Book Review: The Bride Prize by Sandra Schwab

I started to just write a tweet about this, but then I realized I had more than 140 characters worth of things to say.

Anyone who has been reading this blog long enough to see my reading lists, knows I adore Sandra. Not only do I love her books, but she is a nice, intelligent lady who lives in Germany and has a fantastic job as an English professor. All that to say, this review may be biased but it is all still true.

The Bride Prize is, in a word, delightful. It is the first in a series which centers around a satirical periodical titled Allan’s Miscellany. Robert Beaton, the hero of the story, is an illustrator for the magazine. One of the major conflicts of the novella is that Florence Marsh’s father does not hold with those satirical rags and Florence, of course, is falling for Robert.

Schwab has included some hilarious excerpts from the magazine which made me pull down my own copy of Eighteenth-Century English Literature so I could flip through the section on Addison and Steele. A discussion of literature in The Spectator, issue Number 62 starts like this, “As true Wit consists in the Resemblance of ideas, and false Wit in the Resemblance of Words…”

I sat on the floor for a good thirty minutes thumbing through my lit book and chuckling. I then proceeded to talk Mr. Rochester’s ear off about the cultural force of true satire in the 1700s long past his eyes glazed over. He patted me on the shoulder and said something like, “That sounds nice, dear.”

Back to the book.

The Bride Prize is set a generation after Addison and Steele wrote The Tattler and The Spectator, but the need to drive change in society with the power of a well placed word is a theme throughout this small but fun novella. I do not want you to think The Bride Prize is all about social change, though it is mentioned. I do want you to know that the English major, librarian, geek that I am loved the references Sandra sprinkled throughout the story about history and literature of the early 1800s. If you are really a geek, and I know you are, you can signup for her newsletter and get a 24 page pdf which includes illustrations and historical explanations of all manner of things mentioned in the book. You can also buy a copy of the ebook with the extras for a bit more, see the link at the beginning of this post.

The Bride Prize is well worth your time. I smiled for a long time when it was over. I can not wait until the next installment in this series.

Highly Recommended

 

 

Here is what I’ve been reading…

I have read some fantastic books in the last month or so and I wanted to share them with you, dear readers. I know all of you have plenty of time to read as many books as you want, right? Exactly.

ProTip: I keep track of what I have read and when on a Google Calendar called Books Read. It makes creating a list at the end of the year a breeze and I can access it easily.

I read mostly fiction, but every once in awhile I will read a nonfiction for research or for fun. I recently read Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink and it is the best nonfic I have read in a very long time. Fink’s style is approachable and she does an excellent job of both laying out the events at the hospital and how the legal case was compiled. Where I think this book excels is the way Fink gives the reader a sense of empathy for all the major players in this heart wrenching story. I highly recommend this book.

I have a weakness for wounded heroes and in the past couple months I have read multiple books with this trope, as you shall see from my list. I read the first two books of the Bec McMaster series London Steampunk and enjoyed them. I want to get back to this series soon. They are paranormal steampunk with very wounded heroes so what could be bad about these?

In a fit of being unable to find something to read (I tried an old Garwood western but it let me down), I reread Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab. One of these good days, Sandra will fulfill my deepest desires and get a digital copy of this up. It is currently out of print but if you ever find a copy, it is worth it’s weight in gold. Fenris is still one of my all time favorite wounded heroes. Lucky for you, Sandra has some other offerings which are digital. Of her recent novels, Bewitched is my favorite.

After a discussion with a friend regarding wounded heroes, she strongly suggested (read: beat me over the head) I read When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James. The witty dialog between the two main characters is what makes this book sing. The glimpses into early medicine were also quite fascinating. I am glad I took my friend’s advice. (Thanks, Katy!)

I caught up on Meljean Brook’s The Iron Seas series. Brook has a way with world creation that explodes my mind every time I read her stuff. The vivid characters she creates to fill her worlds take my breath away. These books are so good I want to devour them, but they end up eating me instead.

I am way, way, sadly late to this party, but I started reading the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh. I am embarrassed to tell you how long all of her series have been on my TBR list. If the rest of her series are even half as good as the first half of the first novel of Guild Hunters, Angel’s Blood, you can all expect to hear nothing from me until I consume them all.

What are you reading?

