Tag Archives: reviews

NaNoWriMo – Day 6: Inspiration

And yet another way to get inspired for NaNoWriMo and to get past the dreaded mid-book blues: receiving a truly wonderful review for the novel you’ve just released! (Woohooo!)

Today I found the November edition of the German magazine LoveLetter in the mail. It not only includes an article by yours truly, but also a review of SPRINGTIME PLEASURES. It’s fair to say that the reviewer loved the book: she compares the banter between the protagonists and the humour of SPRINGTIME PLEASURES to those in Hollywood comedies and calls the novel a “small jewel of a story”.

Battling with the Muse has suddenly become much less of a hardship. πŸ™‚

Dorothy Dunnett, Roman Nights

One of the things I’m trying to do this year is to keep a reading journal. I started one last year in March, when I stumbled across the lovely reading journal produced by Leuchtturm, but abandoned it in April (understandable in a way, since in April things turned rather bleak). I took it up again in late December and so far, have managed to stick with it. *knocking on wood*

I like the layout of the Leuchtturm book: apart from lines where you can note down the title, author, date of publication, genre, and date when you read the book, there’s plenty of space for notes and quotations, and they even have included some very convenient boxes for your rating. AND there’s an alphabetical register at the end of the book. As I said, very convenient all around.

I don’t just note down new books I’ve read, but also re-reads. In an effort to cut back on my book-spending, I’ve done a lot of re-reading this year (but never fear, I made up for that by falling in love with the books produced by the Folio Society *sigh*). A couple of days ago I found out that Dorothy Dunnett’s Johnson Johnson mysteries (or the Dolly mysteries) have been released as e-books. (Wheeee!) As a rabid Dunnett fangirl I simply had to check them out, never mind that I already have them as print books. (Some of those are pretty grubby, though, and in one case, I had to cut the corners of some pages because of the truly disgusting stuff sticking to them.) (Really, what do some people do to their books?!?!?!)

I decided to get the Kindle version of Roman Nights (or Dolly and the Starry Bird). Here’s the blurb:

Ruth Russell, an astronomer working at the Maurice Frazer Observatory, is enjoying herself in Rome – that is, until her lover, Charles Digham, a fashion photographer and writer of obituary verses, has his camera stolen. The thief ends up as a headless corpse in the zoo park tolleta. Johnson Johnson, enigmatic portrait painter, spy and sleuth, is in Rome to paint a portrait of the Pope and is therefore on hand to investigate in one of Dunnett’s usual thrilling and convoluted plots that grips the reader from cover to cover. There is something far more deadly at stake than just the secrets of a couture house …

As all of the Dolly books, Roman Nights has a female first person narrator (in this case, Ruth), and the opening sentence concerns the bifocals Johnson Johnson is wearing:

I have nothing, even yet, against bifocal glasses. I know some very nice poufs and a couple of stockbrockers and a man who keeps a horn moustache comb in his jumpsuit. I’m a girl who doesn’t shock easily.
Or so I thought until I first met Johnson Johnson, which was outside the Rome zoo in November. 
He was there because he was waiting for me, although I didn’t know it. I was there on a day’s leave from the Frazer Observatory. If I’d stayed on leave, none of it might have happened.

And so it starts. All of the Dolly books are fairly eccentric (think balloons filled with lethal gas), with impossible twists and turns. The “hero” of the series, Johnson Johnson, portrait painter and (former) secret agent, often stays in the background and we only get to see him through the eyes of others (which is typical for Dunnett’s heroes). As with all of Dunnett’s novels, one of the great delights of the book is how language is used. Dunnett has a way with words that is awe-inspiring: both witty and intellectually challenging. As  reader you really have to stay on your toes. But you’re rewarded with gems like this one:

Every ruin [in Rome] is packed like a biscuit box.

Or,

The railings of the Palazzo Barberini are upheld by marble weightlifters with beards and grimaces of incipient hernia.

Or,

In Rome, there is a pathological shortage of small coins. For change, the little shops tend to use candy.

Aren’t these delicious?

I gave the book four stars. It is somewhat lengthy, but it is full of wonderfully eccentric scenes and it has a very nice twist at the end. 

Weekly Reads Round-Up (Warning: May Include Nuts … eh … Serious Gushing!)

