This was a pretty by-the-numbers romance with really likeable main characters and a decent supporting cast. Which sounds dreadful in a "damning with fThis was a pretty by-the-numbers romance with really likeable main characters and a decent supporting cast. Which sounds dreadful in a "damning with faint praise" kind of way. And yes, the four stars indicate that it's much better than the components broken down into individual pieces for evaluation.
I think, what it comes down to for me, is that it just all worked together into a seamless story that was entertaining and engaging. More importantly, it delivered exactly what I was looking for and did so competently. So it adds up to a pleasant surprise and fond memory....more
Of the 158 books I've tagged with "will probably regret", this is the second that made five stars. It deserves them, but not everybody will feel thatOf the 158 books I've tagged with "will probably regret", this is the second that made five stars. It deserves them, but not everybody will feel that way. I'll try to explain in a bit.
First off, I really enjoyed the characters. And I mean not just Marissa, but all of them. Grimm (the fairy Godfather) really had to work for the book to be successful, so that's a no-brainer. The friends and coworkers enhanced that success wildly, but the real winner was Princess Ari. I liked her growth, but I liked the development of her relationship with Marissa even better. And while I was worried about Liam as simple man-candy, he turned out fantastic as well (poor guy).
Second, the world building really worked for me. I'm not a huge fan of fairy tales, though I like the fae well-enough. I never thought combining the two would work, but it really did. Maybe because fairy tales didn't really feature, much, except as twisted background. I also had doubts about "Kingdom" as a . . . thing. But that ended up working out, for what we saw of it.
But really, it was the story that drew me in and held me tight. It's this element that will be a bit difficult for readers to agree upon because the story appears scattered and unfocused on first blush. The problem is that there are a couple different antagonists and they trade off in importance over the run of the story. That makes Marissa and Grimm look both beleaguered (good) and scattered (bad). Indeed, Marissa is taking things from several sides simultaneously and once or twice appears to jag off on a tangent that appears to be of less urgency than other, more pressing, concerns. When those tangents turn out to be important, it feels like the author might be cheating or substituting intuition for authorial dictate.
The reason I didn't feel that way, though, is that I don't think the antagonists actually function as the story's main conflict. For me, the real conflict in the story is Marissa's servitude. Or slavery, really. More important, though, is her sense of self that affects and reinforces that slavery. Once I saw the story as her conflict with her own self-identity, the story fell completely into place. That unified not only the actions/reactions of the antagonists, but also Marissa's choices and responses as she tests the boundaries of her servitude and her identity under its constraints.
Particularly intriguing on Marissa's voyage of self discovery is how it illuminates Grimm's personality as her bond holder. The reader perceives a shift in his relationship with Marissa, but eventually it becomes clear that the shift is entirely on the part of Marissa and her growing understanding of who she is. That's fascinating because (view spoiler)[he really doesn't change (until possibly, maybe the very end), even though our understanding of him and his side of his relationship with Marissa changes pretty fundamentally (hide spoiler)].
Marissa's conflict with her situation and identity as the heart of the story was, unfortunately, undermined by the opening of the book. Nelson would have done better eliminating the whole introductory chapter (or two?) and starting with Marissa responding to Grimm's next task. The weak opening leaves the reader wondering what the story will be about and puts off establishing the promises of the story until later. Remove that part and you'd have started strong and solidly on the track of the real story being told. With that part, it takes a while to get the underlying thematic conflict because the start of the real story feels like as much of a tangent as anything else at that point.
So the story, particularly the growth and development of Marissa, was completely enthralling to me. Add pacing that was just the comfortable side of unrelenting and you have a book that kept me up until the small hours when I really couldn't afford it. And it's that that pushed this to five stars when it was headed to an otherwise pretty comfortable four.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A fun read and, quite frankly, a better starting place to the series than the first. It's a touch dated (written in the 70s), but Vicky's snark is delA fun read and, quite frankly, a better starting place to the series than the first. It's a touch dated (written in the 70s), but Vicky's snark is delightful. I do wish she wasn't quite so prone to relatively serious errors in judgment—it undermines her supposed intelligence, even if she does cope well in extricating herself from the consequences. Oh, and I really hope Sir John shows up in later books. Which means I'm actually looking forward to later books. Huh......more
I had a really hard time with the main character in this book, and I'm not sure it's her fault. Which is to say that the author kept robbing her of voI had a really hard time with the main character in this book, and I'm not sure it's her fault. Which is to say that the author kept robbing her of volition and that got old really fast and never really went away. This was achieved mainly by removing her memory of key events, leaving her walking around vulnerable all the time and acting on too little information. There was some hint of greater manipulation, too, and that put me off even further.
I wanted to like the book in spite of this weakness, but never quite managed. To its credit, it managed to sneak a decent plot twist past me, which is always welcome (and no, the author didn't cheat to accomplish it). I suspect that the worldbuilding is decent, as well, but the PoV of the main character didn't really explore it much—she's kept ignorant right to the very end.
