Archive | Re-Read Challenge 2009 RSS feed for this section

Books And Games 2009

31 Dec


According to my spreadsheet, I read 86 books this years. I probably missed one or two but all the same, it would still be less than year. Considering my “slump” the last few months, it’s not surprising though.

Favorite novel 2009

Looking at the grades and leaving aside the re-reads, there are two novels I graded 5/5:

  • Anne Stuart – Black Ice (2005)
  • Meredith Duran – Bound By Your Touch (2009)

Like last year, a novel by Meredith Duran is in the running for my favorite novel of the year. Like last year, her novel was published that year whereas the other novel was not. And like last year, I’m going to name the other novel as my favorite novel of the year. Reason: I still remember reading it so vividly.

So my favorite novel 2009:

Black Ice by Anne Stuart

(Here’s what I wrote back then.)

~ * * * ~

Reading Challenges

TBR Challenge hosted by Keishon

I missed two out of twelve dates for this challenge. Which means, I managed to read ten out of twelve possible books. Overall, I read some good books in this challenge. I read some books who are favorite with many readers but didn’t really work for me, like Connie Brockway’s All Through the Night for example. I read some books I thought well written and saw the appeal but which still didn’t end up on my favorite list, like Suzanne Brockmann’s The Unsung Hero for example. I read some books by authors I’ve already read. I read some books whose authors where new to me and are now on my list of authors to read. And yes, I read some books that didn’t work for me at all.

Overall and although I missed it two times, I had a lot of fun with this challenge and I thought the monthly themes added a nice twist to the whole challenge. I found interesting new authors and I enjoyed myself.

Thanks to Keishon for coming up with the idea and organizing this challenge!

Re-Read Challenge hosted by nath

My sign-up for this challenge was the first time I ever posted on nath’s blog and I think it was a good idea. I had lots of fun with this challenge and I only missed one out of twelve dates for this challenge. I’m also happy to say that most of my favorite novels stood the test of time for me although I wasn’t brave enough to tackle the novel I think of as my favorite romance novel and which I only read one time for fear of finding it lacking the second time: Black Silk by Judith Ivory.

Maybe some day.

When I look at the novels I read for this challenge, I think for a re-read, I prefer a fun and humorous story to a more somber novel although I’m usually more interested in the latter when I think about buying a novel. Go figure.

Overall, a fun and interesting challenge, one I enjoyed very much.

Thanks to nath for coming up with the idea and organizing this challenge!

~ * * * ~


I can’t say I have a favorite game this year. I played less than usual and I finished less games than usual.

2009 was the year I made real steps in my online gaming.

  • There’s the browser game I started in 2008 and still play: I joined a guild in February this year. My character is still doing good. She went from #1000 the last time I mentioned her to #163 in the ranking (status this afternoon).

  • And there’s Runes of Magic, a MMORPG. I started to play that several months ago and I still have fun although some of my worries about what could bother me have been confirmed. Anyway, I have three characters, a mage/priest (level 51/49), a priest/knight (41/39) and a scout/priest (level 20-30), and I joined a guild with my mage/priest character two months back.

    (No pics here due to the problems with our video card/computer – I can’t play at the moment).

~ * * * ~



Re-Read Challenge: “Tiger’s Eye” By Karen Robards

31 Dec


Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009

This month:Re-Read Challenge: December!

GENRE: Romance / Historical
PUBLISHED: Avon, 1989

Lady Isabella St. Just is shocked to learn the identity of the daring champion who comes to her aid–for the man who rescues her from desperate felons is none other than Alec Tyron, the notorious king of London’s underworld. Now she is beholden to an outlaw who is repected and feared throughout the city and stunned by her own intense desire for this dark man of mystery. Fate has united these strangers from opposite lives–the beautiful aristocrate and the brazen criminal outlaw. And now that the flame has been lit, no power on Earth will quench the fire of their passion…or destroy a love that society cannot allow.


This was the second novel I read by Karen Robards (the first being One Summer). I think the main attraction was the huge difference in the main characters’ position in society (think “the lady and the gutter rat”). I really liked it, the first half better than the last, and thought it interesting that it featured a married woman who commits adultery.


