My Favorite Books, #8 – Faking It by Jennifer Crusie

Love me some Jennifer Crusie!
Faking It Cover

While it is, on paper, a ‘sequel’ to Welcome to Temptation, this book is very much a stand alone. Funny, witty and with the heroine simply ‘putting up’ with the sex at the start , it’s a classic early Crusie turn-romance-conventions-on-their-heads story line.

The publisher’s weekly blurb:

Bestseller Crusie (Fast Women, etc.) takes readers on another smooth ride in her latest romantic caper. At the wheel this time is fab art forger Matilda Goodnight, whose chance encounter in a closet with cute con man/thief Davy Dempsey leads to madcap mayhem and breathless romance. He’s trying to steal back the money he filched from Clea Lewis, ex-girlfriend (and possible husband killer), who had taken it right back. Tilda just wants her last “Scarlet” painting, which Clea has bought to impress Mason Phipps, her rich art-obsessed beau. It’s the last of six forgeries Tilda did for Tony, her now deceased gallery-owner dad, and Tilda is determined to preserve her newly squeaky-clean reputation. Confused yet? It gets wackier, because the whole Goodnight clan and supporting cast are as enormously engaging as the loopy plot. There’s Tilda’s mother, Gwen; her sister, Eve/Louise, a split-personality teacher/diva; her gay ex-brother-in-law, Andrew; and her precocious teenage niece, Nadine. Add a host of shady characters and would-be hitmen, and the breezy plot thickens and puffs up like the light airy doughnuts all Goodnight women are attracted to but eventually forsake for muffins: “Muffins are for the long haul and they always taste good. They don’t have that oh-my-God-I-have-to-have-that thing that the doughnuts have going for them, but you still want them the next morning.” Finally, defying all odds, Crusie answers the burning questions she poses can liars and thieves fall in love, live happily ever after and stay out of jail? while confirming the dangers of dating doughnuts.

So many things are right with this book it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite. I think, if I had to give someone one reason to read it, aside from the aforementioned starting off with low-quality sex between the hero and heroine, I’d say, as a writer, it’s the depth and quality of the supporting characters.

Of course, now that I’m back in Ohio, picking a book set in Columbus isn’t a bad start either.

Favorite Books #7 – The Blue Sword

Another YA book which I have re-read many times, The Blue Sword is a wonderful story of a girl who never quite fit in while growing up who finds herself loving a place so far away and very different from home. Soon she’s embroiled in local life far more than she or anyone one around her ever anticipated. The echo of British Empire in this novel appeals to me, as does McKinley’s character’s range of reaction to the land they find themselves in. And there’s a romance, too!

From the blurb at Amazon:

Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does.

Hope you give it a try!

My Favorite Books #5- Tamora Pierce

Since I can’t possibly pick just one book , this’ll have to be a favorite author day instead!

Tamora Pierce. Love her world building, love her strong women, love her girls growing up into strong women. Fickle gods, magic, mayhem. Yeah, they’re pretty good reads.

If I had to choose my favorite…probably Trickster’s Choice. Love the storyline. But then… for story crafting I really like Terrier. The subtle change and growth in the actual ‘journal’ as the story progresses is wonderful.

My *only* complaint is sometimes the story arc seem to rush towards the end, as if she already has her mind on other things and is ‘done’ with the story so she wraps it up. The Immortals Quartet was the one I found to be the most rushed. But maybe that was just me, wanting the story to last that much longer.

Be sure to check out her website. Lost of good stuff there, including an extensive list of ‘future’ books in the left side bar. Very excited to see some of the future stories she’s already mapping out!

If you like Tamora Pierce, you may also like Sherwood Smith’s Once A Princess (and it’s follow up), Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion series,  Mercedes Lackey’s By The Sword and Kristen Britain’s Green Rider (although I don’t recommend much past the second book in that series).