By the end, this felt very much like a really long prelude short story . . . like the story was ready to start now that the stage was set. Not that it was a cliffhanger or anything abhorrent like that, it just ended right as things started to shape up.
I'm pretty sure I won't bother with the rest of the series. I really hated that the author played around with the main character so cheaply and there just wasn't much depth to the characters. Some of that may have been deliberate (after all, someone is messing with people on a fundamental level in this weird little town), but I don't have the patience to discover if it was deliberate or just sloppy on the part of the author.
So yeah. 2.5 stars without enough oomph for me to round up....more
This book had a lot going for it. I really liked Paige. She is witty and kind (and that's not an easy combo to pull off) and courageous and just a lotThis book had a lot going for it. I really liked Paige. She is witty and kind (and that's not an easy combo to pull off) and courageous and just a lot of fun to spend time with. Logan isn't bad, either. He's a match for her wit and is protective and capable and supports the best that is in Paige (as she supports the best that is in him). But even better, they feel like teens first learning young love and I mean that in its sweetest (and most hopeful) way. Yeah, they both have teen-level weaknesses (Logan's is the most annoying with the me-protect-you schtick I'm no fan of) but they also display the maturity that indicates they'll likely grow out of them (and probably do so together) and end up stronger as a result.
The world building mostly worked, too, and the plot was well-paced and intricate enough to keep me engaged. This interacted well with Paige and Logan and gave their tender moments real poignancy and no small amount of charm. I bought their falling in love even as I bought their peril and struggles to both understand and protect each other. Shultz has a real talent with her main characters and I wish the rest of the cast had partaken even a fraction of their strength.
Indeed, if even a handful of supporting characters had even a whiff of depth to them, this would have been a clean four stars, no question. Unfortunately, while Paige and Logan are strong, this book has a really poor second string. It took me a while to realize it because Dottie is kind of quirky/cool (and we mostly see her in the first parts) but all of the secondary characters (yes, even Dottie) are shallow caricatures with a key attribute or two but never rising above those to become fully-realized individuals. This becomes painful in Paige's interactions with her parents. Her dad, in particular, is a clownish buffoon I mostly wanted to smack upside the head with the mighty clue-bat of wake-the-heck-up.
And don't get me started on Aiden (the bad guy) and Rego (the good guy, only, well...). Both chew the scenery any time they're on stage and neither one connected very well as foil or antagonist. Okay, I bought Aiden as a threat but he never amounted to much more than an elemental, Terminator-style relentless force to be opposed as best they may. But he was never a personality and his motives seemed opaque even when they were explicated. And if (view spoiler)[Rego doesn't turn out to be a villain in later installments, I'll eat my hat (my cake hat of chocolaty smoothness). This is so obvious, I'm a little embarrassed for Shultz as even if he turns out not to be a villain, she's telegraphed it so strongly that that will be an authorial misstep. (hide spoiler)]
So yeah. I loved Paige and Logan and that saves this book from full-on disaster. I just wish they had the surrounding cast to actually shine...["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I took a chance on this one. I think it's because I just want an angel story to work out, finally. And on that level Missy Jane delivers—at least, insI took a chance on this one. I think it's because I just want an angel story to work out, finally. And on that level Missy Jane delivers—at least, insofar as it doesn't suck and the angels aren't ridiculous or cloying. She dodges much of the theological issues by giving the angels some distance or disconnect with deity and the demonic forces arrayed against them drive good action and plot/character development.
I even liked the main characters, though I couldn't help the occasional derisive snort at some of their activities. Isadora is a touch too naïve and Zerach a touch too, uh, competent to take terribly seriously. If you're willing to buy the fantasy of the righteously pure heroine and the cynical-but-noble hero coming together to form a greater whole through their union then it mostly works (I know, I didn't know I was that tolerant, either). Plus, upside, it meant Jane avoids the whole demon/angel love triangle conflict that seems an unavoidable temptation in the angel UF milieu.
Unfortunately (did you see that coming?) the book is short and the sexy times are long throwing this more into the realm of erotica than I'm really interested in. And I do mean loooong. I'm not factoring that mismatch into my rating, though, because it was an honest oversight on my part (missing the erotica cues in the marketing/cover/copy). There's a lot of plot/character for an all-out erotica offering, so this is may be on the edge of the category...
A note about Steamy: See erotica above. Lots of tasty sexitimes that... linger....more
Wow, another "will probably regret" that ends up with five stars. Weird. Unlike Rowell's other adult-aimed novel, I liked all the characters in this bWow, another "will probably regret" that ends up with five stars. Weird. Unlike Rowell's other adult-aimed novel, I liked all the characters in this book. And that goes double for the protagonists.
Lincoln was just so sweet, though it helps that I identified so strongly with him. Well, okay, we're not really much alike. We're both introverts, but I don't have his shyness or emotional fragility. But his insecurities, uncertainty, and inability to stop monitoring Beth and Jennifer's emails are so familiar that I attached immediately and never broke away. And who doesn't fall in love with a guy who falls for a girl without knowing who she is? And this slew me:(view spoiler)[
“Lincoln?” she asked. “Yes?” “Do you believe in love at first sight?” He made himself look at her face, at her wide-open eyes and earnest forehead. At her unbearably sweet mouth. “I don’t know,” he said. “Do you believe in love before that?”