Isabella is the (much) younger and unwanted-except-for-her-money wife of an earl. She spends her life on the country estate of her husband who’s in London most of the time and pretty much neglects her, something she’s used to from her family. Isabella herself has never been to London so the summons from her husband to come to London immediately is very surprising but something Isabella doesn’t hesitate to comply with. Her marriage is no love match but she knows her duties as a wife. She thinks of herself as sensible, possessing a good deal of common sense, and no real beauty.

Alec is the “king of the London underworld” which means that nothing goes on without him knowing about it. If someone dares to cut him out of a deal…Alec’s punishment is swift and merciless. He’s a gutter rat who pulled himself up in the only way and to the only position he could. But he strives to improve and educate himself, working on his language, speech, and manners. So it’s not much of a wonder that he’s fascinated with Isabella when they meet, who’s the image of a real and proper lady.

This unlikely pair meet because Isabella is kidnapped on her way to London and held for ransom in a cottage. The kidnappers acted without Alec’s knowing so Alec shows up one night. It’s the night Isabella flees because she has reason to suspect her kidnappers mean to kill her after they have the ransom. In all the confusion that night, both Isabella and Alec are shot and wounded. They are taken to a brothel Alec owns and which is run by his mistress, Pearl, and there they are confined to two connected rooms to recuperate. It’s there that their fascination with the complete difference of the other person gets the better of them and they start to fall for each other. And it’s there that Isabella learns the fact that her kidnapping wasn’t by chance, that it was planned and that she indeed should have been killed by her kidnappers. She has to accept the fact that someone she knows wants her dead, the someone presumably being her husband.

Tiger’s Eye is a story that spans more than a year and moves from London to the country to France, clearly dividing the story in distinct parts. The first part, set in London, shows how Isabella and Alec meet and how they slowly fall in love with each other. Then the story moves to Alec’s country house where Isabella and Alec truly get to know each other. Their time there is even more of an escape from the reality of their different lives than the first part so of course this idyll gets interrupted and the story moves to France. Isabella and Alec can’t hide from reality forever.

I still love the first part, the part in London, best. But then there’s a lull. Alec and Isabella need around 70 pages to get from London to the country house. On their way, there is a lot of action like more shooting, but I’m afraid that despite that and advancing the story and Isabella and Alec’s relationship in general, I thought it a bit boring. Probably mostly because I thought Isabella lost some of her common sense. At the country house, my interest in the romance writing conventions at play increased – Alec turning Isabella in a real beauty (dresses and educating her about sex) and Isabella taming Alec (teaching him to be a gentleman) – while my interest in the story decreased even more. The pace did pick up again for the last few chapters, dealing with reality, positions in society and Isabella’s husband, it also cranked up the drama a bit again but I’m afraid, reading Tiger’s Eye this time, it wasn’t enough to draw me in completely again after having lost me in the middle.

I didn’t have a problem with it but there are real-life concerns that could spoil the reading enjoyment, mainly the fact that the heroine is an adulteress (addressed as an issue only near the end of the story) and Alec’s background. Alec isn’t a benevolent Robin-Hood type of criminal, he’s the real deal (or so the reader is told). Yet apart from Alec telling Isabella

“I would have let Parren kill you if he hadn’t taken the job under the table. The fact that your life was saved in the process of protecting my turf was just bloody coincidence.” (227)

this reality of his life – that he accept(ed) harming innocents – is blanked out completely in the story. Isabella never asks herself the legitimate question if she could live with someone like that. Alec is kind to her, he’s the only one who really cares about her, he’s so beautiful, and he showed her how it can be between a man and a woman in bed – “she had no idea!” – so all is well.

Alec as the hero has to be all. He has to have all the power, trappings and dark allure the position as leader of the underworld gives him but to be a romance hero, the implications of what this actually means has to be played down into near non-existence. Because if you let yourself think about the reality of Alec’s background, the things that are not addressed in the story, he’s a rather unsavory character and not exactly hero material. The way it is, he’s a fantasy character.

I realize all this probably sounds worse than it actually is. The reason that I go on about Alec’s character so long when I went for the fantasy of his character is because it points in the same direction than my issues with the middle part of the novel. After promising a more unconventional story with a married heroine, Tiger’s Eye ignores most of the questions connected with that premise and instead turns to romance conventions and the path romances usually follow. If read for the fantasy of an utterly gorgeous man madly in love with a woman who was not really appreciated for much of her life, for the fantasy of a man willing to do all for a woman, Tiger’s Eye is a good and satisfying read.

