Oh, that was gorgeous. Very, very different from her "Chocolate" series, but with many of the same wonderful qualities. The ending is utter perfection...moreOh, that was gorgeous. Very, very different from her "Chocolate" series, but with many of the same wonderful qualities. The ending is utter perfection. Will write more later.
I started this an audio and had to switch to print. It was a fantastic narration in a gorgeous Scottish accent, but I couldn't bear the drawn out pace...moreI started this an audio and had to switch to print. It was a fantastic narration in a gorgeous Scottish accent, but I couldn't bear the drawn out pace and switch of mood between the first and second parts. After the switch I stayed up til 2 am to finish it.
There were many things I hoped for as I read this, and I didn't get all of them... but it all came out exactly as it needed to. It's an utterly brilliant book that broke my heart along the way.(less)
I was a little nervous starting this. Florand had two five star books in a row, for me -- could she possibly pull off a hat trick? Yes. Yes she could....moreI was a little nervous starting this. Florand had two five star books in a row, for me -- could she possibly pull off a hat trick? Yes. Yes she could.
Magalie, the daughter of a trans-continental marriage, spent her youth being shuttled between France and America. As an adult, she made the most secure, permanent home possible for herself in the whimsical, witch themed chocolate shop of her aunts, cooking chocolat chaud that she infuses with appropriate wishes for its drinkers. (One of these fortunate drinkers was Cade Corey, heroine of The Chocolate Thief, and it worked out very well for her.) When world famous patissier Phillipe Lyonnais decides to open a new shop on her street, Magalie feels threatened enough to move out of her comfort zone and beard the lion in his den. Phillipe tries to soothe her with one of his exquisite handmade creations, she defiantly refuses... and the battle is on.
The Chocolate Kiss is very like Florand's previous amour et chocolat books in many ways, but has a few key differences. In this story, both characters put their heart and soul into their delicious sweets, and their increasingly desperate efforts to make the other have a taste makes for one of the most delicious wars in the history of romance. Phillipe continually outdoes himself in dreaming up symbolically meaningful pastry to woo Magalie. The defiant Magalie tries to infuse humility for him into her chocolate, yet keep unconsciously stirring her own unadmitted longing for Phillipe into it, causing him to be constantly pursued by random chocolate drinkers.
The story also differs from the previous books in being unexpectedly sad, at least for me. Magalie is so wounded underneath the desperate armor of her Parisian chic, I couldn't help crying for her. For awhile I was even aghast about Phillipe's seeming indifference to how much his shop threatened Magalie, because I identified so strongly with her that despite her aunts' unconcern, I didn't realize it was never a genuine threat.
Florand makes art and magic with words as she describes how Phillipe and Magalie make art and magic with food. Every word had meaning; I had to keep slowing down and going back, to savor phrases that had rushed by too fast to be appreciated. She fills her books with rich metaphor -- like all of her food magicians, Phillipe is his creations, but he is also a lion, and a prince, and he's wary that a witch might turn him into a beast (or a frog.) Magalie is a witch trying to stifle her longing to be a princess, but she's also Rapunzel trapped in her tower, and a dessert that melts into goo from Phillipe's attention. It sounds overly complicated and mishmash, but it all swirls together into a perfect mix of flavors.
This phrase struck me as being representative of Florand's unique style:
"His laughter expanded into the whole room, his energy embracing everyone and everything in it. And that bell in her shop rang again, pure and clear, piercing her through the heart -- which hurt like hell -- and holding her there, impaled for somebody else's pleasure."
I love how her characters embrace metaphor so thoroughly, they make it almost literal. They also invariably think along the same lines -- while Magalie tries to make sure no chocolate skulls are left off the fence that guards her Baba Yaga display, Phillipe immediately notices the one that's fallen, which means the fence can no longer keep a prince out. This completely works with the gentle magic realism that's especially strong in this story.