Books Read in 2013

Here is the annual list.

I have to admit, the number of books I read this year disappoints me. It is the lowest since I started tracking my numbers. I went back to work part-time this year and I think that made an impact. I also spent more time writing and researching for the new series I started in September.

Along with the lower numbers, almost all the books are some sort of romance genre. I did not stray far this year from my first love. In 2014, I am going to try to branch out a bit. I would like to have more scifi/fantasy on the next list.

Books Read – 34

Least books in a month: April and July with 1 each
Most books in a month: October and December with 5 each

Best books: The first two books on this list are auto-buy authors for me. Not only do I adore their stories, but they are lovely ladies online as well. I wish I could tell you how much I adore them. If I ever meet either of them in person, my head might explode.

How Beauty Loved the Beast by Jax Garren (May) – A wonderful culmination to a trilogy that has captivated me. By captivated, I mean this series is like the best kind of drug. I have no will to resist. (See Best Rereads below)

Bewitched by Sandra Schwab (August) – Bewitched is a touching tale of magic, love, and the miracles love can work in our lives. Schwab has a way with words that reminds me of Austen and she makes me swoon. She is a wonderfully smart lady who throws references to literature, history, and culture into her books. Fabulous.

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourne (December) – Every once in awhile you find that book whose words drip from the page into your pores. This is one of those books. The way Raybourne paints Africa you can feel the heat of the sun and hear the animals hidden in the grass. Raybourne uses complicated, but beautiful characters, to draw you into a timeless story. It is perfect.

Best reread: The Jax Garren Beauty and Beast books. They are irresistible to me. I go to read one and then have to read them all. It’s a sickness, but I don’t want the cure. In fact, just writing about them makes me want to read them again.

Unexpected find: Stone Guardian by Danielle Monsch – Sexy. Gargoyles. I don’t really think I have to say more.

Hottest read: Takhini Wolves series (Black Gold, Silver Mine, Diamond Dust) by Vivian Arend – No one, I think, does shifters like Arend.

Books By Month
January – 2
Lady X’s Cowboy by Zoe Archer
All He Ever Dreamed by Shannon Stacey

February – 4
Firelight by Kristen Callihan
How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren
How Beauty Saved the Beast by Jax Garren
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

March – 2
Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce
These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

April – 1
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

May – 3
The Lady of the Rivers by Phillipa Gregory
How Beauty Saved the Beast by J. C. Garren
*How Beauty Loved the Beast by Jax Garren

June – 3
Ten Days by Olivia Mayfield
Working for the Devil by Lilith Saintcrow
Dead Man Rising by Lilith Saintcrow

July – 1
Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis ed. JuliAnna Avila and Jessica Zacher Pandya

August – 4
*Bewitched by Sandra Schwab
Betrayal by Sandra Schwab
Black Gold by Vivian Arend
Harry Potter and the Half -Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

September – 1
Silver Mine by Vivian Arend

October – 5
Diamond Dust by Vivian Arend
Stone Guardian by Danielle Monsch
Simply Love by Mary Balogh
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

November – 3
Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
A Perfect Blood by Kim Harrison

December – 5
*A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourne
All She Wanted by Nicole Deese
Far in the Wilds by Deanna Raybourne
Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare
Love A Little Sideways by Shannon Stacey

Book Review: Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren

This review is for the first two books of the Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren. The third book comes out today, so guess what I am doing for the rest of the day. You can read a mini review of the first book, How Beauty Met the Beast in my Books read in 2012 post.

Here is the blurb from the publisher for the first and second books:

How Beauty Met the Beast: Book 1

The Beast

Scarred. Damaged. Living with a terrible secret. Agent of the Underlight Wesley “Hauk” Haukon has nothing left but the fight for liberty against the oppressive Order of Ananke. He’s starting to lose hope…and then he sees her.

The Beauty

Despite her night job as a burlesque dancer, grad student Jolie Benoit has always played the mostly good girl. That all changes following a scorching sexual encounter with a stranger whose face she doesn’t see. After she’s kidnapped by thugs and rescued by a man with a very familiar voice, Jolie becomes a pawn in a struggle she never knew existed.

Hauk knows he cannot have her, and resolves to protect his heart and his secrets. But as they work together and grow closer, he finds new reason to keep fighting. Dare he risk hope in a new life, one where Jolie can see past his ravaged face and where their friendship can grow into something more?

