Keepers and Throw Backs: How do you decide what books make the cut?

Recently, I had to manually download a book from Amazon and found that I have 293 books on my Kindle;  since last November! The downside to all this book bliss is that I can’t cull a library of e-books so I am stuck with them and all the others  I will purchase in the near future. Since I live approximately 75 miles from Nashville, Chattanooga, and Huntsville I’m a gas tank away from any decent book store (i.e. McKay), so my collection of e-books will only increase.  This however doesn’t stop me from buying the odd book from Wally World, and so grows my “hard copy” collection.McKay Chattanooga

I have never been too attached to the books I read and keep a bankers box ready for my throw backs. Actually, before my Kindle I kept very few of the books that I purchased because I have a used book store that I am in love with (this is no exaggeration) called McKay.  This has always been a bit of an adventure for me; once my bankers box is full I fill up my gas tank and head for Chattanooga (just because I used to live there). I spend the day filling my cart up with books while waiting on my golden ticket or yellow ticket as the case may be. With my box once again full I head of into the sunset, make a pit stop at Ankar’s Hoagies or Glen Gene Deli and head home over Mt. Eagle chomping at the bit to start reading. Sentimental much?

This is a ritual that I love; however, there are a few books that will never see the inside of that bankers box. I have the original Cynster series by Stephanie Laurnes,the Web series by Mary Balogh and the series that started this regency obsession with me The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn. These are all packed away in my trunk in order and come out every now and again when I’m feeling nostalgic. On the whole, most of my regencies will be taken to McKay and the cycle will start all over again!

However, there are a few more books that are even more special to me and have nothing to do with Regency Romance. First, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith I remember watching the 1945 film version on TCM when I was a young and found the book as an adult. I do not know why this book is not on the list for American Lit in high school; however, I’m glad it wasn’t because I would not have enjoyed it half as much. That brings me to Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns that I did have to read for my American Lit class in  high school. I still have that copy and it was well worn and loved  when I got it from my Aunt. That book means the world to me because it is the one tangible item of hers I have and now that she has passed I couldn’t even think of letting that book go. Finally, 1984 by George Orwell; I purchased this book my freshman year of college when I was gung ho about reading all the classics. I never finished all of those classics but I still read 1984 once a year because I love it. Out of all the books I have, these three books will go with me where ever I go.

In the end, I could cull my book collection down to three books that I can not live with out. What books make the I can’t live with out this book list for you, how do you decide which books to cull from your collection and are you like me and have a plethora of e-books that you are stuck with now?

Advertisements

The Walrus and The Ugly Duchess: Bullies and a Book Review

As an adult I look back on my high school career and have to admit I had it pretty good. I flew under the radar in a school where it was kinda cool to be smart (the valedictorian did our senior prank) and the jocks were in the AristoCATS (think Glee). I was a band geek, had good friends, and made decent grades; however, my sophomore year I had my first boyfriend and my first bully. This bully was menacingly handsome, a friend to said boyfriend, and most detrimental of all, gave me the name “The Walrus”.

Although this nickname never stuck with anyone except him, it did make an impact on my self-confidence and self-image. I truly hate to admit it, but in my mind I am still “The Walrus”; a name and experience like that doesn’t just leave once you graduate high school. This too handsome boy basically told me I was ugly and fat every day while I was dating his friend and after a while I began to believe him.  Today, I have a great boyfriend, a decent job, and I’m going back to school so I can have an even better job; but sometimes, out of the blue I think “The Walrus” and my world comes crashing down on me for a moment or two. So what does that have to do with a regency romance novel; well if that novel is The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James than everything.

The Ugly Duchess is the fourth book in the Fairy Tails series by Eloisa James and tells the story of the “ugly duckling” Theodora Saxby and the too handsome James Ryburn the future Duke of Ashbrook. As children they are best friends, confidants and as close as a brother and sister. However, they are not in fact brother and sister and this fact is driven home when the Duke forces a young James into marriage with Theo.

Society has made an impression on Theo, and it isWhen Beauty Tamed the Beast telling her that she looks too much like a boy. So, she concocts a plan in order to snare the man she thinks she wants and winds up married to James. All is well until the wedding when the papers giver her the moniker “The Ugly Duchess“. James is there for her and all would be well except the Duke comes back and Theo’s world comes crashing down around her. She orders both James and the Duke out of her life and takes the moniker to heart.

Seven years pass and on the verge of James being declared dead he comes back to claim  the one person he has always loved Theo or rather Daisy as he has always called her.

