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Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Reckless-Anne Stuart

In Book Reviews, romance novels on September 27, 2010 at 12:10 am

A Ten Hand High Girl And A Rake

Reckless by Anne Stuart is the story of Charlotte Spenser, an unattractive 6′ woman with red hair and freckles who at thirty years old in early 1800s Britain is already a spinster, and Adrian Rohan, an incredibly attractive man who revels in debauchery with the most beautiful women in London and Paris.  Charlotte has had a crush on Rohan for some time and she finds herself face to face with him at the Heavenly Host grounds in Sussex, a place where anything and everything goes sexually and no place for a virgin like her.

Rohan sees Charlotte as a plaything, something he can amuse himself with for a couple days at Heavenly Host and then throw away.  He is somewhat intrigued by her virginity, but his experience with virgins in the past has left him uninterested overall in their “crying and protestations of love” after he deflowers them.  However, his time with Charlotte doesn’t go quite like he thinks it will and he finds himself unable to forget her as easily as he thought he could.

Reckless has some fine parts to it.  Rohan is actually quite an interesting character, all the more so because he’s devilish.  He is definitely a bad boy.  The parts of the story that include him are sexy, but the question must be asked:  What kind of man who is described as “charming, handsome, and devastatingly skilled in the arts of love” would want a female described like this:  “at a good six feet, she towered over most men, she had awful ginger hair and freckles, an overabundance of bosom, and need to wear glasses,” in addition to being a woman who “glowered” all the time? I understand Stuart attempted to show that they were opposites.  The problem is that it is highly unlikely that such a man like Rohan would ever even give a passing glance to Charlotte, let alone be interested in taking away her very old virginity (at 30 in the early 1800s, she was definitely an old maid). Stuart makes her so unattractive that she sounds like a horse (hence the ten hands reference).

That Stuart has Charlotte fall madly in love with Rohan but outwardly be confident and strong enough to act like she doesn’t care is another fine part to the story.  Charlotte doesn’t cry and protest that she’s in love with him after having sex with him.  She acts like it was meaningless, and each time she sees him afterward, she either acts disgusted to see him or uninterested.  That’s good.  It is in the characterization of a female who glowers at people that she would put a wall up to protect herself from someone like him.

However, overall, the story just contains too many problems.  That they wouldn’t be together in the first place is a problem, but then that he’d begin to see her as the most beautiful woman around simply because he’s had so many beautiful women that he’s become blase about the whole sex thing is a bigger issue.  Romance novels don’t have to be strictly realistic, but if an author decides to work within the confines of certain realities, then any story that doesn’t respect them suffers.  In addition, the dialogue is terrible–melodramatic.  Then at times, it’s chopped, like there should be so much more said, and you’re left thinking that no one would speak this way, in or out of bed.  Also, much of the book has to do with Charlotte’s cousin Lina, who is herself a seasoned debauch, and the men she enjoys, but none of that is as good as the interplay between Charlotte and Rohan.  Finally, the ending is just dreadful.  Rohan goes from being a seductive rake to a coldhearted cad and then to a man so in love he can’t think of life without her in a span of just a few chapters.  His coldness and cruelty to her don’t ring true, like much of the story.

Can opposites attract?  Sure.  But sometimes two people are just too different to be together.  Such is the case with the characters in Reckless.
-Alexandria

September Top 5: Our Favorite Nonfiction Books

In Top 5 on September 24, 2010 at 12:13 am

This month we discuss our favorite nonfiction books.  We don’t only read romantic books, so we thought we’d do a Top 5 on books that are a bit more analytical.  It’s a little more serious than our previous Top 5, but we promise to get back to fun and frivolity next month with a Top 5 about why vampires are our favorite monsters (you know that will be fun).

Alexandria/Moira

1.  The Art of War/1776
2.  On Liberty/Reagan’s War
3.  The Art of Seduction/Londonistan
4.  Real Education/Holy War for the Promised Land
5.  Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England/Mere Christianity

What makes the top of your nonfiction list?