 

 How Beauty Saved the Beast: Book 2

Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.

The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.

Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him–or risk losing him forever…

 

A tortured hero makes me swoon. A tortured hero who is a gentleman and does not use his baggage as an excuse to be an overbearing idiot is even better. A tortured hero who is also not conventionally handsome hits all my spots, the good ones.

Hauk is isolated physically and emotionally from others, even his friends, and this distance makes his growing relationship with Jolie nail biting. The way they gravitate towards each other, only to fling themselves away, builds the tension between them. Garren crafts Hauk and Jolie perfectly so their relationship woes are never forced or irritating to the reader. On the contrary, the reasons, especially on Hauk’s side, were heart wrenching.

Jolie has had all of the advantages of a privileged upbringing but has retained a decent moral character. Unfortunately, this has isolated her from most of her family and leaves few she trusts. Unlike Hauk, who is isolated because of his appearance (and that pesky thing about being suspected of murder), Jolie is isolated by her last name and her money. Both of these characters have some serious baggage dragging along behind them.

The pages are fairly smoking from the chemistry between Hauk and Jolie. The first novel starts off with an encounter that could set a sheet aflame (ahem) and the tension never drops from there. Hauk and Jolie, after the initial encounter, do not touch often but the reader keenly knows every time they do. By the time I finished reading the second book, the book was scorching my hands.

The romance is great, but the plot is not too shabby either. There are pagan, excuse me, heathen gods, good guys fighting evil power hungry men, magical mysteries, and people trying to build a better world. There are subtle, and not so subtle, references to steampunk, anarchy, fairy tales, science, burlesque, and Austin culture in the story line. It is a wild mix that Garren weaves together fluidly for a very fun ride.

These are books that I frequently recommend, and by recommend I mean beat over the head with, to people, and by people I mean anyone unfortunate enough to admit they read books. There are three books in this series, all increasing in length, and all very reasonably priced from the wonderful Carina Press. The third book, How Beauty Loved the Beast, comes out TODAY.

Do yourself a favor and make a very nice lady (Jax Garren) happy. Go. Buy. Read. And fall in love.

P.S. I will admit without coercion that I have read Met three times and Saved twice and all the bits around the web as well. I am head over burlesque heels.

Jane, has received nothing for this review except perhaps the right to stalk Jax Garren at the next conference we both attend.

 

Books Read in 2012

Total Books Read: 69
Most Books Read in One Month: November, 9
Least Books Read in One Month: February, August, and September all had only 4 books

Summary: As always, my list is dominated by romance, with a smattering of other things lest I become boring. There are a ton a good books on the list and a lot of returning authors I love. I could go on for paragraphs about many of them, but I will spare you. I wish I had more time to write reviews, but I can not do everything I wish. Almost everything I read was an ebook.

Favorite Reread: The rereads on my list this year were all Harry Potter books. We are reading them to Gideon and as I am doing some reading and listening, in turn, I included them. My favorite reread this year is not actually on the list because technically I did not read the entire thing, but the story is funny enough I wanted to share. While doing some research for the book I wrote last year, I wanted to flip through some books to see how they handled a couple things. I picked up Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab and started reading a few chapters in. I think I started a little before the scene with the bat. It was a quiet evening, Mr. R was playing on the computer, and I kept reading and reading and reading. Before I knew it, I had finished the entire book, again, in one sitting no less. Somewhere in Germany, Sandra is laughing at me.

Favorite New Read: I hate this category every year because I can almost never pick one. This year is no different. I have a short list of books that I positively swooned and swooned and swooned over. You must all go read these books right this moment. For different reasons, each of these books or series grabbed me and still have not let me go. Here they are:

The Blades of the Rose Series by Zoe Archer (April) – This is a great historical series with some steampunk and steamy romance. The characters are delightful and the stories, which revolve around different cultures and artifacts, are interesting and filled with adventure. The romances in all four books will delight. Archer writes dialog that sticks with you and brings her characters from the page.

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (June) – This urban romance is the first in a wonderful series. You will love the main characters, but the supporting cast is equally delightful. It will make you laugh and the romance will make you grab for a glass of ice water. Urban fantasy is a saturated market, but Harrison stands out among the others. Dragon Bound won a RITA Award from RWA last year.