I read this with gusto, making gleeful noises and awwws and sobs as I went. I adored Phillipe, so large and competent and sure of himself, yet so vulnerable as he falls hopelessly in love with a walled-off princess who thinks she can't have a prince. (I was amused when I looked up "Magalie" and discovered it means "pearl" -- the guarded treasure, she could not be more aptly named.) He truly needs the patience of someone who takes the utmost, delicate care with his work. And I cheered as Magalie starts letting her armor drop enough to enjoy a run -- impossible in the high heels she unusually insists on -- and even begins to believe in the power of her own magic. It's yet another 5 stars -- or maybe that should be 3 Michelin stars.(less)
Eighteen years before the start of this book, three children were born on the same estate on the same night. Elliot is born a Luddite, a daughter of t...moreEighteen years before the start of this book, three children were born on the same estate on the same night. Elliot is born a Luddite, a daughter of the Ruling Class. Ro is born Reduced, a person with severely limited mental capabilities -- seen as God's punishment for human genetic experiments of the past. And Kai is born a Post -- a descendent of the Reduced who is normal in all respects, yet remains in a position of dependent slavery because of his ancestry.
The three grew up together as secret friends -- and Elliot and Kai gradually became more than friends. But when fourteen year old Kai could no longer bear the limits of a slave's world and decided to run away, Elliot felt forced to stay behind, to care for Ro and the other Reduced and Posts on her family's estate as best she could.
Four years later, Kai returns as Captain Malakai Wentforth, one of a group of wealthy, successful Posts who are gaining acceptance and remaking society. But he has never forgiven Elliot, and having him back makes her difficult life more painful than she could have ever imagined.
Loosely based on Jane Austen's Persuasion, this is a heartwrenching romance set in an intriguingly imagined post-Apocalyptic world. But what I found most interesting about the story was its exploration of the pitfalls of a relationship between two people with an uneven balance of power. Through Elliot and Kai's letters from the past, the main way they communicated when often not able to be together, we see Elliot's unthinking privilege and acceptance of what she's always been taught get challenged by Kai's experiences and knowledge. As children, she often unintentionally hurt him, and after they meet up again, their unequal shared past means they still have a great deal of power to hurt each other; perhaps the most excruciating moment in the book happens when Kai implies that he had never really cared for Elliot, but only pretended to be her friend because of who she was.
This was a terrific story, but I might have liked it even more without the Persuasion references. Even aside from the obvious, the characters, relationships and situation are very different, and I found the comparison distracting rather than enlightening -- because Elliot is so much less passive than Anne, it even comes off as possibly more criticism than homage. And the story stands fine on its own; it really didn't need to cling to Austen's skirts.
I was also bothered by how young the main characters are -- especially when 18 year old Kai is involved with another Luddite girl who's only 14. And though the ending is delightful and almost completely satisfying, there was an imbalance of power left that's never explored. (view spoiler)[Kai has been genetically "enhanced"; Elliot is constantly fretting about what his capabilities are and whether he has seen or overheard things. I would find that very uncomfortable in a mate! (hide spoiler)] Even with those criticisms, I was completely wrapped up in the story and can't wait to read the next book, which apparently will be a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, with a female Pimpernel.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
At an emotional low ebb in her usually pleasant life, librarian Carrie comes across an intriguing personal ad: one lunchtime meeting a week for kissin...moreAt an emotional low ebb in her usually pleasant life, librarian Carrie comes across an intriguing personal ad: one lunchtime meeting a week for kissing only, no dating, no hookups. Carrie is as struck with the man's photo as his ad -- handsome, dimpled, yet curiously self-protective -- and starts to weave a fantasy around him:
"Of course, maybe it isn't just Wednesdays. I have the sudden fanciful notion that maybe on Mondays he meets a stranger to just chat. Tuesdays, he meets another for hand-holding, then Wednesday he meets one for kissing, and so on, until Saturday. Saturdays he meets a woman for fucking only, completing the entire mating dance with six different women, with an excruciatingly prolonged bout of foreplay. Sundays, of course, are his day of rest."
(This is completely wrong, of course, yet there's a small element of truth to it. The writer of the ad, Carrie will discover, has had to compartmentalize his life very strictly.)
Carrie answers the ad, and her first kissing date with Brian confirms her strong attraction to him. (And I have to say, he worked just fine for me, as well):
"'You have a librarian fetish?' I don't mind. Not at all.
'Who doesn't?' He laughs again, and for the first time, there's a little blush, right under where his eyeglasses kiss his cheekbones."
But Carrie is startled to discover just how firm Brian is about holding onto his rules, despite how well they hit it off. Her friend Justin suggests that he sounds like "a story guy" -- "a good guy with a bad story doing something stupid." He doesn't see that as a negative thing though: "Story guys are like life highlighters. Your life is all these big blocks of gray text, and then a story guy comes in with a big ol' paragraph of neon pink so that when you flip back through your life, you can stop and remember all the important and interesting places."
