Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bad Influence

I'm trying to remember how old I was when I started reading Romances. I know I started with a few Harlequins which I kept under the bed. One of which was Janet Dailey's The Thawing of Mara. I seem to remember this one solely for the fact that the hero's name was Sin. (Ooooo.) And, obviously, the heroine's name was Mara. I also remember a scene where he invites her to dinner and cooks two steaks with a fresh green salad. Don't know why, but that image is the ONLY one I remember from the book. I don't even remember why Mara had to be thawed. (Had something to do with her father?) (And my last parenthetical comment on this book is that I didn't realize it was by Janet Dailey until I went to Google the title to see if an image existed. One does, but not the one I remember.) The other Harlequin I have absolutely no memory of.

Let's just not walk down the path of memory lane wherein lies the moment where my Harvard-educated mother found these books under my bed. Yowza! To say she was "disappointed" in my reading choices is more than a mild understatement. To her it was as if she had found a pound of weed under there. Man, was she pissed.

I remember graduating to bodice rippers in prep school, which would have been when I was 15. I distinctly remember buying Jude Deveraux's Highland Velvet in a bookstore near the school. I totally fell for this cover. Swwooosh! And she's up on the horse! Ooo. My little teenaged heart just pitter pattered. I remember staring at it for the longest time screwing up my courage to actually buy it. I really felt as if I were about to buy a box of condoms, I was that embarrassed. But on the other hand, I REALLY had to own that book.

OK. So now, ahem, as a much more mature person, I'm a little embarrassed by having been taken in by this cover. But, boy did it work as a marketing tool in 1982. And well, you know, just because I'm feeling a touch defensive, she does have normal sized breasts, and the descriptions of the main characters do match the cover. The horse is de trop.

I read every Deveraux I could find and shortly thereafter moved on to Shirley Busbee, Johanna Lindsey, Roberta Gellis, a touch of Beatrice Small, and Julie Garwood and Judith McNaught. Glom Glom Glom, gobble gobble gobble.

Now I have a reasonable collection of romances in my bedroom (Arnette Lamb, Laura Kinsale, selected Julie Garwoods, some Judith Ivories, and a couple of Mary Baloghs). I also have many boxes of romances in the hallway. Most of the boxed books I bought in a lot on eBay so I could trade them on Paperback BookSwap for books I really want.

So my ever-precocious daughter (11) has been asking me what in the world all these books are which come and go through the mail. And I've given her the literary criticism version of the obsession. They're about two people meeting and falling in love. They tend to be set in very specific time periods, and there's a basic formula to the plot. Oh, and by the way, there's sex.

"Ew," says the pre-teen.

"Phew," says the Mom to herself. Because I kind of knew that she'd get grossed out by sex. (I think the falling in love part is probably OK, but physical sex? Yuckers.)

So a few days ago she comes down to breakfast and asks me over cereal, "Have you read Mr. Impossible? I really liked it."

"Eh. Well, I kind of read it, but I think I had been reading too many, and I didn't really like it."

"Oh! You should read it! It's all about this girl who's really smart but no one thinks she is, and they go through pyramids, and you should try it again."

OK. Coffee is slowly seeping into my brain and the synapses finally click together. Shit. That's not rated "sweet", as in kissing only. There's full-on sex in that one. Damn Damn Damn. OK. Calm down. She was going to grow into this at some point. Deep breath.

"So, uh, didn't the sex kind of bother you? Like isn't it pretty, you know, like, strong in that one?" (OK, don't hurt me--I say "like" a lot when I'm stressed.)

"Yeah. But they let you know when it's coming."

Turns out she's read a bunch at this point--and not Harlequins. She's straight into the European Historicals. Oh Lord. I am such a bad influence.

It's not like I can tell her not to read them. (Although I'm hiding Hot Spell from her--Mommy's not ready for romantica discussions just yet.) She has a theme she gravitates to: she likes stories about women who are smarter than people give them credit for. And she's smart and opinionated, so I can see where this works.

I am so waiting for some dear friend's mother to call me one night to say, "Do you KNOW what your daughter is READING??" Gah. (Of course, simply typing that reminded me that I have already had to ask her not to bring the romance she's working on to school to read during recess.)

I certainly enjoy talking about romances, so that will be cool to share with her. But I wasn't ready for this to start in fifth grade. Kids these days.

PS: She was right. Mr. Impossible is a good book and did deserve a re-read.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bobby Darin

Saw Beyond the Sea last night.

This is an excellent movie. Very surreal in parts, but with a great story. And Kevin Spacey can dance!