I used to be crazy about anthologies. Truly, once upon a time I loved anthologies to pieces. But alas, today the stories in anthologies are a bit too condensed for my liking. Still, I enjoyed Snowy Night with a Stranger with stories by Jane Feather, Sabrina Jeffries and Julia London quite a lot. (There were wounded heroes with scars — what’s not to like?) (Uhm, somehow that doesn’t sound right … *g*)

Next I tried another book from the Rapturous Rakes bundle, namely, Nicola Cornick’s The Rake’s Mistress. Even though the premise was interesting and definitely unusual (the heroine is a glass engraver, and the hero is after a group of spies who encode messages in glass engravings), I didn’t like it as much as Georgina Devon’s The Rake. Definitely more of a 3 than a 4.

After that I read a book which shall remain unnamed. Or rather, I read 1 1/2 chapters of the aforementioned book which shall remain unnamed. And by then I had taken such an intense dislike to the hero that the book achieved wallbanger-status. Heavens, people, even if your hero is a rake, I really don’t want to read about him seducing servant girls and frolicking with them over the sheets just because he fancies a quick shag!

(Needed to fortify myself with some Lebkuchen after that rather nasty reading experience.)

And then … oh, then I started with Lisa Kleypas’s Scandal in Spring. Before that my one and only Kleypas novel had been Lady Sophia’s Lover, which I read years ago and which was a meh read for me. Hence, I had never tried another of her novels. But as I’m now devouring historicals again, I ended up looking at the cover blurb for Scandal in Spring. And then at the beginning of the first chapter, which the nice people at Fictionwise had helpfully provided. It sounded sweet, so I bought the book.

Lucky me! πŸ™‚

For I utterly, utterly adore it! It’s sweet, funny and sexy; the heroine is likable and the hero is suitable dashing (and doesn’t seduce servant girls!). The dialogues are witty, the action is charming, and the secondary characters are well drawn. I like the interaction between the heroine and the other Wallflowers — it’s nice to see a heroine surrounded by loving friends and family. (I tend to isolate my heroines. Perhaps I should fix that in a future novel … *thinks about future novel projects* Well, perhaps in a novel far, far, far into the future. My heroines seem to be doomed to be isolated. Poor things.)

Naturally, I bought all the other books from the Wallflower series straight away (hey, Fictionwise offers a 40% rebate at the moment, remember? *ggg*)

Rapturous Rakes

To make up for the medieval disaster (see post below), I bought the Harlequin “Rapturous Rakes” bundle from Fictionwise yesterday. It contains

  • A REPUTABLE RAKE by Diane Gaston (whose book was the reason I became interested in the bundle in the first place: I haven’t yet read any of her books – or at least I don’t remember having read any of her books – and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to catch up),
  • THE RAKE by Georgina Devon, and
  • THE RAKE’S MISTRESS by Nicola Cornick

A few years ago I used to love M&B historicals, though the Regencies were devilishly hard to find in the USBs of Galway, where I was initiated into the joys of category romance (thank you, Ann! *mmmmwah*). Indeed, among my all-time favourite historical romances, there are quite a number of M&B historicals, e.g. Margaret Moore’s THE WASTREL (such a sweet, sweet novel!) (and such a lovely cover!!! one of the first to show only a man), Mary Brendan’s THE SILVER SQUIRE, Ann Elizabeth Cree’s THE MARRIAGE TRUCE, or Elizabeth Rolls’s THE UNEXPECTED BRIDE. Another book I had enjoyed quite a lot was Georgina Devon’s BETRAYAL (the cover is a bit horrid, though – the heroine has a mullet). Therefore I was quite thrilled that another of Devon’s books was included in the aforementioned “Rapturous Rakes” bundle.

When I started reading the novel, I realised I’d read it before (I bought it on 11 January 2001 in Galway), but it was so long ago that I didn’t remember much but the premise and the ending. Which meant that almost no memories spoilt my present enjoyment of the novel. And enjoy it, I did! The novel opens with the heroine, Juliet Smythe-Clyde, being in male disguise and preparing for a duel with the Duke of Brabourne in her father’s stead. When she is wounded, she is forced to spend several days and nights in Brabourne’s house, who, of course, very quickly figures out that she is a girl. He’s intrigued by her courage and loyalty, yet at the same time he also regards her as very much of a nuisance – especially when the secret leaks out that she has spent time under his roof unchaperoned. He cannot help but feel sorry for her when she is ostracised by the ton. So he engages the help of his friends to restore her reputation in the eyes of society. Unfortunately, it seems as if this won’t be enough …