Alexandria:  My top nonfiction book is one called The Art of War by Sun Tzu.  Written in the sixth century B.C. by a Chinese military general, The Art of War is a relatively brief book that deals with military issues.  It’s interesting because Sun Tzu’s ideas on how to conduct war are applicable to everyday situations, from the boardroom to the classroom, because they’re about a very basic idea to all people:  the desire to succeed.  The thirteen chapters deal with topics such as how to wage war, how to use strategy to avoid war, how to use your opponent’s weaknesses to your advantage, and even such things as how terrain affects military planning and how weather can be a decisive factor in a campaign.

I have read The Art of War many times over the years, and it’s an immensely useful book in understanding military history, but it’s also great for understanding human nature because in the end, that’s what war is about–mankind’s desire to control.

Moira1776, by David McCullough ranks in the top five of my favorite non-fiction books. This wonderfully written book follows the Revolutionary War through the year 1776, which often looked very bleak for the colonies.  The strong character and sincere belief in the cause for which he acted combined with his unwavering faith compelled Washington to continue in the face of seemingly impossible odds.  George Washington and the other men who formed the Continental Congress risked their own wealth, the safety of their own families, and their very lives to procure the liberty that we enjoy.

This book should be required reading for all American high school students.

What books make it into the number 2 spot?

Alexandria:  My second favorite nonfiction book is entitled On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.  On Liberty is an example of what liberal thought was in the 19th century, as opposed to what monster it’s morphed into today.  Mill discusses the right of all people to do as they will, as long as their behavior doesn’t harm another.  How liberals of today, who seem to constantly be attempting to dictate to the rest of us how we should think, act, and be can claim that they come from the same school of thought as Mill is astounding.  In fact, Mill deals with just this kind of group in On Liberty when he discusses the tyranny of the majority, the power that a vocal majority will have over the minority, be it a minority of sex, race, religion, or any other kind, and how it stifles the rights of that minority.  Mill argues that the tyranny of the majority is worse than that of a government.  He sees government as a political animal, whereas the majority is an all-encompassing beast looking to dictate to each of us in every part of our lives.

Reading On Liberty is like having your eyes open to liberty for the first time.  If you haven’t read it, do so now.  It’s worth the time, particularly in the current political climate.

Moira:  Another of my favorites is Reagan’s War, by Peter Schweizer.  This book is another that I believe should be required reading for all high school students in this country.  In addition, it is not difficult to read and gives insight into the character of Ronald Reagan that no textbook can ever impart.  Reagan battled communism throughout his lifetime, and this battle led him from the big screen to the highest political office in our land.  The policies this president effected were at times highly controversial, and yet ultimately successful.  He was unwavering in his quest to end the Cold War, a firm believer in the supremacy of American ingenuity (because of the freedom we enjoy and our capitalistic economy which rewards high achievement), and a man who could not be cajoled, manipulated, or bribed.  He stood for something.  He believed in America.  He was truly a fascinating and interesting man.

Good stuff!  Now on to number three.

Alexandria:  My number three book on my list of top nonfiction books is The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene.  Greene’s book is often seen as controversial because it advocates what many see as extremely manipulative methods in achieving a goal.  The problem with the naysayers’ arguments is that human beings naturally do such things every day; it’s just that now it’s politically incorrect to admit it.  Look at all your great leaders, even those of groups who don’t like this book.  The people at the top didn’t get there not understanding human nature.  Greene’s The Art of Seduction is good because it explains just one part of human nature and how to know it to use it to your advantage.

I think the problem stems from the fact that the word seduction is in the title.  When people think of romantic relationships, many assume that power doesn’t come into play.  There’s no explaining to these people that power is a part of every human relationship.  All Greene argues is that it’s how you use power that differentiates the successful from the unsuccessful, in this case, with the opposite sex.  But read the book knowing that what he writes, as what Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, can be applied to any situation.  Those touchy-feely types who don’t like Greene’s book shouldn’t worry anyway. They’re so easily read, one doesn’t need a book like The Art of Seduction to figure out how to get around them.

