delicious scenes – and not just sexual-related ones either. While Tallie may have been a virgin, she was not stupid or naive in any way, which was refreshing. And Mark, though brooding and mysterious, was subtly compassionate, which made his affectionate moments that much more precious.

Millionaires and their virgins and mistresses have taught me a valuable lesson: Do not judge books by their titles! This book was such an unexpected surprise that it inspired me to scroll through other Harlequin category romances in search of an equally captivating story – this time, however, I will be ignoring the corny titles.