I could be convinced to become a Kevin Spacey fangirl. His voice....

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Checking in

Quick update.

Just got my car back from the shop. $500 for a 60K mile checkup. OUCH! (Had some fluid flushes added on and then they found carbon deposits in the fuel induction system.) So did not need that. Also, after a rain, the driver-side sliding door (minivan--I live in the suburbs, remember?) refuses to open unless you have climbed inside the car from another entrance and applied a swift hard kick to the interior of the door. This cannot be a safe thing, I'm sure.

But on the other hand, I can't get it to do it at the dealership. Yesterday, it did, and they found a repair memo on it. I can get it fixed for an additional $350. {Insert whining noise of your choice here.}

Yesterday I spent almost the entire day sorting papers to prepare for a budget workshop tonight. Ended up with a plastic tote bin filled with bound reports and hanging files and five shopping bags of extra papers to be recycled or shredded.

I'm feeling very much like some sort of junior lawyer on a kick-that-giant-corporation-to-the-curb-type of TV trial, where she appears in court dressed in her steel grey suit and starts piling box after box of documents on the counsel table.

I really need to bring these documents to the workshop. But schlepping this tote bin (which by the way, is HEAVY) seems to present some sort of message I'm not totally at ease with. "Look out, world! I have documents at my disposal and I'm not afraid to use them!"

Monday, January 23, 2006

My house doesn't like to be vacuumed

Against all odds, and against the wails of protest from my house, my friend and I managed to clean it Saturday (at least the first floor).

Apparently my house doesn't enjoy being cleaned, because when vacuuming the living room, unless you have the lights turned on just so, the breaker flips. (Yeah, I have to have an electrician in to look at that, because that doesn't seem safe. The house doesn't like to have the cooktop on in the kitchen and the living room being vacuumed at the same time, and that REALLY doesn't seem right.)

My friend even took the time to take down my (ahem) Christmas tree which was still gracing us with its presence. (Presents?) Nipped every branch off and stuffed them into garbage bags, and dragged the sorry mess out of the house.

I discover this morning though that when I flipped the breaker back on during the vacuuming exercises, I must have flipped the office breaker too. My computer lost all its cookies. Arggghhhhh! (Well, small miracles do happen, I didn't lose the computer.)

And on the subject of miracles, my Very Good Friend sent me this to consider as I continue on in my role as politician-wife. Who knew I could be blaspheming too? I love that it comes from a website called "Blessed Quietness." (Lunatic Shrieking?)

Why Women can't be Preachers

Ladies on governing boards of local churches, holding denominational office, and sitting on mission boards--
Women who rule on such boards are spiritual tug boat pilots. They may not overtly perform lesbian acts, but spiritually, they are lesbians at heart. They are women who are not satisfied with their role as a woman, and they accept and campaign for power with Christian good old boys. The men who let them join the board are weak and show that they need mothering and don't truly trust the heavenly Father alone to guide them.

Oh, so THAT's why I sit on a School Board! Let the games begin! Dominatrix lesbianism? Yeah, Baby.

Thank God I have a budget workshop on Thursday. I'm getting all hot just thinking about it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Oh, my very messy house

Ugh. My house.

It's as if someone just opened all the drawers and closets in the house, picked it up, and gave it a good shake. When you find a t-shirt tucked behind the sofa cushions, it's time to reconsider your daily tidying habits. I'm overwhelmed to the point where I kind of wander aimlessly through the chaos not quite sure where to begin.

I have a Very Good Friend in town, and we were comisserating about our lack of housekeeping skills yesterday. I commented that I'm so much better at cleaning up her house than I am mine. She came up with a wonderful plan.

Today she comes to my house for two hours to help me clean my house. Tomorrow I go to her house to help her clean for two hours. (We have breaks planned, but if we get on a roll, then so much the better.)

What a relief.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Why is the present participle of "Whine" "Whinging"? As in, "I am Whining and whining right now because I am so incredibly tired." Is Whinge a British thing?

Why is the present participle of "To Crochet" "Crocheting"? Because I always read that as "crotch-etting," and I'm sure that's not right.

Why can't I pronounce the word "Nowhere" on the page? Because I often read it as, "Now Here."

Why am I writing this when I need to go back to bed?

Night before last, I woke up at 1:30 am and stayed up all morning before falling back asleep for an hour before the kids had to go to school. In the morning I had a meeting with an insurance salesman (!) and had to deliver some birthday invitations, so I only had time to take a one-hour nap after lunch. After picking up the kids, we had to finish my son's family tree project (due today). Then I bundled my children off to three separate friends' homes so that I could attend a Board Meeting. The meeting went from 6 pm until 11:15 pm.