Moira:  Another top recommendation of mine, Londonistan, explores the nature of radical Islam, causes and effects, spread into western nations, and  its foothold in Great Britain.  Melanie Phillips chronicles the passivity of the British government in confronting the jihadist faction operating boldly in its midst and recruiting in its cities.  Whether motivated by faulty logic or fear, Britain’s government refuses to act in its own best interest Philips warns.  One need only look to the growing areas in France where police no longer set foot, areas of Britain where the same is now occurring, court battles in the UK where fundamental Islamic groups are demanding their own separate family courts which will judge according to Shar’ia Law (yes, in Great Britain!), school systems changing curriculum, meals, and gym classes to accommodate Islamic students to understand the dangers posed to western society.

In our world today, we must understand the nature of Islam, its goals, its tenets, its mission, and its agenda ( including social, missionary, and geo-political agendas).  The information is plainly written and spoken by Islamic leaders around the world.  Phillips presents all these plainly.  I highly recommend this book to high school students and adults.

And the number four nonfiction books on the list?

Alexandria:  My fourth book on this list is entitled Real Education: Four Simple Truths For Bringing America’s Schools Back To Reality written by Charles Murray.  I reviewed this book in August (see the review here).  As an educator who sees everyday how high schools are truly failing our students, I think this book is important enough every parent should read it.  However, beware:  Murray doesn’t pull any punches, and he doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of what the American education system has devolved into.  He also doesn’t worry about hurting feelings, and some readers who are parents of students who are low performing will probably have a hard time swallowing his prescription for improving America’s schools.  Murray doesn’t argue in favor of neglecting these students, but he does strongly argue against the “educational romanticism”, as he calls it, that drives our school system today and claims that everyone can succeed at the level of going to college.

Murray argues against what the inevitable outcome of so many low level students going to college will be:  a college degree meaning nothing but a huge bill and it being equal to a high school degree.  The problem is that what this means is that not everyone gets to be the engineer; some will have to be the laborers, and in our society today, this is seen as unacceptable.  So they continue to go off to college, not realizing that every student who forces colleges to lower the standards is another step toward a college degree being worth nothing except the paper it’s printed on.

Moira:  The Middle East continues to be at the center of the news, with peace seemingly no closer than it was hundreds or even thousands of years ago.  Understanding the history behind this conflict is imperative if we are to help bring about resolution in the area.  David Dolan, Jerusalem based journalist reporting for CBS (at the time of publication) has written, Holy War for the Promised Land. Dolan explains the history of the region, the religious struggle at the center of the conflict, the implications of the rebirth of Israel as a nation and its continuing struggle to survive in the Muslim Middle East.  This book was published in 1991, and much has happened in the 19 years since.  However, without the knowledge of the well documented history of the area, one cannot understand the significance of the ongoing conflicts of the present day.

Again, I highly recommend this book.  I must note that the beginning chapter and conclusion include a little of Dolan’s personal story, including his journey as a journalist and how he came to be in the Middle East as an American Christian.  However, the news and history reported in the book are from a purely journalistic approach.

And last, but not least, in at number 5?

Alexandria:  My number 5 is entitled The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England. Written by Ian Mortimer, it deals with a favorite period in time for me, the 14th century, and one of my favorite places in history.  I also reviewed this book during the summer (see the review here).  Mortimer’s writing is easy and interesting, and he makes what can be a very dense topic come alive because he deals with the everyday things that one must know to live in any time:  what to wear, where and what to eat and drink, who’s in charge, and what to look out for, in addition to things such as money, telling time, and even the interesting and outlandish fashions of the day.

Ian Mortimer’s The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England is a fantastic way to study the 14th century. Read it and realize what a great history book is like.

Moira:  To finish off this very hard task of choosing only five non-fiction books to recommend, I have chosen, Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis.  This classic is a must read, regardless of one’s religious affiliation (or lack thereof).  Lewis, a self-proclaimed atheist at one time, became an unabashed Christian after examining the basis of his beliefs against nature, human nature, the human condition, and logic.  Extremely thought provoking, Lewis conveys the basics of Christian thought and logic in his wonderful style.  Uncomplicated and straight forward, Mere Christianity, would be enjoyed by anyone interested in the human condition.

Love and Respect For A Lifetime, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

In Book Reviews, nonfiction, social science, Uncategorized on September 23, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Love And Respect For A Lifetime, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ newly published book on marriage offers little more than the redundant restating of the Golden Rule.  While admittedly wise phrases and tidbits grace the pages of Eggerichs’ book, it does not offer couples any real advice on how to deal with issues it recognizes as areas of conflict in marriage such as money, child rearing, sex, or communication.