The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas Series) by Meljean Brook (August) – Oh My Goodness. The first two books in this series completely blew me away. Brook has a way with words that brings new worlds to life with poignancy. The steampunk world she has created in this series is gritty and damaged, but the ability of people to overcome war and circumstances shines in this novel. The hero is definitely an alpha, but he won my heart. I had given up on steampunk, but this series has be begging for more. Brook is a master.

Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant (November) – ZOMBIES! This book is part zombie thriller, part political commentary, part media commentary, and all fun. They are hilarious, tense, and sad all at once. Grant has created the best zombie book since World War Z. The pop culture references, instead of being dated, are fabulous. If you even remotely like zombies or you want to give them a try, this is a magnificent place to start. ***Repost Freely*** ***Repost Freely*** Georgia Mason Lives. ***Repost Freely*** ***Repost Freely***

How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren (also November!) – November was a great month for books. This is the first of a trilogy. The next one comes out February 11th, which gives you plenty of time to read the first one. This book is set in Austin, the capitol of my home state. I adored this story because it is a beginning, one that starts with a tentative friendship between two people you fall for, hard. Plus, it has burlesque dancers which is all kinds of awesome and win. Hauk is a war veteran, horribly burned, and a member of an underground society with some steampunk elements. Jolie is a graduate student and a burlesque dancer. Their friendship and budding romance is sweet and full of all kinds of warm fuzzy things. You will never look at a sheet the same way, either. Though this is a novella, it did not strike me as too short. I am often frustrated by novellas, but this one left me just satisfied enough with the story and aching for the rest of the tale. I have so far resisted the urge to reread this, but I think I will give in right before How Beauty Saved the Beast, the second book, comes out.

January – 7
(W)hole by Ruth Madison
Falling Hard by J.K. Coi
Witch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabriella Charbonnet
Dangerous Magic by Alix Rickloff
Slip Point by Karalynn Lee
Entwined by Heather Dixon
The Viking’s Sacrifice by Julia Knight

February – 4
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving
Marry Me by Jo Goodman
Viper’s Kiss by Shannon Curtis
Chaos Tryst by Shirin Dubbin

March – 5
Miss Foster’s Folly by Alice Gaines
Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart
Lament: the Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts
Charming the Shrew by Laurin Wittig

April – 5
Hunger Aroused by Dee Carney
Rebel: The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
Scoundrel: The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
Stranger: the Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
Warrior: The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer

May – 7
Super Zero by Rhonda Stapleton
Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend
Reiver’s Bride by Amanda Scott
What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: the English Experience by Michael Prestwich
Ashfall by Mike Mullin

June – 6
Snowbound With a Stranger by Rebecca Rogers Maher
Chain Reaction by Zoe Archer
Ruined by Rumor by Alyssa Everett
Skies of Fire by Zoe Archer
The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

July – 6
Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson
Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, and Richard Isanove
Serpent’s Kiss by Thea Harrison
Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood
Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey

August – 4
Kilts and Kraken by Cindy Pencer Pape
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
Beyond the Night by Joss Ware
Enclave by Ann Aguirre

September – 4
Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook
Burning Up by Angela Knight, Nalini Signh, Virginia Kantra, Meljean Brook
All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey
Stolen Love by Carolyn Jewel

October – 7
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Chains and Flames by G. A. Aiken
Dragon Actually by G. A. Aiken
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
Matt Archer: Monster Hunter by Kendra C. Highly
Never Seduce A Scot by Maya Banks
Beast by Marian Churchland

November – 9
What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long
Feed: Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
Deadline: Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
Blackout: Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Heart of the Dragon Realm by Karalynn Lee
Moonlight and Mechanicals by Cindy Spencer Pape

December – 5
All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey
Shattered Magic by Rebecca York
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
A Galactic Holiday by Anna Hackett, Stacy Gail, Sasha Summers ed. By Angela James
An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser

–Jane, thinks her time this year was well spent

Books Read in 2011

There are a lot of books on the list this year, due mostly to the fact that Washington, the new Wee Bairn in the Rochester household, joined us in March. You can see the reading numbers spike up after his arrival. You might wonder how a new mom can read so much. Easy! I read during breastfeeding, which for the first few months is about 20 minutes or more every 2 hours. Awesome!