Verdict: 4/5

Re-Read Challenge: “Where Dreams Begin” By Lisa Kleypas

2 Dec

[edit: formatting]


Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009

This month:Re-Read Challenge: November!

GENRE: Romance / Historical

AVAILABILITY: still available

Zachary Bronson has built an empire of wealth and power–now he needed a wife to help secure his position in society…and warm his bed in private. But not just any woman will do for a man whom all of London knows is not a gentleman. Then he unexpectedly swept Lady Holly Taylor into his arms for an unasked for–but very alluring–kiss, and suddenly he knew he had found a woman whose fierce passions matched his own.

Lady Holly Taylor was beautiful, generous, and, as a widow, destined to spend her life playing by society’s rules, even when they went against her bolder instincts. But Zachary’s kiss had aroused her, and though the shocking offer he made didn’t include marriage, she was compelled to risk everything and follow him to the place where dreams begin.


Where Dreams Begin was the second novel I read by Kleypas. To say that is my favorite historical romance by Kleypas doesn’t tell you much because I only read six of her historicals. To say that it is a historical I like and admire a lot is more meaningful, I think.

(see here my first comment)


I still like Where Dreams Begin a lot. The only thing that mars my enjoyment, now and back then, comes near the end of the novel. I could have done without [Spoiler; highlight to read]Holly meeting her first husband in a near-death scene[/Spoiler]. I guess it just seems too fantastical to all that goes before to me. But other than that, I like Where Dreams Begin a lot.

Where Dreams Begin is a slow-paced story despite that it begins with a kiss between the heroine, Holly, and the hero, Zachery. It takes a few months before that happens again. It’s a slow build-up but the attraction is steadily growing and palpable.

Holly is a widow just out of the three-year period of mourning her husband, George, a man who everybody saw as the epitome of a true gentleman. A man Holly loved very much. She meets Zachary at a ball. Or more precisely: at a ball Holly wants to escape, she gets kissed by a man in a dark room. It’s only later she learns his identity.

Up until then, Holly led a very sheltered life. First her family took care of her and protected her from the harsher things in life, then her husband, and after his death, his husband’s family. The kiss is different from what Holly knows and what she is like and believes about herself. But it’s the first step for what is to come: Holly will slowly turn into a woman who does no longer rely on others to make decisions for her and take care of her. She’ll change:

Her actions of the past four months had proved that she was no longer the sheltered young matron, or the virtuous, circumspect widow that family and friends had approved of. She was becoming another woman entirely. (206)

Zachary is totally different than Holly’s late husband in many (outward) things. He wasn’t born to privileges and riches, he – literally for the first years – fought his way up in society. When he wants something, he tries everything in his power to get it. He isn’t above manipulation and at first, he thinks Holly will be no difference.

But then he slowly falls in love with her. One of the things I liked best in this novel (because it created lots of tension) is that Zach knows that as soon as he gets what he wants – Holly in his bed – she’ll be gone from his life. So he does all he can do to resist. He knows Holly is not for him. Too huge are the differences between them, in their position in society and in their character.

Where Dreams Begin looks at positions in society, on what social standing relies.

The idea that a man like Zachary Bronson might be inherently equal to a man like…well, like one of the Taylors, or even her dear George…it was a provocative notion. The great majority of aristocrat’s would immediately dismiss the idea. Some men were born with blue blood, with generations of noble ancestors behind them and this made them better, finer than ordinary men. This was what Holly had always been taught. But Zachary Bronson had started in life with no advantage whatsoever, and he had made himself into a man to be reckoned with. And he was trying very hard to better himself and his family, and soften the coarseness of his own character. Was he really so inferior to the Taylors? Or to herself? (101/102)

Where Dreams Begin is IMO a carefully constructed battle between traditional notions and modern notions of a person’s worth packed into a romance. And because of that, it’s still my favorite historical romance by Kleypas and still one of my best liked and admired historical romances.

Verdict: 4,5/5

Re-Read Challenge: “The Return Of Luke McGuire” By Justine Davis

1 Oct


Info:Re-Read Challenge 2009
This month:Re-Read Challenge: September!