My Favorite Books #4- The Corset Diaries

The Corset Diaries Cover

Back in the spring of 2004, before the first of her Aisling Grey books hit the stands that fall, Katie MacAlister released The Corset Diaries.

This is one of the funniest contemporary romances I have ever read, Susan Elizabeth Phillips notwithstanding.

The blurb:

He was so handsome she could barely breathe. Or maybe it was just the corset…

“I HAVE TO WEAR WHAT???”

No woman in her right mind would consent to wearing a corset for a month. Especially a “skinny-challenged” woman like myself. But dreams of being debt-free danced in my head at the offer of appearing in a reality TV show.

A Month in the Life of a Victorian Duke is about real people—like me—pretending to live on an English estate, circa 1879. Sounds fun, no? Well, it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. We’re talking no televisions, no cell phones, no PMS medication. And did I mention the corsets? No breathing for a full month. Luckily, when I met the real-life duke who was to be my pretend husband, he took my breath away…

In a manor in which everyone must strictly follow the Victorian lifestyle, things are bound to go wrong. Like when some harmless lust turns into that other thing…

Love was definitely not in the contract.

My sister turned me onto this book and to this day there are times she says ‘barking spiders’ and I *totally* crack up.

Favorite Books, #3 – A Summer to Remember

A titled rogue courts a prim and proper lady in this spirited Regency romance by the deservedly popular Balogh.

One of my all time favorite Regency Romances, A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh, is atypical of the genre at this time in that the heroine, for the most part, lives within the conventions and constrictions of the times. She’s also atypical of most current Regency heroines in that she is a gentle soul, and not a forthright, sassy woman, one chaffing and determined to break the constrictions of convention. Balogh does an amazing job not only making her likeable, but showing her growth as well as her growing determination to make her own happiness and not depend on others for it.  A lovely, lovely book.

If you like this, you might also like The Secret Diaries of Miss Amanda Cheever by Julia Quinn.

Favorite Books, #2 – Beauty

Here is the second of this series,

For years the only version of Beauty and the Beast I would read was Robin McKinley’s. Upon discovering it as a teen her retelling instantly became my favorite book. As several of my friends (as well as nieces and nephews!) would tell you *this* was the book I recommended more than any other for many years.

For me this book introduced me to the idea of alternate realities. Reading a story in the early industrial revolution was so *different* than anything else I had come across. It opened the whole new world of what is now called paranormal literature to me.  Because if this story, with it’s clear elements of fantasy and magic, could be set then, in a time which seemed far more real and recent than traditional fairy tales, certainly there could be stories set in the now with these elements  (as opposed to the more science fiction bent of, say, A Wrinkle in Time). These days with Harry Potter and Twilight the idea doesn’t seem radical at all, but to me, in the late seventies the idea was breathtakingly new.

I still haven’t picked up her revised version, I cherish the original one so much I’m not sure how I’d handle any changes! One day soon, perhaps, I’ll take a chance. But until then I think I’ll dig out my old battered copy, the one with the woman in a yellow dress on the cover, giving the book a slightly free spirited/psychedelic  tone and utterly perfect.

Since Beauty came out several other authors have tackled the rewritten fair tale, from Mercedes Lackey with her 500 Kingdoms, to Jessica Day George stories, including Princess of the Midnight Ball.

 

My Favorite Books, #1 Julie Czerneda, Survival

This Monday I am re-rolling out my blog Feature: My Favorite Books, starting back at number 1.

Of course, with so many to choose from, it is difficult to pick where to start. However, something tried and true, which I’ve read many times seems to be an excellent place, so I’ll begin my list with Julie Czerneda’s Species Imperative series, specifically the first one, Survival.