I liked the premise of this novel – hero shoots heroine in duel – oh my! -, and I very much enjoyed the development of Juliet and Brabourne’s relationship. They are both so determined not to get involved with each other, and they both have very good reasons to stay away from the other. It was great fun to see how they nevertheless gradually fell in love. (hehe)

Brabourne is a sexy, sensible man, with dark secrets of his own. He has got very good reasons why he does not want to marry and why he doesn’t trust women (okay, the usual reason…), but that said, he is never cruel to Juliet (hear that, you medieval jerk?). Even against his better judgment he is very much on her side throughout the whole novel.

Juliet is spunky and takes her responsibilities seriously. However, she behaves a bit like a ninny at times and tends to suffer from the historical-heroine-self-sacrifice-syndrome (especially in her insistence that she must protect her father at all costs so he can pursue his strange chemical experiments in peace). As irritating as this kind of behaviour was, it was nice to see that the hero acts as a corrective influence in that respect.

The happy ending could have been a bit more convincing, but all in all, Georgina Devon’s THE RAKE was a truly enjoyable read.

Speaking of Books

Ana, a reader from Portugal, reviewed THE LILY BRAND on her blog and gave it a B+. Yay! *Sandy blows a kiss down south to Portugal*

Speaking of books, among the novels I read in the past few weeks was Teresa Medeiros’s latest release, SOME LIKE IT WICKED. Teresa is an author whose books are like warm, cuddly blankets, with which you want to snuggle up on your couch on a cold winter’s day: to escape an unwanted wedding, Catriona Kincaid marches into Newgate Prison and strikes a bargain with a disgraced nobleman, Simon Westcott, the enfant terrible of London society. Together they travel to the Highlands in order to save Catriona’s clan and find her brother — but a villain is already hot on their heels. And in the end, what they find in the Highlands is not quite what Catriona has expected. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
A friend of mine (yes, I’m looking at you, Esther) got me hooked on Patricia Briggs’s Mercedes Thompson series. I’ve read the first book, MOON CALLED — it’s fast and furious and great fun to read. And the hero(es)! Oh, the hero(es)!!! Scrumptious, super-sexy werewolves. Hmm. πŸ™‚

I also tried Deanna Raybourn’s SILENT IN THE GRAVE, but for some reason the book and I didn’t really fit. I guess my former folklore professor is to blame: I know too much about death in the Victorian Age… πŸ™‚

Of Black Butter

BEWITCHED got a truly lovely review from Heather Hiestand from Romance Reader at Heart:

It’s so refreshing to read historical romance that’s actually, well…. feels historical. Schwab’s gift for detail and description really makes this story come alive. I still remember the black butter for instance. I’d never heard of it before but the way she introduced it, then explained it, then had another character comment on it showed wonderful writer skills. Her powers of description defied my usual skimming technique.

Actually, this is a paranormal story with a great conflict, not just a circa 1820 historical romance. What do you do when you realize you were only in love with a man because you were under a spell? And you know that, but you still half feel all those great love feelings, and half realize it’s a spell? Even worse, the man is totally under the spell, doesn’t believe in magic, and you’ve already given your… oh wait, don’t want to throw a spoiler in here!

BEWITCHED is thoroughly delightful, and if you are a historical romance fan you should definitely pick this up, whether or not you like paranormal. Lovers of witch books will find this fabulous as well. It’s great!

*happy sigh*

In case you’re wondering about the black butter: I found the recipe in THE JANE AUSTEN COOKBOOK by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye:

From the sixteenth century, apples, pears and soft fruits improved so much in quality that cooked fruit mixtures became very popular for pies and tarts and as spreads. Dark-coloured mulberries, currants and blackberries in particular supplemented well the less tasty but pectin-rich apples for making the stiff mixtures which came to be called jams and, because the were the same consistency as the dairy foods, butters and cheeses. Although adults enjoyed them and served them to their guests, they were also considered wholesome (and cheap) treats for children.

In one of Jane [Austen]’s letters we find references to ‘black butter’ (perhaps blackberry and apple) being eaten by her family as a treat.