Did you happen to notice in that list that I forgot to make or eat dinner? Because I only realized this at about 9 pm--duh.

And now, this morning, I discover that when I miss two consecutive nights' worth of sleep, my head hurts and I whine.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Alaskan Romance

The other contemporary I picked up at the supermarket for the infamous TBR challenge was Manhunt by Janet Evanovich. I have never read Ms. Janet before, and I knew this was a reprint of a series romance going in, so my expectations weren't that high. And I guess that's a good thing, because this one did nothing for me. But I didn't hate it, so that's good news for all of you worried about my blood pressure.

Spunky Heroine Alex decides to leave high-powered, corporate NYC for a simpler life. She trades her condo for a property, sight unseen, in Alaska. I'm not really clear on why Alex is so very burned-out except her days are long, and I'm definitely at a loss to figure out why she chooses Alaska for this adventure. (Late in the set-up she talks about Alaska's male to female ratio being so low that she's bound to find a man to satisfy her Marisa-Tomei-like clicking biological clock. I can see her buying property in Upstate New York: rural, quiet, surely there are some men around. Why Alaska?)

So, she gets to Alaska and meets Casey, the bachelor next door, who's kind, rugged, professionally successful, and has a house full of the latest appliances. And with no build-up whatsoever, they are stroking each other's faces, kissing, sharing ownership of a dog, etc. The dialogue is cute, the sex is OK, and the relationship chugs along at a good pace. (Could have have done without the "Before I declare my commitment to you I must punch this other guy's lights out" business. That part seemed dated, but then again, it is a reprint.) I liked Casey but never connected with Alex.

I can't get Alex. Her biological time clock is thundering, and she must be married. So she hies off across the country and never thinks about children again. Neither does she do much in the way of hunting for a man. Also, when she discovers that her rustic cabin is rustic as in no plumbing, no furniture, no electricity, no driveway, and no bedding, she doesn't act rationally. I could totally see her heading off to the nearest town, getting an apartment and an office job, and building up her hardware store and cabin over time. But staying in the wilderness just because? I don't think so.

In terms of Alaska, understanding first off that I've never visited, there's a lot of convincing imagery of beautiful mountain peaks, clear air, and gorgeous skies. But in the same way that I cannot figure out why Alex is in Alaska in the first place, I'm not clear on how the Alaska in Manhunt is that different from, say, Colorado. (In fact, the sun sets very late, after or during dinner, in Manhunt and it's supposed to be Fall. Hmmm.)

So Manhunt was quick, cute, and not horrible. Unfortunately, not that memorable either.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Secret History of the Cover Model

I was reading p.devi's blog and became interested in The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip. Have I ever mentioned before that I am not only a Zorro fan but also a Sir Percy fangirl? Have I? Cause I should have. "Odd's Fish!"

So I went looking for publishing dates, etc. and found two covers.

American Version in color, Australian Version in tinted black and white

Whoa! Doesn't the chick on the Australian version remind you of some Billie Holliday wanna be with her bright pink gardenia in her hair? Spaghetti Straps? That necklace? I see 1950's written all over that image, not Regency.

But then I keep saying that I'm not a stickler for historical details.

Don't you hate it when...

Don't you just hate it when you get all your children assigned to different TV's and multimedia devices so that you can snuggle up with a book you're looking forward to, and you start reading only to realize that you've read the book before?

Apparently I REALLY like this cover, because I bought the book twice, both times for the cover. (If I had read the back blurb carefully the second go around I might have clued into the fact that I had already read it.) What's a little odd is that I remember just barely glancing at the blurb and thinking, "Hmm. A house surrounded by a swamp? Kinda like that other book I just read?" No, you ignoramus, EXACTLY like that other book you just read.

Oy vey!

You know, maybe it's a good thing, cause I did like Deception by Terri Lynn Wilhelm. So here's a chance to say so while self-deprecatingly making the "L" mark on my head.

OK, so Fox Tremayne has been run out of the British Army and rumors now swirl in polite society that due to his cowardice in battle many lives were lost. His father refuses to have anything to do with him. So, being a good romance hero, he surrounds himself with loyal men and begins to swindle various members of the English gentry out of their fortunes. He targets those who richly deserve to lose their fortune. Isabel Millington lives in a country manor which is run by her uncle.

