Monday, November 26, 2012

Everyone Needs a Little Romance / Judy

Today I'm going to let you in on my favorite romance authors and some of their books. Frankly, if you choose carefully, they are some of the best stories around. Also I'm telling you about these with the caution that they often contain steamy love scenes. I sure wish the authors would have the decency to let the curtain down in strategic places and let these poor people have their privacy. But they don't, so I suggest you do what I do--skip those parts. 

So here they are in alphabetical order:

Mary Balogh

She was the first romance novelist I read, and her first book I read, Slightly Dangerous, is still one of my favorites. In fact, I bought it, which is unusual. She writes historical fiction about Regency England. The really great thing about her stories is how much you care about the people. The books always start out sort of frothy, but have much more depth as you go along, with the characters becoming more and more complex. There are some of her scenes that I like to read over and over either because they are so much fun or because they are so satisfying. She has several series that are all distantly connected, meaning the author often uses a main character from one book peripherally in another -- a familiar and beloved face.

Catherine Coulter

She is a prolific writer with several different series, from modern thrillers to historical fiction, but the only ones I've read are the Viking series: Lord of Hawkfell Island, Lord of Raven's Peak, and Lord of Falcon Ridge. I think these are more historical and adventure than romance, but whatever, they are fun to read.

Jude Deveraux

Another writer with several series. Mostly I've read her modern-day novels about Edilean, a small town in Virginia close to Williamsburg. There are a bunch of those. But my very favorite of hers is Wild Orchid. It has a supernatural, or fantasy aspect to it but very modern at the same time.

Diana Gabaldon

She has a series of very long books about one family in Scotland. The series begins with Outlander, which is my favorite. It's about a nurse just after World War II who accidentally goes back in time (I'm a sucker for time-travel stories) to Scotland around the time of the Uprising. As much as I liked the book as a whole, I did not like the ending, which was a shame after putting in so much time with this very long book. But I'll let you reserve judgement.

Amanda Quick

This author goes by at least three names: Amanda Quick - Jayne Ann Krentz - Jayne Castle. The Krentz books are modern romances while the Quick books are historical romances, set in either Regency England or Victorian England. Some of them are also slightly supernatural. Although the Krentz books are good, I like the Quick books the best. In fact, one of hers called Scandal I liked so much that I did something I've never done before. The minute I finished it, I started over at the beginning and read it all through again. I've never read any of her Castle books but I understand they are "futuristic/ paranormal romantic - suspense writing."

And those are my current favorites. I did not mention the most famous ones like Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele since everybody knows about them; and although they're okay, they're not as good as some of these others -- in my opinion.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Reading is a Great Way to Escape / Judy

I was surprised how bad I felt when I saw the election figures and knew Romney had lost. I was so sad! (I wonder if the Democrats would have been sad or angry if Romney had won? Somehow I can hear screams of "election fraud!") Anyway, after a day of mourning, I did what I always do when I feel down--I read a book. Reading is a great way to escape, better than TV or movies in my opinion. In a good book you really can transport yourself to another time or place or become another person.

The main genres I like are Mystery, Science Fiction, Romance (no judging), and General/Family Dramas. In another blog I'll list my favorite authors and their series in each of these genres. But for now, in case anyone else needs such an escape, here are a few individual books that I highly recommend.

1.  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand 
by Helen Simonson

This book is just fun to read. The writing is wonderful and I found myself quoting to Lloyd some of the funnier lines. This is a feel-good book which might be important right now. It's about a retired British major who lives in a small English village and who becomes interested in the Pakistani widow of the grocer. Absolutely delightful.

2. The Guernsey Literary and 
Potato Peel Pie Society 
by Mary Ann Shaffer

Another entry in the "delightful" category. It's the story, told in letters, of Guernsey Island, in the English Channel, that was occupied by Germans during WWII. It begins about 1946-7 and starts out quite funny, then becomes more serious as the protagonist learns more about what happened during the war. Again, the writing is amazing and it's one book you really don't want to end. Although it does have a very satisfactory ending.

3. Dawn by Olivia Butler

For a change of pace, this is good science fiction, which is hard to find. It's about a group of humans who are rescued from the ravages of nuclear war by a race of aliens.I consider a book to be outstanding when I can't predict what will happen next and at the same time I am anxious to find out. And that describes this book.

4. A Discovery of Witches
 & Shadow of Night
 by Deborah Harkness

These are the first two of a planned trilogy and the best way to describe them is to say they are like the Twilight series but for grown-ups. They have a romance between a vampire and a human, but that is not the main part of the story. There is a lot of history and even science, which made them even more fun. 

5. Miss Buncle's Book
 by D.E. Stephenson

This is an older one that takes place in England probably in the 50's. It's another fun read, not serious, but very well-done, about a spinster who needs money and decides to write a book about the people she knows in her village. Chaos ensues.

In each of these books, as great as the story-line is, the really wonderful aspect is the characterization. They all have people you like a lot and want to spend time with. I find I won't read a book about someone I wouldn't want around for whatever reason. It's better to be with people who make you laugh or inspire you somehow, or are just plain interesting to listen to. And all these books have those kinds of people.

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