Theo is a character that many of us can relate to and Ms. James does a wonderful job at showing her struggle with the moniker society has given her. When she transforms into the swan Theo still has self doubt and at least somewhere in the back of her mind “The Ugly Duchess” still resides. When James comes back into her life she is forced to face these doubts head on. James, on the other hand, must face his guilty conscience that he has buried over the last seven years.

The only thing I did not particularly like about this book is that it crammed two parts into 385 pages. Personally, I think a book with two or more parts should only be used when the novel is at least 800 pages. This inevitably makes one part of the book seem rushed and in this case it was the second part. Aside from my personal preferences, I give this book a 4 out of 5 it was a great read and it certainly made an impression on me.

Free Book Alert

It’s four days until pay day and for all intents and purposes, I am as broke as California; does this stop me from reading, of course not. I just pull out my kindle and peruse the free books they have on offering and eventually I will find one worth reading. The “ramen noodle book” of choice this time is The Inconvenient Duchessby Christine Merrill.

image

Found free at Amazon and B&N

This novel is about the repercussions of machinations the dying Duchess of Haughleigh has crafted over the years. She has done many wrong in her life including her sons; however, it is an old school friend that has forced her to face her soul in her remaining days. Marcus, the Duke of Haughleigh has promised to meet a girl whose governesses the Duchess had done some vague wrong to. The Duchess dies and the promise is all but forgotten until one rainy night Miranda shows up at his door dragging her suit case behind her.

Miranda has been sent to the Duke’s residence without a maid and the admonishment to keep her secrets close to her heart. She is to marry either the Duke, his brother or some other town worthy to keep her safe from a life unbefitting a lady. By showing up unescorted she has forced the Duke’s hand into marriage saving what little of her reputation was left.

This story has the usually miscommunications; in this case fueled by the Duke’s younger brother St. John. After the marriage Marcus leaves to investigate his new wife and the wrong done to her governess by his mother. While gone St. John begins to plant seeds of doubt and seduction into Miranda. Marcus comes home, St. John leaves and all is well with the world. The new couple begin to see their marriage as the start of their lives instead of the end of it. Of course, their new love is challenged when they meet St. John one last time.

This book was original published in 2006 and is Ms Merrill’s first novel. To say this novel is wonderful would be a lie but for a free book it was pretty good. Throughout this book, Miranda is referred to as “Lady Miranda” when her father was only a Sir; also St. John is never given the courtesy title of Lord. This is a personal pet peeve of mine, Ms.Merrill and her editor aught to know the correct title usage when writting a Regency romance considering this book is a Harlequin Historical romance. However, I can look past that and give it a 4 out of 5 simply for the fact that it is free and a decent read. Hope you enjoy!!

Warning: This post is a cliche or at the very least a trope

If you do a web search for romance novel clichés the interweb will spit back pages and pages of blog posts devoted to the topic. They are all the same; a breakdown of common clichés found in romance novels, often with witty descriptions of said clichés and all the reasons why they should no longer be used and author blogs often devoted to avoiding the “cliché pit fall”. In fact, the fact that I am writing this post is rather a cliché itself.

So, why all the antipathy towards the cliché?  This is something I asked myself as I began writing this post. Whatever the genre, there are only so many plot lines to go around; but these tropes are what make genre fiction what it is. For this reason, in regards to genre fiction, cliché snobs irritate me.  It is the responsibility of the author to transform these clichés into something worth reading.  I don’t know about you, but when I pick up my newest “Duke marries actress and they live happily ever after” book I am not looking for the next great American novel. This, I think is the answer to my question; too many readers want to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. These books are for pure entertainment; they don’t, as a rule, contribute to society in any meaningful way.

I for one like the predictability of a Regency romance novel; after all, I named this blog Wonderfully Vapid Romance for a reason. When I get home from work I want to open up a book that is an old friend that I know well and doesn’t mind if I make a fool out of myself in front of it. To me, romance novels are relaxation and an escape from my rather boring job as a medical file clerk. I want to select the trope that suites my mood, and thoroughly enjoy the cliché.

My ingredients for a good romance novel are: An alpha male, a relatable heroine, insert desired trope here, 2.5 sex scenes, a happily ever after ending and bonus points for an epilogue showing the happy couple with two kids, one on the way and a dog playing in the background. I will admit some of these books are not worth the paper they are printed on; however; every now and again I find one worth its weight in gold and the vast majority fall somewhere in the middle.

So, stop harping on the romance novel cliché, they have been around since Jane Austin published her second book and probably longer! Instead read from another genre or grab a classic novel; this will work until the realization hits you that even a classic has its clichés.