Brian is a good guy and he does have a bad story. But what he's doing is wrenching and painful and beautiful. Or as Justin puts it, "When I said you should go for Story Boy I didn't realize he was a Russian novel."
I was happy that Carrie puts a lot of thought into this complex, messed up relationship. She decides at the beginning that because her life is so good, it's a risk she can afford to take: "If I'm broken, the break will be clean and easily mended. If he breaks, I'm not sure if there will be enough pieces to approximate. I can afford to go along with what he thinks will protect him." But it's harder than she expected. After a kissing date, her small apartment seems lonely instead of cozy. "No real food, no wine. No cats. No plants. No good music, no housekeeping. It's like the saddest version of Goodnight Moon ever." And no matter how hard she tries to stick to the rules, she keeps asking for more.
And when Carries realize how truly difficult maintaining a relationship with Brian will be, she ponders again, and once more gets advice from Justin: "Carrie, would you like to know this part of yourself? … The part that opens herself up to a man based on nothing but a little intuition… Because you don't have to. Your life is a nice one -- there are no guarantees, but it's on the right path to stay a nice one. Brian is not on this path." A nice path indeed, Carrie realizes, a path that "will never lead to a man whose hands shake when he holds my face for a kiss that feels like falling."
The plot of The Story Guy allows -- demands -- a slow physical build-up with delicious anticipation, making it an incredibly sexy read. The love scenes are fresh and exciting and intensely emotional.
This was an intensely emotional read all around, for me. It probably won't make every reader burst into tears, but it has a lot to offer anyone.(less)
SWEET TANDOORI CHICKEN HEAD, I loved almost every second of this book! It started out so heartbreaking, but then switched gears to become utterly glee...moreSWEET TANDOORI CHICKEN HEAD, I loved almost every second of this book! It started out so heartbreaking, but then switched gears to become utterly gleeful -- I hated that it was a book and not a movie I could watch with someone else, while we both chortled and went "hot damn!" Then it went to what I feared would be an unbearably awful place -- but no, it was just absolutely perfect.
High school senior Brandon is technically out, but he's still trapped in a closet of his own mind, miserable at what feels like a betrayal of his family and their faith. With his friend Abel, co-host of their "Castaway Planet" fan vlog, "Screw Your Sensors," he puts on a show of being as carefree and open as Abel is, hiding his inability to actually date with a cheater-ex cover story; his alter-ego is Sim, the blissfully emotion-free android companion of Castaway Planet's Captain Cadmus, Then he, Abel, and Brandon's oldest friend Bec go on a tour of Castaway Planet conventions, with the goal of disproving the ridiculous fangirl "shipping" of Sim and Cadmus -- a goal which pisses some fangirls royally off, in a way that will change Brandon's life forever.
I don't want to go into plot details, because I loved the surprises so much, but this was a brilliant coming of age story, a touching romance, and the most honest, loving immersion into fan culture I've ever encountered. I'm not enough of an insider to swear it got everything right, but I felt like I was there. The writing is sharp, evocative and full of nuance; there's so much going on and all of it gets its due. I hate that this is digital only, because every young adult library in America should own it.(less)
3 1/2 stars. I stayed up late finishing this, and it made me cry a few times, but I still finished it feeling -- as with the first book -- ultimately...more3 1/2 stars. I stayed up late finishing this, and it made me cry a few times, but I still finished it feeling -- as with the first book -- ultimately unsatisfied. I just can't seem to get the point of these stories, which all seem to be about obsessive love for shapeshifters who lead very sad, difficult lives. This story adds a twist in that the main character's love is for her shape-shifter sister -- her actual romance with a nice, normal guy seems totally anticlimactic. There's also a secondary romance, also featuring an obsessive lover.
I searched for a metaphor. Does these scenarios represent caring for a special needs child? Do they represent caring for someone with a serious illness? Both readings are possible but not necessarily plausible.
I guess I'll keep reading this series, if there are more books... but I hope at some point I can figure out what the hell they're suppose to be about.(less)
(This review contains minor spoilers for The Night Remembers. You don't have to have read it to follow Night Falls Like Silk, but it does add depth to...more(This review contains minor spoilers for The Night Remembers. You don't have to have read it to follow Night Falls Like Silk, but it does add depth to the story.)