Somewhat necessary spoiler ahead as I cannot figure out how to get her involved with Fox unless this bit is known. She finds out late one night after sneaking into her uncle's study that he is not running the estate well. Uncle finds her in his study, throws her down the stairs and tells her that, yes indeed, he is ruining the estate, AND she is in grave danger now that she knows.

Remembering the name of a prominent investor from her uncle's papers, Isabel leaves in the middle of the night to track the investor down. Turns out the investor is one of Fox's many disguises, and when she turns up (sporting bruises under an assumed name) at his door looking for the elderly banker, Fox gets his feathers ruffled.

Fox decides he needs to keep a very close eye on her, mostly because she seems to know something about one of his swindles, but also because he wants to know who did that to her face. He befriends Isabel and eventually hires her to act as a tutor for his younger sister, Catherine, who has just recently expressed an interest in helping Fox in his various deceits.

So now we enter the Gothic portion of the novel. Fox lives in a rambling manor with secret walls and twisting corridors, which was built in a swamp. (In England? OK, it's a marsh. But I love that the backcover blurb refers to a swamp. Still, a boggy manor? OK, OK. He has to keep her at the manor. Funny construct though. Tee Hee.)

Now the fun begins. Everyone has a secret in the house. The secondary characters are well-done (Not all are convincingly fleshed out, but there are a lot of them). Isabel starts taking care of Fox's servants, Fox starts caring for Isabel, Catherine keeps trying to figure out who Isabel is. There's pink silk knitted underthings and a duck. There's forgery and fraud. There's flirtation and sex. Walls revolve at inopportune times. A blustery uncle from Scandanavia shows up to rescue Isabel.

That's a lot of balls to keep in the air, and Wilhem does a very good job of it. She eventually takes this roiling mass of plot threads out of the house and into Society balls where a Happy Ever After can finally happen.

I think I must have read this when I was in a reader burnout, because I genuinely enjoyed it. I just don't remember having read it or bought it! What a horrific thing to say about a book! I admire Wilhelm for keeping the many many people and plot threads twisting. I don't remember being *particularly* engaged by Fox's and Isabel's relationship, but that may have just been me at that point in time. Isabel I liked. I remember feeling as if Fox stayed a little too long in his mode of: "Oh pity me, I have been woefully dishonored." But then he shook it off. Good book. Can recommend it for more than its cover.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Because I've been grouchy, snarky, jaded, and sick recently, and I keep promising to blog about something I like, here's some (little) movies to get you in the mood...


Cute song

Hard to put your finger on it.

OK, fair warning, this has every chance of devolving into, sigh, yet another circus rant. But I swear I do have a point that doesn't have much to do with horses--but I only know how to talk about it using horses as a metaphor.

Please watch the linked video and then come back so we can chat. (It starts in Danish at a Warmblood Exhibition which is basically a breeder's convention. These things have LOTS of horse performances in the evening. Sometimes a stallion will be retired at a breeder's convention. They are their own awards show with all of the glitter and questionable taste. Which brings me to my first warning--don't be alarmed by the moving Abe Lincoln statue. He startled me at first, and I'm still not sure why he's there.) As you're watching, do me a favor and take note of where the Horse People clap. Because I'll need to talk about that in a sec. A Pat Parelli Disciple Shows Us His Moves

OK. You back? Confused? What the heck is Suisan up to now?

First, the guy trains his horse for years to prance next to him at liberty, brushes him to a satiny glow, but cannot be bothered to train his mane to fall on one side? Jeez, with a little Dippity Doo, a couple of braiding elastics and comb I can get that thing tamed in two weeks. Scruffy is not a good look for a performance horse. End of obscure personal rant regarding horse grooming.

Second, were you THAT impressed? Really? Kind of all looked the same didn't it? Horse circles to the left, to the right, trots slow, trots fast. (OK, the jumping over the teeny barrel which he could have easily dodged was well done.)

(Here I have to say that I refuse to make nasty comments on the music except to explain to the uninitiated that there is no such thing as good taste or any logic regarding music choices for horse performances. Ravel's Bolero was big in the 1970s and now Celine is all that. There is no good music for horses. Sorry. Back to the clapping.)

Did you get the impression that the audience was really worked up at some points that were bizarre? Yeah. Me too. Because they were all experienced in training horses. They had tried to make their horse passage under saddle for years and here this guy was doing it at liberty? Hoo Dang! Yay! Oh! Did you check the Half-pass? And the Spanish Walk at the end? Yay!