The list has a lot of romances, as always. I went back and read some older Nora Roberts that I had not read. I realized that there are quite a bit Roberts I have not touched and decided to remedy that. Interspersed in the list are some award winners and non-fiction. I also read some YA and sci fi/fantasy.

Total books read in 2011: 67
Most books read in one month: May, 11
Least book read in one month: February, 2
Worst book read: The Debutante’s Dilemma by Elyse Mady – I could have bought the whole stuck between two lovers at the same time thing, but the ending just did not seem plausible to me. It was all a bit silly and made me realize that the menage genre was definitely not for me.
Best new to me book: I read a lot of great books this year. A plethora, you might say, so choosing one is really hard. So hard in fact, I am completely cheating and putting four books here.
One is a series and one is non-fiction. This is my list so stop complaining. The fiction series is an older Nora Roberts: Sea Swept; Rising Tides; and Inner Harbor. – I fell in love with the family in this book. The non-fiction goes easily to Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell. – I am a huge fan of Sarah. I even have a picture of us when she came to ALA last year. I have shielded my share of scoffers for my reading tastes, but this book reminded me why romance novels are not just good, but great for the soul.
Best reread: The Bride by Julie Garwood – I have a whole shelf of old Garwoods and they are my go to books when nothing else appeals. What is not great about a man in a kilt?
Worst book I did not finish (and thus it is not on this list): Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard – all around awful.

Books Read
January – 3
Mr. Cavendish, I Presume by Julia Quinn
Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale by Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, and Chris
Samnee
Goose in the Pond by Earlene Fowler

February – 2
Fallen by Lauren Kate
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

March – 3
Start Your Family by Steve and Candice Watters
Torment by Lauren Kate
Betrayed by Claire Robyns

April – 3
Sea Swept by Nora Roberts
Rising Tides by Nora Roberts
Inner Harbor by Nora Roberts

May – 11
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts
Tears of the Moon by Nora Roberts
Heart of the Sea by Nora Roberts
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison
The Spurned Viscountess by Shelley Munro
I Wish (The Witches of Desire) by Wren Emmerson
Collision Course by Zoe Archer
Blue Galaxy by Diane Dooley
The Spiral Path by Lisa Paitz Spindler
Blood of the Maple by Dana Marie Bell

June – 7
Allegra Fairweather: Paranormal Investigator by Janni Nell
The Bride by Julie Garwood
Almost Innocent by Jane Feather
Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik
The Debutante’s Dilemma by Elyse Mady
The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell
The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourne

July – 5

The Lion’s Lady by Julie Garwood
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
Ashes by Ilsa Bick
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
X-Isle by Cosby, Nelson, and Scott

August – 4
Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
Offworld by Robin Parrish
Superman: Red Son by Miller, Johnson, Plunkett, Robinson, Wong
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

September – 7
Defying Convention by Abby Niles
Pale Demon by Kim Harrison
Undeniably Yours by Shanon Stacey
Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey
Cat’s Tale: a fairy tale retold by Bettie Sharpe
Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt
Tankborn by Karen Sandler

October – 7

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Sparks in the Cosmic Dust by Robert Appleton
The Outlaw Bride by Kelly Boyce

November – 8
My Lord Jack by Hope Tarr
Goddess With a Blade by Lauren Dane
Captive Bride by Bonnie Dee
Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Born In Fire by Nora Roberts
Born in Ice by Nora Roberts
Born In Shame by Nora Roberts

December – 7

Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts
Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts
Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Brighid’s Choice by P. C. Cast
Altered Destiny by Shawna Thomas

Romance Heroes

I am currently reading Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell. Actually, I am going to set this to post tomorrow and I might have devoured the book by then. If you love romance, you are a scoffer of the genre, or you just do not get it, you must read this book. Now. Go.

It is both hilarious and touching to read how romance has impacted its readership. I am almost halfway through the book and I just finished the section on the top 9 romance heroes. I was a little meh on the list as I read it as none of my favorites were listed, until I got to the top two: Jamie Fraser from Outlander and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. *swoon* Both books are my two favorites of all time and by extension the heroes are two of my favorite as well.