Fifteen years or so have passed since the courageous and imaginative Tommy T was adopted by Angela and Jesse Brown Wolf. Now the part black, part Lakota street kid has grown into Thomas Warrior -- a handsome, sophisticated man well able to hold his own with a wealthy, upper-class, white widow who's ten years older than him. But in some ways, Thomas is still the same warm-hearted, idealistic boy he once was, the boy who needed a hero so badly he created one -- only to discover he had feet of clay. And his comic books, drawing on Indian legends, still have the power to inspire a mythic character to come to life -- but will it be a hero or a villain?
Puzzling and haunting in tone, Night Falls Like Silk is partially a romance, as Thomas and art collector Cassandra fall in love under difficult circumstances, and partially a chilling suspense story. (Minor spoiler for very sensitive readers: (view spoiler)[Some ugly stuff involving a child happens, but he isn't seriously harmed. (hide spoiler)] But it's also a story about reconciliation, as the isolated Thomas rediscovers the family he thought he no longer needed or believed in. Although not quite as strangely romantic as The Night Remembers, it's a touching, satisfying end to Thomas's story.
(Night Falls Like Silk is being reprinted by Belle Bridge Books. Reviewed from e-arc provided by netGalley.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I was up past one a.m. with this last night; it's not just a memoir, it's also slowly building suspense and subtly menacing horror and I had to finish...moreI was up past one a.m. with this last night; it's not just a memoir, it's also slowly building suspense and subtly menacing horror and I had to finish it. Then I had to cry for awhile.(less)
I'm mostly a genre reader, so I tend to want to classify what I read. The Marrying Kind is a toughie -- like the recent book The Bro-Magnet, it sort o...moreI'm mostly a genre reader, so I tend to want to classify what I read. The Marrying Kind is a toughie -- like the recent book The Bro-Magnet, it sort of cries out for a category called Dudelit, with its first-person narrative by a lovably flawed protagonist on a slightly over-the-top comic journey of self-discovery. Except unlike most chicklit protagonists, Steven isn't looking for love; his problem is that he's found love, but it's not recognized.
Steven Worth has a pretty much perfect life, with his partner Adam and their cat "kids." They're even thinking about real kids someday. But despite his current state of well being, Steven doesn't feel that far removed from the fat kid known as Steven Worthless he once was, and he tends to be diffident and conformist: "My idea of bucking the system is insisting on saying 'large' instead of 'venti' when I order my Starbucks coffee."
When a series of events hit Steven and Adam in the face with how unfairly they're treated as a gay couple, they find themselves almost accidentally starting a movement boycotting weddings -- no small thing, as Adam is a wedding planner. (The story is set in New York in 2007, before same-sex marriage was legal there.) At first, Steven is thrilled to use his columnist job to promote the boycott: "Now I, too, was in the fight to obtain equal rights. I felt inspired, confident, and strong. Three words never before used in a sentence describing me." The situation gets sticky when Steven's brother and Adam's sister announce their engagement, and Adam refuses not only to plan the wedding, but even to attend it. Steven, sentimental and romantic, already feels bad for the people whose weddings are being ruined when gay bakers and florists and caterers back out; being forced to miss his own brother's wedding has him feeling torn in two.
I don't want to say any more about the plot, other than that I was surprised and delighted by where it eventually went. My only wish is that we had seen an epilogue set after the law change in New York, in which Steven and Adam got married. But as an author's note points out, even in states that recognize same-sex marriage, same-sex couples "continue to be denied the 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities of marriage that are afforded straight couples." Perhaps O'Neill thought such an epilogue would mitigate his point.
Although humorous in tone, The Marrying Kind is, at heart, a very tender story. Adam and Steven are sweet together, but love of family members and friends is also integral to them. I found it more the kind of book you chuckle at than laugh-out-loud funny, and not all of the efforts to be comic came off; I most enjoyed charming throwaway lines like "Being Protestant, Adam never actually ate before we met." For much of the book, it felt like a pleasant three-star read to me, but I was so impressed with how O'Neill pulled off the ending, made his point -- and made me cry -- that I'm going with four stars.(less)
I started this because I was in the mood for a really juicy, angsty Harlequin Presents, but I may have gotten more than I bargained for, since I sobbe...moreI started this because I was in the mood for a really juicy, angsty Harlequin Presents, but I may have gotten more than I bargained for, since I sobbed pretty much non-stop for the last quarter of the book.