Davis, Justine - Return of Luke McGuire
GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Mills & Boon, Silhouette Sensation, 2001

AVAILABILITY: out of print

You always want…

Dark and dangerous Luke McGuire was everything shy Amelia Blair had been fascinated by as a girl but too terrified to go near. And now here she was, the only person in the whole town prepared to give him the time of day, caring enough to stand up for him…brave enough to get close.

What you can’t have

Luke knew that Amelia was off-limits. But, reformed or not, he’d never been able to abide by the rules. He only hoped that the quiet beauty would fall for the man he had become instead of the one he used to be.


The Return of Luke McGuire was the first category novel I ever read. This was back in 2002 and for a long time, this category novel stayed the only one. But I loved it enough and remembered it fondly enough that when I started to read category novels more regularly 1-2 years back, I bought and still buy novels by Davis even though they have a slight romantic suspense bend to it now.


The Return of Luke McGuire is one of those novels where the blurb doesn’t do the story justice. I know, this goes practically for nearly every romance novel, but I always think it especially annoying when 1) it can lead to slightly false assumptions about the story and 2) when the real story is so much more than what you would expect reading the blurb.

Yes, Amelia thinks of herself as quiet and unassuming. A mouse. But she’s determined to be the bravest mouse she could be. And as the story develops, she learns there are different kinds of strength and that perhaps hidden underneath her reserve there is a fire raging that would do her namesake Amelia Earhart justice. And yes, Amelia is drawn to Luke despite herself.

But Luke doesn’t think Amelia off-limits exactly. Sure, it’s present because he’s been the bad boy of the town and Amelia is the goody-goody girl of the town, but it’s not really as important between them as it might seem because of the back blurb. And well, Luke doesn’t see Amelia for the first time and thinks, “wow, but uhm, she’s off-limits.” His attraction is growing slowly and he starts to notice more and more things about her as he gets to know her better. He hesitates, yes, but not because he thinks himself not good enough for her or something like that.

The novel starts when Luke comes back to his home town because he received a letter from his younger brother David asking for help. Before this letter, there wasn’t actually any (real) contact between Luke and David. Luke left his home town the day after he graduated from high school and hasn’t regretted or looked back since then. Now David hopes he can come and live with Luke to escape their controlling and nasty mother, something Luke knows won’t be possible. So he isn’t sure if coming is the right move. Besides, he only has bad memories of the town and is glad he left all the nastiness he faced there behind.

But despite all of this, he does, and that is when he meets Amelia who’s a friend of David and owner of the town’s bookshop. David has acquired a worrisome set of friends trying to set off his mother and live up to his older brother’s bad boy reputation. Amelia and Luke’s concern for David brings them closer together. Without David, Amelia and Luke probably would never have talked to each other, at least not in Luke’s home town where just his being back brings out some of his old reactions to the way people treat him. They assume the worst of him because of his history and he doesn’t bother to show them he’d changed. But there is David. And trying to help David brings Amelia and Luke closer together, makes Amelia discover new things about herself, and makes Luke face his past and deal with it in a way so that he really can leave it all behind.

If there is one thing where this novel falters a bit it’s the way the villains are depicted. David’s nasty friends are up to some very bad things but I thought what they are willing to do in the end, though actually believable, still a bit out of nowhere. But more than that, I thought the people’s antagonism towards Luke slightly overdone. He did some cruel and bad things in his youth, yes, but that was nearly ten years ago. When he comes back, nobody (except Amelia of course) gives him the benefit of the doubt, they just assume the worst. Even more, they go and outright say it to him. I don’t know, I just thought that really rude and intolerant, and that everyone was like that was just a bit hard to believe. (To be fair, there is some change at the end with some people, but still.)

But that is just a very small complaint. The Return of Luke McGuire offers more than enough to make up for it. There’s the believable and slowly developing romance between two people who look like they have nothing in common and only meet because of special circumstances, Amelia and Luke. There’s the relationship between the brothers Luke and David that starts out with Luke as David’s hero for all the wrong reasons and that needs to adjust as the story and characters develop. There’s David’s struggle with growing up and finding his own way. There’s Luke’s struggle with his past and what his mother did to him (IMO the most important thread of the story). And there’s Amelia who makes all this possible and who discovers that maybe she was wrong to think of herself as a mouse.

Verdict: Despite my disbelief about the total rudeness of all people, 5/5.