Outlander is one of the books that I bang people over the head with until they read it. When I was in grad school, my roommate, the only other person I had met up until that point that read as much as I did, had never read Outlander. It was too much romance for her and I never did succeed in forcing that book upon her.

However, about a year after I graduated, got a job, and moved to a different city, my friend and former roommate called me. Instead of the usual greeting, she said, “I want to marry Jamie Fraser!” I giggled gleefully, knowing full well the rabbit hole she had fallen into. Honorable, but flawed, men in kilts. Be still my heart.

There are two heroes not on Sarah’s list that are on mine:

Fenris from Castle of the Wolf
I can not tell you all the ways I love this book and its characters. I have reread it almost every year since first discovering it, thanks to the Smart Bitches. Why do I love Fenris? On the surface he is a snarling, uncaring, and crippled beast, but underneath he is a man who wants only to protect his family and live a dignified life (and find love, though of course he does not know THAT… yet). There are so many scenes in the book that reveal the true heartache of the hero and his struggle to be a better man for the heroine, Celia. The main characters strive to be better in different ways because they love their partner enough to want to be worthy of them. Isn’t that really what true love is?

Mr. Rochester from my real life
I am not talking about Mr. Broody Pants on the Moors by Bronte. I am talking about my Mr. Rochester who recently performed the very important quest of rescuing a silver earring from the drain of the sink, the man who refills my beer (that we homebrewed together!), who does the dishes, loves my cooking, calls me out when I am being less than I can/should be, rolls his eyes at my bad jokes, is a total nerd (just like me but in different ways), makes me laugh, is a wonderful dad, and can still kiss me senseless. Every girl should be as lucky as me.

Whoever your favorite romance hero is, I hope you visit him soon, in the pages of your favorite book or when you lay your head next to his at night.

–Jane, everyone needs a little romance

Book Review: Lionheart

This is a mini book review for Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman. It is on sale if you preorder it now on Amazon. The book comes out October 4.

Ever since I read When Christ and His Saints Slept, I have been a fan of Penman. British history has long been a favorite of mine and no one does the English royal court like Penman. Penman does a great job of keeping all the Williams, Georges, and Johns separate for you so you know who is doing what.

Lionheart is the story of Richard and the Third Crusade to the Holy Land. With all the fighting between the French and English kings, it is a wonder there was a crusade at all. Penman shows Richard to be both an inspiring leader who leads men fearlessly into battle and a caring man who loves the women in his life in their own way. This crusade was personal to Richard, like the journey to the promised land was personal to Moses. Penman goes beyond the king to the man and what drove him to do the things that he did during this early part of his reign.

As always, Penman’s language, storytelling, and attention to detail draws you in, making you experience life in the midst of a crusade.

Recommended for fans of Penman and History alike

Book Review: Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Ashes is the first in a new YA trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick that is being released today. Ashes follows the fate of Alex, a teenager with terminal brain cancer as she tries to survive a post-apocalyptic future. It is a great read; I could hardly put it down.

(minor spoilers)

Alex is hiking in the woods, and has just met up with two other hikers, an older man and his granddaughter, when a loud boom in the sky makes everything go haywire. After the initial chaos, the older man is dead and Alex is left in the company of an 8 year-old girl and a dog.

The loud boom, an EMP of some kind, has altered the brain chemistry of the survivors in strange ways. Everyone of middle age has died, leaving old people and a very few people younger than 30. Most of the survivors in the under 30 crowd turn into animalistic cannibals, like zombies, but alive and breathing. The book follows Alex, Ellie, and later Tom, as they navigate through the dangers of the forest. It is a great story and a very interesting new take on zombies. There is, of course, a Lord of the Flies undertone, as the trio encounters various people along the way.

The only thing that I disliked about the book was the 8 year-old, Ellie. For much of the beginning she is annoying and uncooperative. She is the TSTL, Too Stupid To Live, character, who despite her idiocy, seems to escape fatal consequences to her choices, due in this story to the benevolence of her companions. I almost stopped reading the book, so annoying were her mistakes. Ellie does become less annoying as time goes on, when she finally realizes she needs to stop being such a brat because their lives are all at stake. Hello? People eating zombies?

I like that Bick leaves some questions unanswered and she has set up the next book nicely, though you will be facing a cliff on the last couple of pages.

Highly Recommended for lovers of survival and zombie stories