Thursday, May 21, 2009

May Bookclub.

Our Laguna de la Paz bookclub held its second meeting yesterday and it was such an enjoyable experience. Due to La Quinta being one of those "seasonal" towns we weren't sure how many would turn up during the summer months. Most of our Canadian and northern states visitors have returned home until October when the season resumes, yet we had seven attendees yesterday. It was a great group with everyone participating and bringing a different perspective to the table, and one member emailed her comments even though on vacation. :=) Way to go, Marge.

The book being discussed was The Lost Recipe For Happiness, by Barbara O'Neal. This was her first book under the new pseudonym, although she has many books written under the name Barbara Samuel and also many Harlequin romances written under the pseudonym Ruth Wind. I've always enjoyed Barbara's works for their sensual detail, whether a story about making perfume (where you swear you can smell the scents) or the restaurant business (where you get hunger pains reading about the wonderful foods) or her lovemaking scenes that have such great sensual detail they don't read as mere sex scenes.

As it was my turn to host I'd thought about making the pomegrante baklava from Barbara's recipe in the book. Time ran away from me though as I'd had a trip up to L.A. and only returned home on Monday evening. I was in Wal-Mart picking up a few things and saw a covered tray of various types of baklava and thought I'd give it a try. They were amazing! Yikes, and I'm supposed to be on the second phase of the South Beach diet. No baklava on that. I froze the leftovers, but somehow they seem to call my name every time I pass the fridge.

Back to discussing the book, here is the author's blurb:
Haunted by an accident of which she was the lone survivor, Elena Alvarez knows how to defy the odds. And when she is suddenly offered the opportunity she's been waiting for--the challenge of running her own kitchen in a world-class restaurant--she knows it is a chance she has to take, even if it does mean relocating to Aspen, where she doesn't know a soul, and usurping the job of a notably volatile chef. So with her faithful dog and her grandmother's recipes, she arrives in Colorado to find a restaurant in as desperate need of a fresh start as she is--and a man whose passionate approach to food and life rivals her own. For Elena, old ghosts don't die quietly, but some remain with her for a reason. And, through all the ups and downs, she knows the chance for happiness is worth every risk.

It was nice that our one male member did not balk at having to read a romance and although he said he's never read one before, he rated it at least a seven. His only negative comment was it was predictible in that it didn't have a surprise, or twist, in the ending. I explained that a requirement for writing romance is a happily ever after, so in that sense romances are predictible. We all agreed this was a story about learning to let go so you can move forward. Everyone found it enjoyable and felt they had a greater understanding of how a restaurant is run and the relationships that have to come together to make a truly successful business. They also felt the heroine was well drawn and strong yet totally believable. Then we digressed a bit and ended up talking about the pros and cons of women in business and that was a lively discussion.

With a rating from 1-10, The Lost Recipe For Happiness scored six seven's and two nines.

June's meeting will be held in the clubhouse at 1PM. The June book-of-the-month choice is The Shack, by William P. Young.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Three historical book reviews. One movie.

I'm not sure why, but of late I've taken to reading historicals from different time periods. I've even looked for classic movies without realizing I was doing that. So, what's the deal with these stories?

Maybe it's the return to harder times, looking to gain insight into how others survived with less of everything? Not that I suffer anywhere near what the heroines in these stories do. But, it is good and heart warming to read about strong heroines willing to fight for their (or their family's) survival. We all stare down the threat of losing everything we've worked so hard to gain, yet hold out a promise that the situation will improve. Hopefully, like the heroines in these stories we're also making adjustments to our lifestyles, cutting back, doing without, appreciating the simpler things, enjoying the love of family and friends, and being strong in our belief that the hardships we deal with today are nothing like those of the past.

When His Kiss is Wicked, by Kaitlin O'Riley:
Colette Hamilton cares for four sisters and an ailing mother, after her father dies. With little money, and a bookshop to run, she makes inroads into improving the shop she loves and making more sales. All of this in a time when a female shopkeeper was frowned upon. Her uncle sets about getting Collette and her sister married off. But both sisters are resistant.
Then Lucien Sinclair(son of an earl with a desire to marry a plain, simple woman, who will do his bidding) enters the picture. He wants nothing to do with a woman of beauty because they bring their own problems, but when he meets and becomes intrigued by beautiful Collette and her delightful family, he must fight the attraction. He however, finds himself like a moth attracted to the flame.
This was a delightful book about overcoming hardship, and I enjoyed the author's narrative voice. The story left me with a smile on my face.

Siren's Song, by Trish Albright:
Olivia Yates is a scholar in times when women were not. With an archaeologist father, and no mother, she learned from him about Egyptian artifacts and taught herself to decipher hieroglyphics. With her father at an archaeology site and possibly in trouble, Olivia knows she holds the key to deciphering a code and must go to him. Someone is trying to murder her. Samuel Stafford is a sea captain, not a treasure hunter, yet he soon finds himself on a whirlwind journey on the high seas, headed for Egypt and its untold treasures, and reponsible for one very fiesty young woman.
This story of family loyalty and protecting loved ones at the risk of ones own life, is an exciting adventure filled with action, humor, and romance. It left me breathless.

The Promise, by TJ Bennett:
Alonsa Garcia de Arunjuez is a Spanish beauty, haunted by a Gypsy curse that threatens death to any man she loves. Thinking she is betrothed to a "safe" man, he is killed in battle. But not before begging a promise from his friend and fellow soldier, Gunter Behaim, to marry his betrothed. Betrayed by love, Gunter has sworn off making promises, but the man saved his life. He relents. Alonsa and Gunter have met before and there was an initial attraction but both quashed it. Now with the promise made, the sparks ignite and against the backdrop of the dark cruelties of war, these two who seem like total opposites must risk everything they've believed in to cast off the curse and unite their souls. A wonderful romance with an excellent grip on the historical time period. It left me sated and satisfied.

And the movie:
Sense and Sensibility.
What a wonderful cast. I know I saw this one years ago but couldn't resist watching it again. It's the 1995 version, starring Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and so many more wonderful actors and actresses. Based on Jane Austen's classic novel, it tells the story of the Dashwood sisters whose chances at marriage seem doomed when their father dies and the family fortune reverts to the son. The suitors are trapped by the strict rules of society and the conflicting laws of desire, and the two older sisters, Elinor and Marianne, must face many losses before finding their happily ever after while adjusting to their altered economic situation and standing. It left me sobbing, but in a good way. : )