A blurb, from Amazon:

Must one species’ evolution ensure another’s extinction? Canadian author Czerneda (To Trade the Stars) attempts to answer that loaded question by focusing on the unique but dangerous relationship that biologist Mackenzie “Mac” Connor forges with Brymn, a Dhryn archeologist and the first of his race to visit Earth, in this imaginative, if somewhat slow-moving not-so-distant-future novel set in the Pacific Northwest and the far reaches of space. The story comes alive whenever the workaholic, emotionally withdrawn Mac interacts with the seven-armed Brymn, “a giant bearlike being,” who at one point applies makeup to go diving with salmon. Trouble arrives in the form of the alien Ro, who kidnap Dr. Emily Mamani Sarmiento, a colleague of Mac’s at Norcoast Salmon Research Facility. Blamed for creating the Chasm, a zone of space littered with worlds that have been sucked dry of all life forms, the Ro also want Brymn and Mac. The Interspecies Union’s representative, Nikolai “Nik” Trojanowski, whose mysterious attraction to the straight-laced Mac adds romantic heat to the proceedings, helps the two escape to Haven, the Dhryn homeworld. Unfortunately, Brymn and Mac soon find no place is safe from one species’ imperative to survive at any cost. A planned sequel may try to answer the next vital question-can friendship evolve to forgive the ultimate betrayal?
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Okay, so why do I like this book/series so much? I think part of it is the world building, specifically the alien building. Mrs. Czerneda is a biologist and it shows – in a good way! No long winded explanations, but a detail to things like xenobiology which is often lacking in SF “space epic” books (which this does turn into, but do NOT be put off by that!).

Add in a stubborn and smart protagonist, a ‘life as we know it’ scenario and, of course,  a hint of romance and you have a book which I have recommended more times than any other book, particularly to people who are burned out on paranormal romances but want smart, tough, thinking heroines.

I hope you give it a try!

Favorite Books #10, Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris

IMO this book is one of Charlaine Harris’ finest works. A very dark heroine who is trying to find her way after life shattering events, this book is about surviving and moving forward.

The write up on Amazon:

Harris, author of the Aurora Teagarden series, now introduces Lily Bard, resident of Shakespeare, Arkansas, a woman fiercely protective of her privacy, determined to succeed as a one-woman cleaning agency, and just as fiercely determined to excel in karate. When the unpopular and very nosy owner of the apartment building next door is murdered and the body dumped in the local park, Lily reports the body to the police–anonymously. The local police chief, however, is nobody’s fool and quickly discovers Lily’s involvement and her own past, which makes her a possible suspect. Given the situation and, since she cleans for many of the other possible suspects, some opportunities, Lily decides that the only way to clear her name is to find the real killer. Harris has created an intriguing new character in this solidly plotted story. Expect more from crime fiction’s first cleaning-lady series.

I love flawed heroines who are doing their damnedest to make their way in the ‘normal’ world and it doesn’t get much better than this book.

My Favorite Books #9, A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith

Actually, A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith is one of my daughter’s favorite books and when I asked her for a suggestion she couldn’t believe I hadn’t included it yet.

So here we go. I *have* to use the original cover, it’s much better than the new one as it shows more of the diversity of the group:

And here is the review I wrote back in 2009 on it:

I love fantasy and now have a daughter who loves it too. The good news/bad news is that, while she’s only in first grade she’s reading at a fifth grade or above level. While I’ve been able to find some fantasy books at her reading level that don’t have implied, or semi explicit sex, it’s hard! Even Tamora Pierce, one of my fav authors, won’t work for her. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think sex (implied or semi explicit) is inappropriate to put in books for middle school and above, however I do think my daughter, at six, is too young to read it.
This book, however, is a wonderfully fun, chaste, book. She can’t decide which of the princesses is her favorite and likes them all. And it shows her that, just like people, princesses come in all types, shapes and sizes (and temperaments!) Although I figured out the plot twist pretty early on, the book still worked and the last third, wherein the ‘Posse’ is formed makes up for the plot device. I didn’t like how the ending was handled when I first read it, but it’s grown on me.
Recommended (for you and your precocious daughter if you have one!)

Hope you like it as much as we did (my daughter corrected that to “as much as we do!“)