I get this sometimes when I listen to ice skating commentary. There's a jump or an extra spin and the commentator just about loses his pants, "Wow! Did you see that? A Triple? Just after two Doubles? This is amazing!" And I'm thinking, "Spinning. All I see is spinning. But the costumes are nice."

So what I'm really trying to get at here, is that there are parts in any performance which are tremendously difficult but hard to see unless you're very experienced in the field, or on the other hand, just not that exciting. (Making the horse roll over on his back so he could straddle him. Incredibly, almost stupidly, dangerous. And, unfortunately for all that danger, really ridiculous looking for both man and horse.)

Then there are part which are flashy but not so difficult. (Riding the horse bareback and steering him at a jump which is so low he doesn't have to break his canter stride to clear it.)

Then there are parts which are mildly difficult but look much flashier than they are. (Standing on the horse's chest and hips--unfortunate angle in this clip, but he's not standing on his belly--while snapping a bullwhip. Oooooo. He's not startling! Ooooooo. He's not getting up! Yeah, cause you're standing on his shoulder and hips, for god's sake! And you think police horses aren't trained to ignore gunshots?)

So what makes a performance work? There has to be splash and dazzle and timing and, that thing which is so hard to put your finger on: flair. It has to be difficult enough that knowledgable people go "OoooOOOOoooo." But it has to hold the attention of the lesser mortals. This is damn difficult. But it's always something I watch for.

My parents went to Vienna and I asked them to bring me something from the Spanish Riding School. I got a book, a calendar, and a DVD. Surprisingly dissapointed with the performance on the DVD. Those guys are flat out gorgeous--their quadrille timing is impecable--the grooming of horse and rider is perfect--the accord between horse and rider is flawless. But all they did was half-pass. "Look Ma! We can canter sideways!" Yeah, OK. Do Something Else.

Ugh. I am so jaded! What is wrong with me?!?!

I got this clip from a horse bulletin board where someone posted it with the title: Now THAT is a Well-Trained horse. And I was Theeeez close to posting in reply, "Well, yes, but not a very good performance. And it was notable to me that the horse evaded the full rear not once but twice. He hopped barrels, and half-passed and all, but the one trick which was strenuous which was entirely up to him? He chose not to participate, thank you very much. Says to me he's been doing this one exhibition for a very l-o-n-g time and is getting bored. Says to me that the trainer hasn't quite gotten around to mixing up the order of the show. One refusal, no big deal. But the guy asks him again and the horse STILL refuses? There's a "bugger you" message in there somewhere." But then I knew that would start a flame war, and I'm not really up to that today.

So instead I decided to bedevil you, my dear readers, with my thoughts on putting together a balanced and entertaining performance. Please, for the love of god, mix it up a little.


Is it a rule that every blog at some point has to have a post titled, "Insomnia"?

Well, check that box.

Daughter was sick on her birthday--poor little kneidel.

But then by afternoon was Bright and Chipper and Annoying yesterday to older brother who was beginning to get sick.

Son woke up at 4:30 this morning (Vomitting while asleep--ew). I changed his sheets, cleaned him up, gave him an ice pack for his head, and stumbled downstairs to bloghop. After a few hours I went back upstairs and gave son some Tylenol for his fever. He complained about the taste of the medecine and I tasted it and said, "Oh. You're right. That does taste nasty. Advil next time, OK Bub?"

Came downstairs to continue bloghopping. I decided in some early morning trancelike state to read ALL of Megan Frampton's blog. Sometime in May of 2005 I realized that I had tasted the medecine from his spoon. Eh, transmission of viruses? Stupidest. Move. Ever. (OK, maybe not EVER. But certainly in recent history.)

But I enjoyed Megan's blog ever so much.

No reflection on Megan, but I am begining to feel ever so slightly ill.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

January's TBR challenge--Contemporary.

Title, Author, Year Published:

Treading Lightly, Elise Lanier, 2006

Janine Ruvacado is a published author with a teenage son and an (unrealistically) awful mother. She recently has been diagnosed with debilitating osteoporosis, and must learn to eat better and to exercise. Janine starts walking at the local gym when her treadmill breaks, and starts talking to the man walking on the treadmill next to her. She details all the ways in which her life is playing tricks on her: her ex-husband is manipulating her teenage son, the IRS is after her, she can't get in touch with her agent, etc. Over time, as they walk together in the gym, he starts helping her fix her own problems and she starts learning to trust.

Why did you get this book?

::whining::Angie made me.
No, ahem. I really liked the cover.

Do you like the cover?