Eggerichs’ book also suffers from what I refer to as ADHD publishing.  Many of the 153 pages have only one sentence centered on an otherwise empty space, reminding this avid reader of a child’s book.  Boasting more than thirty years of counseling and research, Eggerichs states in his introduction, “Using these powerful tools, you can save a struggling marriage from the divorce court or a ‘ho-hum’ marriage from boredom and concealed bitterness.”   Unfortunately, no tools are discovered in the six separate sections of the book beyond vague statements such as this one from section 1, entitled The Wisdom of Love & Respect, “Here is the secret to marriage that every couple seeks, yet few couples ever find…Unconditional respect is as powerful for him as unconditional love is for her.  It’s the secret that will help you achieve a brand new level of intimacy.”

In the end, Eggerichs’ 153 pages do state one obvious truth that is powerful marital advice.  Love your neighbor (treat your spouse) as you wish to be treated.  Practice this second most important commandment and save the $15.99 you would have spent on Eggerichs’ book.

Recommendation:  * _ _ _ _ (one out of five stars)

Do not confuse this book with Dr. Eggerichs’ Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs, which is a much larger book.  The covers of these books are almost identical.  I read this complimentary copy of Love & Respect For A Lifetime courtesy of Booksneeze.  The opinions in my review are solely my own.

~Moira Naveen

Passion Unleashed-Larissa Ione

In Book Reviews, romance novels on September 20, 2010 at 12:10 am

And Now For Something Entirely Different-Vampire/Demon Falls In Love With Virgin

Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione is one of her Demonica series novels.  This one is about a half vampire, half Seminus demon falling for a charmed human who has to be celibate.  Seminus demons are sex demons. Well, you say, that’s an odd pairing–a demon who has to have sex more times a day than most people speak on the phone and a young, beautiful human who has to keep her virginity because she’ll die if she gives it up.  This sounds like a match made a few steps below heaven.

Wraith, the Seminus demon, is as all great romance heroes are: mad, bad, dangerous to know, and incredibly sexy.  He’s also dealing with issues from his childhood (something many women would like, I guess, but I found this to be somewhat irritating) and is part founder of a hospital in the underworld (so he is an altruistic demon–women dig that).  Serena, the charmed virgin, is an archeologist (Moira won’t like that one bit).  She meets Wraith when he comes looking for her charm to cure him of a deadly poison one of his brothers (the evil one–not the other two he founded that hospital with) had an assassin inject him with. It seems her virginity is the only cure for this particular poison. However, other demons, many not so noble as our man Wraith, also want what Serena has because they want to take over the world.

Of course, because he’s incredibly sexy (something helped tremendously by being a sex demon), it doesn’t take long for Serena to want him more than life itself, literally.  Interestingly, she works very hard to not give it up, but because she finds out Wraith is dying, she wants to give him some pleasure like he’s given her (the non-penetration kind, sort of).  So she performs fellatio on him and when she swallows, she is basically turned into a woman who must have him. Then she is doomed to death, but the sex was at least incredible.

There are a lot of bad guys doing bad stuff to these two and in the end all is well because she is saved by Wraith, who of course is willing to trade anything to keep the woman he loves with him.  It’s all very nice, and by the end, Wraith is no longer worthy of such a wicked name and should go back to being Josh, the name he used when he was tricking her to be with him.

Wraith is a great character for most of the story, but once again, we have a writer symbolically defanging the mad, bad guy by the end of the book.  Perhaps this is what romance readers want.  I don’t, but maybe I’m not the norm.  I’m fine with the happy ending, but does it have to be so damn pedestrian?  Do the sexy, dangerous men in these stories always have to turn into men one step above milquetoast, whose only attractive qualities left are their good looks and great bodies? Can’t a man be in love with a woman and retain any of the personality he possessed before she arrived?
-Alexandria

Master-Colette Gale

In Book Reviews, romance novels on September 17, 2010 at 12:10 am

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold–With A Side Of Kinky Sex

Master is Colette Gale’s erotic retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo. The original idea of the story, the revenge Edmond Dantes carries out on the men who falsely imprisoned him for years, and the characters are kept in this retelling (including the many disguises Edmond wears after he leaves prison), but those are really all that are similar to Alexandre Dumas’ original story. What Gale adds to his tale is a whole lot of erotic sex and a happy ending.