And I couldn't help falling for Beth as well. She's smart, funny, and kind. But, more importantly, you can see, right from the start, that she's nearly ideal for Lincoln.
The novel builds over time as you can see both characters going deeper and deeper into areas that will keep them apart. Lincoln's dilemma of how to get close to Beth in real space when he's gotten to know her so well through violations of her assumption of privacy in their emails is nearly hopeless. And Beth is busy digging her own quagmire with the unsuitable Chris. The tension of how they'll resolve the seemingly irreconcilable was made delicious by the knowledge that this is a romance novel and of course they'd find a way.
If there's a weakness in the book, it's in reconciling the tension between knowing how impossible it will be for them to be together vs. knowing that they'd eventually get together. I thought Rowell pulled it off, but then, I wanted her to pull it off as I was so deeply invested in both the characters and in their eventual relationship. I thought the eventual resolution was beautiful and beautifully well-done, but I may be cutting some unwarranted slack in that belief. It comes down to whether you can buy that Beth's best attributes as shown through her emails run as deeply as they need to for it to happen the way it does. (view spoiler)[It helps that Lincoln gave her the information she needed and then time and distance without pushing himself on her. Both the time and the distance worked, I think, to allow me to believe that she could have gotten over the worst of her feelings of betrayal and back to her intrigue with the quietly handsome guy who had initially caught her interest. As does the witnesses to his character in Doris and others about the office that Lincoln interacted with for her to verify her sense of who he really is. (hide spoiler)]
The addition of Rowell's signature humor and witty banter throughout had this cruising at a high four and probable five stars from the very start. The book is a delight and I look forward to her next book with some eagerness.
A mild curiosity. I can't help wondering why the book is set in 1999 (and into 2000) when the copyright is 2011. That seems like a rather large dip into the past without any real story reason for it. Yeah, Y2K plays a minor story role, but nothing major and nothing that couldn't have been as easily done with any other weird IT thing (and believe me, weird IT things are perennial).["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This book works better if you subtract a decade or so from the ages of the main protagonists—though that makes it tough for Lee to have both been in tThis book works better if you subtract a decade or so from the ages of the main protagonists—though that makes it tough for Lee to have both been in the military and setup a successful PI business. Maybe subtract a decade from only Indy, but then that makes their history of thwarted yearning downright creepy. So I did the next-best thing and went with the book as-written and left Indy as an emotionally immature 30 year-old with enough interesting quirks to attract the hyper-competent Lee.
And that actually works out relatively well, once I got over my exasperation with Indy a bit. It helps, of course, that she visibly matures during the course of the story. Indeed, the book works nearly as well as a coming-of-age story as it does as a romance—though again, you have to persevere through Indy's antics a while and that can be painful.
It helps, too, that Lee is a stone-cold hottie. He's demanding and rather dictatorial, at times, and that would have pissed me off if Indy hadn't so clearly needed someone to smack her into reality a bit. And she challenged him when he needed it, too, so it wasn't all one-way.
All of which is to say that the book held my interest, even if I had to soldier through a few parts.
A note about Steamy: Once Indy and Lee got together there was a near constant string of explicit, intimate bits. They were all incredibly short—most not more than a few paragraphs—but they added up to a kind of weird background noise. Altogether, it put the book on the upper middle of my steam tolerance when it could easily have tipped into the extreme high end on frequency alone....more
This was a good mystery with a strong YA setting and a really likeable heroine. Anne is a basically good person, but with the flaws you'd expect in aThis was a good mystery with a strong YA setting and a really likeable heroine. Anne is a basically good person, but with the flaws you'd expect in a privileged teen without enough effective supervision.
It took me a bit to warm to her, actually, but that's the author's fault for starting the book too early. The slow start and unnecessary detail of her foolishness with Martin set poor expectations for both Anne's eventual character and the story's direction. Once things pick up, though, we begin to see the core of what makes her work and understand why she couldn't simply leave well enough alone when she sees injustice and willful ignorance in the death of someone well on her way to becoming a friend.
From there things keep a great pace and if some of the reveals are predictable, many are brilliantly conceived and one or two true surprises (fully earned) were outright brilliant. All without stinting on the characters who were vibrant enough to hold interest in their own right. Anne's interactions with her classmates were sometimes brusque and sometimes earnest, but never random or unrealistic. Anne has a long, tough journey as she deals with suspicion and privilege in her new school so it makes sense that her emotional state dictates her interactions as much as her reason does, at times. What I liked about it is how Taylor made it so that the reader can see Anne's motivations clearly even when Anne herself is a little unclear why she is sticking her neck out for someone who is already dead and had little call on her loyalty even when she was still around.
Some of the tertiary characters and background were light enough to keep this in the 3.5 star range, but I enjoyed it so much that I feel compelled to round up, this time. And I'm definitely interested in the next......more