Why, yes. I do.

Did you enjoy the book?

No, I didn't.

Was the author new to you and would you read something by this author again?

Yes, she was new to me, and I didn't like her book, but I don't think she's on my automatic avoid list as of yet.

Are you keeping it or passing it on?


Anything else?

Hate the set-up -- debilitating illness? It can't simply be a wish to be healthier that sends her to the gym? She's a little dim too. When the guy walking next to you in the gym knows everyone's name, and INSTALLS A VCR IN THE GYM SO YOU CAN WATCH YOUR FAVORITE TAPE, then there's an incredibly high chance that he either a) knows the guy who owns the gym, b) is a partner in the gym, or c) owns the gym outright.

Relationship with mother and son was OK, but when Tom pops into their lives, son is all down with that. As long as they can high-five, then, cool dude.

What is it about really short books and the first kiss? He just leans over one day and kisses her. No prob. Then he's rubbing her lips with his thumb in the middle of another conversation. Totally, completely unbelievable.

I go out to lunch at least once a week with different men. (One at a time, usually.) I've known these guys for years, and they are my colleagues, and now, my friends. We're good enough friends that I've cried at lunch over how stressed I am when my kids act up. But there's never been the slightest hint of a kiss, or an unwelcome hug, or anything like that. Doesn't the air shift, or the room become tense, or SOMETHING before a first kiss? Doesn't happen here--weird.

Didn't believe the set-up, didn't connect with the kissing, didn't work for me. (Although I liked both the characters and could see them together--but not in this book.)

Icing on the cake are the following too-crazy-to-be-believable details and author errors which completed the ruination of the book:

Author had to let the reader know that Ben & Jerry's Phish Food had chocolate, marshmallow, and caramel, with no fish products in it. I need to ask: There's a romance reader alive who is unfamiliar with Ben & Jerry's flavors? (Cuz, you know, Chubby Hubby has no husbands, and Chunky Monkey has no monkeys. No disclaimers when the heroine ate Chunky Monkey? Hmmm.)

I cannot fathom why the heroine was described as having deep phobias about sub-basements. Was she ever locked in a sub-basement as a plot device? No. In fact, when she needed a repair done in her apartment, she, with a slight amount of trepidation, ventured down to the sub-basement to get the maintenance guy to come to her apartment. (Her apartment building doesn't have a phone?) I don't incredibly enjoy parking garages; they kind of creep me out, but I wouldn't call it a phobia. Odd.

Oh! And the heroine has a stalker. Is the heroine ever threatened by her stalker in such a way as to make the hero rush to her rescue? No. In fact, her stalker calls her partway through the book to let her know that he won't be bothering her any more. Church Lady says, "Well. Isn't that Con-VEEEN-ient?

And then she took her son out for dinner in New York City and they went to Benihana's. Ummmm. What? A native New Yorker goes to Benihana's? OK, if you say so. (Maybe they went to Cats to top the night off.)

And then there's a section in the middle where guy who's been walking on the treadmill next to her and who's also rich and really good-looking calls her up. He succinctly tells her the story of his life in a narrative form. I have to quote this because I cannot believe an editor let this go through:

"There's not much to tell. I'm pretty boring, in fact."
"Boring? How so?"
"Life and work have always been synonymous for me. One can't be defined without the other. Starting at a young age, I determined to make something of my life. Poverty had killed my mother when I was in my late teens, and my father had taken off when I was a child, leaving me with nothing but his name and hard feelings."
"That's so sad, Tom."
"I guess it was, but it gave me inspiration. Standing alone at my mother's grave, as the minister quietly uttered words to help escort my mother into her next journey, I silently vowed to crawl out of the impoverished life that had killed my mother and suffocated us like a damp, heavy curtain."

Oh Good Gracious, Lord in Heaven. What the hell is that? I'm well-read, and enjoy writing and all that, but I've never used "impoverished" in a phone conversation unless I was trying to crack someone up. "Uttered words to help escort" got me going for a while, but I returned to the book only to bump into "impoverished life" and damp, heavy curtains. Aaaagggh!

Simple enough, right?

No, Angie, Keishon, Cindy, and p.devi, and everyone else who forced me, FORCED ME I SAY, against my will to read a contemporary, this was not simple. (But I also read another contemporary which was not nearly so upsetting, and I will grace you with its review either Sunday or Monday.)

Friday, January 13, 2006

TBR challenge

OK, so I cracked the cover of a book which is set in modern day, so must be a contemporary. It's part of Harlequin's "Now that you're an aged hag with lumpy bodies and older children, you might enjoy these" line. Otherwise known as "The Next Novel" line.