Gale’s story isn’t a bad one, and this piece of erotica is far better than the last one we read by this author, Bound By Honor, the erotic retelling of Robin Hood’s story.  Master doesn’t go off the rails into a vortex of freaky perversion like Bound did, although there are some wild parts in this one too.  The scene in which Dantes, disguised as Sinbad the Sailor, and Mercedes, his love he lost when he was imprisoned, watch two servants of his put on a sexual show is scorchingly hot.

Quite interesting to me was the fact that most of the characters are all in their forties when the erotica really begins in this book.  Gale is forced to work within the age parameters Dumas originally designed, but you don’t find many romance books about women in their forties being such sexual creatures.  If the reader can get past the fact that in the time period in which this story is set, a forty year old woman was basically what a sixty year old women is like today and think about what women in their forties are like now, then all is well.  If not, then thinking of Mercedes doing what she’s doing for most of the book is a bit of a stretch (and not a pleasant one, I guess).

In addition to the main love story between Dantes and Mercedes, Gale includes another love story between the Count of Monte Cristo’s slave Haydee and another of his slaves, a mute named Ali.  Haydee is in love with Ali.  Even though Monte Cristo has saved her from a life of horror as a slave in an Arab harem, he does not want Haydee sexually and treats her like a ward.  However, Ali won’t reciprocate Haydee’s affections because he sees her as his master’s. It is up to Haydee to seduce Ali, which results in some pretty sexy parts of the story.  Gale’s telling of this love affair is a little ham handed, but in some ways it’s quite nice.  It’s interesting that in the original book, Monte Cristo ends up with Haydee, not Mercedes, and Gale includes a  statement in the beginning of the book to the effect that this book is for anyone who knew that Haydee was more a midlife crisis than a real love.

Overall, Master includes a lot of story and a lot of disguises for Edmond Dantes, in addition to a lot of sex, but it’s not a bad way to spend an evening if you’re looking for some erotica based in post Napoleonic France.  Gale knows how to write a sex scene, no doubt.  I just could do without the word quim so much.
-Alexandria

Mercedes Hererra & Edmond Dantes are resurrected in Gale’s retelling and embellishment of the classic The Count of Monte Cristo, now entitled Master.

Master follows the original novel with Dantes’ false accusation and inprisonment of fourteen years before he makes his escape and calculates the revenge on his enemies, which he carefully executes with ruthless cunning.  Added to the original is Mercedes’ story of devastation in believing him dead, subsequent suffering, and sacrifice over the years.  As Edmond carries out his vengence, he struggles with his long buried yet resurfacing feelings for Mercedes even though he believes she has betrayed him.  Their journey toward redemption and long sought after peace spans more than two decades.  Ultimately, they must choose whether forgiveness or bitterness will be their legacy.

Colette Gale does earn a commendation for writing an erotic novel that is, in fact, a novel.  Along with very steamy intimate scenes, the author delivered a story worth reading.  The main characters are written with satisfactory depth and the supporting characters are developed nicely to create interesting layers within the story.  Perhaps most suprising was the likability of Mercedes, as heroines in erotica are often (in this broad’s opinion) lacking in personality beyone ridiculous feistiness.  This was not the case with Mercedes.  Gale’s character showed a quiet patience as confusing events enfolded around her as well as a reasonable boldness and strength of will when necessary.  This was no petulant, whiny girl, but instead a woman comfortable with her sexuality, who played the hand life had dealt her, and proved herself a formidable opponent in the battle of wills with the resurrected Edmond.

Obviously, when reading erotica one encounters an abundance of sex and  Master is no exception to that rule.  Gale’s love scenes are not for the faint of heart.  This author allows the characters to let their freak hair fly on more than one occasion, which at times is a bit much.  Overall, Master, is ….well, masterful.

Recommendation: *** + _  (three and one-half stars)

~Moira