This reminded me of the apple butter I had enjoyed so much on my first trip to the US, which is why I let Amy eat black butter in the novel. Besides, the name “black butter” is wonderfully quaint, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

This and that and a review

Two years or so ago I already mentioned the computer games up on Orisinal: Morning Sunshine. But as they are so very sweet, it’s worth mentioning them again. In fact, these are the sweetest computer games I know of and each is accompanied by uplifting little melodies, so the whole package never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I love the Ladybug game, where you let a little girl jump up and down and make dozens of colorful ladybugs fly away.

And the game where you let a little bunny jump from silver bell to silver bell is just wonderfully Christmasy (and indeed, it was added some time around Christmas).

And that keek-sound the little star-gatherer makes when she jumps always, always make me smile. Not to forget the eeeek the piggies emit when they land on top of each other! That’s always worth a giggle! *g*

Now there’s a new game called Sunny Day Sky, in which you make some sort of little animal open an umbrella and fly across cars. Have I mentioned the music? Totally love the music! πŸ™‚

~*~~*~~*~~*~

Today a new review of BEWITCHED went online on ParaNormalRomance and the reviewer, Chere Gruver had lovely things to say about my novel:

BEWITCHED is a funny, adventurous paranormal romance. Sandra Schwab has definitely done her research before she ever started on this story, and it shows. With her descriptions of the balls and clothes and events during the “season” in London to the foggy Fenlands, Sandra Schwab vividly transported me to each and every place. The secondary characters are all as wonderful as the hero and heroine as well. I really loved Fox’s niece and his valet. We watch as Amy grows from a young woman playing with her magic to an adult doing what she must to keep the people she loves safe. And our hero isn’t left alone either, he must learn to deal with his step-father’s abuse, the fact he’s a bastard and come to terms with realizing there is magic in his world. All in all, this is a very entertaining and delightful story and well worth the time spent reading it.

It’s always nice to end your day with a “Wheeee!” πŸ™‚

New Review

AtzecLady posted a lovely review of BEWITCHED on Karen Scott’s blog. And here are my favourite bits:

Like Castle of the Wolf, Bewitched is very much a romance. Like Castle of the Wolf, it is also something more, something else, something different.

And:

Amy is such a wonderful character. She is strong even when she fears her own weakness, and lets her generous heart guide her during moments of darkness and uncertainty. For his part, Sebastian’s reactions and feelings are so well drawn, so deeply felt, that my heart ached for both of them.

And of course:

This is a total winner and gets 9 out of 10

Back among the living

After two weeks of polishing (and polishing and polishing and polishing and polishing and … well, you get the picture) the excerpt from one of my diss chapters, I finally handed it in on Tuesday (or rather I uploaded it so our grad student group can crit it and pick it apart and discuss it on Monday). Which meant I took yesterday and today off and metamorphosed into a couch potato. πŸ™‚ Hooray! Unfortunately it’s going to be a rather short-lived couch potato, as I’ll have to start polishing the rest of the aforementioned chapter tomorrow.

Finished reading James Patterson’s (and Gabrielle Charbonnet’s) latest release, SUNDAYS AT TIFFANY’S yesterday — it’s one of the most adorable stories I’ve read in a very long time! The tag line is: “What if your imaginary friend from childhood was your one true love?” (Yes, the book itself is just as sweet as that!) The novel made me cry and made me smile and at the end it made me cry again because it’s such a beautiful ending. *happy sigh* Now I’m reading Patterson’s SAM’S LETTERS TO JENNIFER – Fictionwise is so corrupting me!

As to other news: BEWITCHED got a D from AAR,* which I found out this morning (not a good way to start your day – ouch!). But to make up for it, I got five stars from Happy End BΓΌcher, which I found out this afternoon. In other words, ’twas a day of extremes …

* I could use this as an excuse to justify buying THE GOLDEN HOUR on play.com – hmmm ….

Post # 701: And yet another review!

This time it’s from The Good, the Bad and the Unread:

I know a love potion in a romance story is not new ground, but when Sandra Schwab gets hold of a worn-out plot like that, she breathes new life into it. This author never disappoints me. Her books are always innovative and, of course, romantic, and her characters are alive and real. Bewitched is no exception. […] Once again Ms Schwab has given us a romance filled with joy and strife, characters you fall for right away and root for when things go awry, and a storyline with writing so different from anyone else. It’s the little extras in her books that make you keep turning page after page.

πŸ™‚

I don’t need to tell you how utterly relieved I am that people seem to love this book (and don’t drop dead from reading it *g*). *doing the happy dance again*