The book is Treading Lightly by Elise Lanier and it has a cute cover. It's sort of a persimmon orange with lots of decorative scrolling, featuring a metal hamster wheel in the center. Bright, catchy, without being cartoony. Neat cover.

The Book? I hate it.

I'm on page 35 and I've already found an excellent example of Suisan's Primary Pet Peeve: Expository dialogue.

It's right up there with "monologuing" from The Incredibles. No one speaks this way. No one says, "Remember when we went to Bermuda that time after Jimmy dumped you? We were sitting in the bar and that really old, fat guy came in with his trophy wife? And she ordered a Scotch on the rocks and he ordered an umbrella drink, and you said, 'Two months, tops.' and she heard you? And then she gave you that look that would have melted glass?""

Instead good friends say, "Remember Bermuda? 'Two months, tops.' Yeah, well, that's the look I got from Annie today."

Maybe I go into contemporaries with a chip on my shoulder. (Just a little chip. It's the size of Plymouth Rock and carved into its face is: Impress Me.) But I keep finding junk like this:

Page 29. Mother is at the doctor with back pain and doctor orders rounds of tests. She yelps at the cost.

"X-rays? It sounds expensive. Is it covered by my plan?"
"Yes, Janine." He'd rolled his eyes. "But does it make a difference? If this were Craig's back, would you ask that question?"
"Of course not! How could you even ask me that? If this happened to Craig, I would do anything he needed. No matter what the cost. And you know that!"
"Yes, I do. And you deserve the same quality of care...."

Hopping in her seat, Suisan is. There is not one sentence after "It sounds expensive" that is not crap. And there's the ever-believable comment made by her doctor on page 31, said on the Spur Of The Moment, mind you.

"My dear, you've got the stubbornness of a two-year-old toddler, the eating habits of an eight-year-old child, the figure of a sixteen-year-old boy, the mentality of a thirty-year-old wildcat, the mouth of a forty-year-old sailor, and the bones of a seventy-five-year-old woman." He'd tried to use humor to help defray the emotionalism of the diagnosis, but she'd been thrown into a state of shock....

Yeah, me too. Because I'd be anxious about how long it had taken my doctor to come up with that list. Did he do it in the car on the way to work? Had he been compiling that for weeks? Months? Mouth of a sailor? Well, fuck you too. None of your business, bub. Body's yours to to treat. Leave my language to me.

So I'm on page 37--she's just bought a treadmill which is going to be the ex machina to bring her together with love of her life who is going to sweep her away from her miserable life. Goody.

Soon to be mailed to me from PaperbackSwap is Blaze by Carly Phillips. Yeah, I only got to the Bs in the list of contemporary romances on PaperbackSwap before I ordered one. Or there's Manhunt by Janet Evanovich, which doesn't have the traditional back cover blurb, but instead a letter from the author. Cabin romance--but it's contemporary...We'll see.

And I know this one isn't contemporary, but then I hate contemporaries, remember? I bought it because I liked the cover and because the hero's name is Fox Tremayne--didn't actually read the backcover blurb in the store. I was too burned out from reading other backcover blurbs. Now that I've read the backcover blurb, I may actually like Deception by Teri Lynn Wilhelm.

My five year old (Happy Birthday!!) is sick today. Yesterday she threw up on two sets of sheets and four blankets. (Missed the towels every blessed time.) So I'm off to lie down with her on the couch and keep reading these books I love Oh So Well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Contemporary romance

For a TBR challenge I'm supposed to read a contemporary romance--not a paranormal, not a thriller. Read it, then write about it.

But the hardest part so far is finding one.

I'm not good at finding a book which isn't a series (my own addition to the restrictions? Now I can't remember...), isn't chick lit, and is one I actually want to read.

Have I mentioned that I HATE contemporaries? Loathe, despise, etc.?

(Yeah, OK, I read Black Ice, and I loved it. But I only did so after pumping myself up by saying, "Cindy likes it. Megan likes it. They all seem to like it. Try it! You'll like it!" End of detour.)

This week I've been to the grocery store aisle three time--bought two books which I am so uninterested in I can't crack the cover let alone go find the titles as they lurk somewhere in the Living Room. I went to Walmart and my eyes glazed over at the book selection--never bought any because it was like stepping into some psychodelic trance--all hazy and loopy and I lost all sense of time.