Diamond’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend or Her Worst Enemy

Have you ever picked up a book and thought to yourself, “This sounds ridiculous, but it’s the best book here so I will give it a try anyway “. This has happened to me several times over the years. I will take the book home set it down, flip it over and read the back cover. Then I will ignore it, come back to it and read a page only to set it down again. Finally, after a day of hemming and hawing, I sit down and begin to read. Suddenly, I’m gobsmacked…how could I have wasted the day away without reading any of this book! Then I realize its 3 a.m. and I have read about 75% of the book in one sitting. Well, that is the exact experience I had with When You Give A Duke A Diamond by Shana Galen.

I purchased this book,thinking at the very least it will be something for me to read (because I’m never without something to read!). I’m not one to critisize the use of a cliché; however, I got burned with the courtesan and lord plot in All Afternoon with a Scandalous Marquess by Alexandra Hawkins. Thus, all my hemming and hawing over this book; yes, I’m guilty of prejudging the cliché as gimmick. But sometimes the cliché works.

When You Give a Duke a Diamond is the first book in the Jewels of the Ton series by Shana Galen. Ms. Galen introduses The Three Diamonds: Lily the Countess of Charm, Fallon the Marchioness of Mystery and finally, Juliette the Duchess of Dalliance. All three are supposedly under the protection of the Earl of Sinclair or rather the Earl of Sin. The Three Diamonds have taken the Ton by storm and gossip abounds; especially about Juliette and the Duke of Pelham a.k.a the Dangerous Duke.

Juliette has tired of the glittery life and is ready to find her second or make that third chance at a new life. She survived and divorced an abusive husband with the help of the Earl of Sin and no longer wants to live of his chairty; all she truly wants is her own family to love.

The Duke of Pelham is a regemented, autocratic self contained DUKE. He is not his own person he is a Duke ; that is who he has been trained from birth to be. The lessons have literally been beaten into him by his father. He is in London for Parliament and to finalize his betrothal to Lady Elizabeth. Unbeknownst to him Lady Elizabeth has a gambling problem and this will soon turn his world up side down.

Lady Elizabeth’s collision with the underbelly of London brings the Duchess of Dalliance and the Duke of Pelham together on a hunt for, what else: diamonds. With her life being threatened Juliette seeks out the Duke of Pelham and begins to unravel his ordered, staid life.

For me at least, this is a 4 out of 5 star book. Ms. Galen does a wonderful job at creating both tension and humor while maintaining the development of her characters. But don’t take my word for it, go out and read it yourself.

Series : Too Much of a Good Thing?

My first post was a review on the latest Alexandra Hawkins novel in her Lords of Vice series and it got me thinking about serials in general. Romance novels draw us like flies with that one line on the back cover: The first book in an exciting new series by…! I purchase the book and devour it, become excited by the preview for the next book and ultimately depressed when i realize that I must wait a year for the next installment. Of course, the flip side to this is having books to look foward to throughout the series. All off this leads up to my personal pet peeves.

1. The long wait : I don’t claim to understand anything about the world of publishing or the demands on a writer. That being said, why must we the readers wait up to a year for the next book?

2. Forget me, forget me not : So the wait is over, the new book is out and I remember nothing about the previous book. This is a chronic problem I have; worse yet I trade my books in so I no longer have the first book to reread. I must admit this is slowly becoming less of a problem now that I have a kindle. However, the fact remains that I have to reread the previous book(s) in order to know what’s going on.

3. Disappointment abounds : This happens often; the first book was great but the rest seem to be rushed and make little impression on me. Of course, I continue to read the series sometimes unwittingly; because, well I must reach the ending of the series.

4. Missing books, what? : There have been several instances where I really get into a series and it just stops, for no reason that I can tell. For example, the Flambeau Sisters series by Patricia Grasso where she introduced seven sisters; one would expect seven books but no, only three get a story. In fact two of the books are part of the Kasanov series as well. This irritates me, why introduce so many characters when the majority aren’t getting a story of their own.

5. Repeat repeat : I know most plot lines are not that orginal, that doesn’t really bother me too much. However, when a book is basically repeated in the same series I kinda spaz out. Stephanie Laurens does this often in her series, most recently with the Cynster Sisters Trilogy. The first two books are almost identical… the names of the characters and the rout they took changed. However, both books spend the entire time discussing how to get from point A to point B through point C and D. I digress…a future blog perhaps?

And finally 6. The finale aka THE END : After spending sometimes years reading all the books of a series every character has had their 15 minutes of fame. No matter how bad some of the books may be I’m always a little broken hearted. I was desolate when I finished The Hathaways Series by Lisa Kleypass one of my all time favorite series.

So, I think that covers all my pet peeves. The conclusion, for me at least there is no such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to a series. No matter what may annoy me about them I will always be a sucker for The first in an exciting new series by …!

What are your pet peeves about serials, do you like them or hate them or are you absolutely addicted to them?