I ordered, at random, a romance from PaperbackSwap which seemed like a general contemporary, but, bless her heart, the owner of the book hasn't yet mailed it to me.

I may get this TBR challenge done by the end of January. Or I may simply hold my breath until I turn blue and faint. That'll teach ya to set rules on Suisan's reading habits!! Challenge? Humph!

Have I ever told you guys about the time I was 4 and my parents took me ice skating on a frozen pond? I told my Dad fairly calmly that I wasn't going to skate. He insisted that I skate. So I (famously) said, "Fine. I'll just whine and whine until you take me off the ice."

Somehow that relates.

Found another TV show to get addicted to. Oh my.

Watched "House" on Fox last night.

Ooooo. I like.

Something great about the annoying genius, the one who sees every anomaly as a symptom of some greater illness/flaw. (CSI anyone?)

Hugh Laurie unshaven sporting an American accent? Yep. That works too.

(Although I just saw Fantastic Four on DVD. Ioan Gruffudd really needs to keep the Welsh tremble in his voice. American accent? P-tooey.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

For p.devi

Now make his head a little thinner, color him brindle (stripes of brown and black), and take away the ridege of hair which grows from the tail towards the head on Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and that's my dog.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Maybe I'll plan it better next time.

My dog hasn't been getting enough exercise.

He once had the body of a sleek Rhodesian Ridgeback, or maybe some sort of mixed breed pointer/gun dog. Very sporty.

And then I stopped taking him out for his long runs. (A lot of this has to do with increased patrolling by animal control on a piece of property whihch is not incorporated within City Limits and has traditionally been used by locals as an off-leash dog park. But hey, when the guy shows up with his little white truck, I'd rather not argue the point. Instead, I bundle my dog back into the car and go home.)

OK, so anyway, my dog's getting thicker through the middle than he used to be. His legs aren't as muscular, and he's a lot more groany around the house. (As in, "I have to lie d-o-w-n here on the g-r-o-u-n-d.")

This morning (Saturday, mind you) I woke up and it was still dark out. OK, says I, get your butt out of bed and walk the dog. But it was dark, so I decided to take a shower. Got out--still dark. Got dressed--still dark. Made coffee--still dark.

But, hey! It's ten of six! The sun's coming up soon! I'm caffeinated. Ready to roll.

Bundle the dog in the car and drive down to the Official City Dog Park (a fenced area at the back of the community park). Park the car--still dark. Pitch black. Not the greying light of pre-dawn. No. Ink Black. Walk the dog to the dog park past a soccer field and a baseball diamond--still dark.

Once inside the park, I let him off the leash. And he didn't flex a muscle. Just stood there staring at my knees. Because it was--yep, that's right--still dark.

If I could have seen his face, I'm sure I would have seen that expression so many patient dogs display from time to time. The one that seems to say, "Eh, Mom? What were you thinking? Cause, you know, I can't see you. You can't see me. I can't see any tennis balls. Got a plan here?"

At some point the sun did come up, but, um, well, I'm glad not too may people saw me standing out there in the fenced-in park with my confused friend.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Sigh of Relief


Take it away, Nylons!

Suisan is caffeinated. Suisan is showered. Suisan is skipping around the house with her arms over her head, wrists flapping to the left, to the left, and to the right!


Not to worry folks, this is not the insane ravings of girl heading into mania after the holiday blues. No, No. This is joy, relief, and some measure of exhaustion combined to produce the "MY CHILDREN ARE IN SCHOOL!!" gleeful dance.

I didn't say a prayer of thanksgiving during Thanksgiving (Although I did confuse my family by singing "We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessings" at 45 rpm like a chipmunk as we all sat down to eat.), nor did I say one during Christmas, but I'll gladly say one now:

Thank you, Lord, for for providing us with schools.
Thank you for the teachers, the principals and the staff
Who care enough to come to school every day,
To keep the doors open, to feed the children,
And to comfort them when they fall.

Thank you, Lord, for the teachers.
Who, in your infinite wisdom, you have decreed
Will never be paid enough to compensate for their
Years of study, daily sacrifices, and moments of genius.
Who, everyday, take in my children,
And rescue me from the burden of caring for the little scamps
Who would rather fight about what chair they are sitting on
Than eat the breakfast laid before them.
My sanity is restored. My soul is replenished. Amen.

Please turn your hymnals to "Eternal Father" and sing along with me the alternate verse as printed in your bulletin. After the hymn please remain standing during the recessional and join us in Fellowship Hall after the service for coffee and fellowship. All are welcome.

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
Our schools are redemptory!