The story starts off with a bang, as tycoon architect Emilio discovers that his ex-fiance had a long-lost twin sister and was not in fact the star of a porno flick. Aghast at having tossed Gisele out undeservedly (let's not think about that too hard…) Emilio rushes off to apologize to her, in the hopes they can put the ugly breakup behind them and move on. But when he sees Gisele again, he realizes that it would be far more pleasant to simply resume their engagement.
Gisele is furious at Emilio, however, and only the lure of two million dollars plus revenge gets her to agree to spend a month with him. (Let's not think about that too hard, either.) And she's determined not to fall back under his spell.
The first half of the story is pretty much a bickerfest, as Gisele whines and pouts and acts so much like an immature teen, it's hard to believe she was ever intended to be someone's trophy wife. But then we get into the rest of the backstory: Gisele's loss of their baby. It's deeply moving, and believably cements their previously contentious relationship. Gisele's reunion with her adoptive mother, whom she had never felt loved her, is also very touching.
This is the first of a two-part series -- the second story will be about the long-lost twin sister, Sienna. That's some great sequel baiting, because I'm dying to find out the history of the porno flick.
(reviewed from e-arc provided by netGalley.)(less)
I vaguely remember reading in Kate Rothwell's blog that she got flack for writing a story inspired by the classic young adult romance Daddy Long Legs...moreI vaguely remember reading in Kate Rothwell's blog that she got flack for writing a story inspired by the classic young adult romance Daddy Long Legs but with a foul-mouthed former criminal as its protagonist. What an incredibly short-sighted attitude. This is not just Daddy Long Legs gender-reversed and updated for shock value, but a thoughtful and really interesting re-imagining of how the story might play out in today's world.
There are light homages to the original, which add a bit of extra glow to the romance if you're a fan, but what really made the story for me were the differences. It turns out the unknown philanthropist, here dubbed by our narrator Ben as "Mrs. Moneybags," has private, very unexpected motivations for helping orphaned Ben through college. And it was appropriate that Ben, who's described as very smart and thinking outside the box, catches on to what those are.
I don't know if I'd classify this as young adult or not: it's not sexually explicit, but unquestionably rough, particularly Ben's teenage experiences at "helping pay the rent" for a predatory female landlord. On the other hand, Ben is really a great character, and I loved seeing the tough, cynical kid who's trying to hold his family together also be someone who loves learning.(less)
4 1/2 stars. Usually when a couple in a Harlequin Presents each think the other did them wrong, there's an external reason -- an Evil Other Woman led...more4 1/2 stars. Usually when a couple in a Harlequin Presents each think the other did them wrong, there's an external reason -- an Evil Other Woman led them astray, or a letter didn't get delivered, or a phone call was misunderstood. This story was interesting because, realistically, both parties are right -- or wrong, as the case may be. It was also interesting as a turnaround of the usual scenario: Laurel, who grew up in foster care, is the one who is emotionally closed off, while her husband Cristiano is the one who needs her to open up.
The story is a total angst fest, well supported by the characterizations. Even one of my biggest pet peeve plot elements (view spoiler)[magic sperm (hide spoiler)] is actually well integrated into the story as a whole. Laurel's experience really touched me on a personal level, so this might not be such a tear-jerker for others, but aside from a little dragging in the middle it's a generally good read.["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I've been thoroughly enjoying the "Pregnancy and Passion" series and the third book doesn't disappoint.
Ashley's has been waiting for the right man an...moreI've been thoroughly enjoying the "Pregnancy and Passion" series and the third book doesn't disappoint.
Ashley's has been waiting for the right man and the right moment, and she believes "it didn't get any more perfect than Devon Carter right here, right now." But what Ashley doesn't know is that her seduction has been carefully planned by Devon, as part of a business merger with her father. When she learns the truth after their wedding, Devon tries to convince her to be "sensible" and "grown up" about the situation, leaving Ashley believing that not only has he been using her, he doesn't think much of her, either.
Rather than lose the man she loves and face further humiliation. Ashley decides to see if she can save her marriage by changing herself into the wife Devon wants... no matter what the cost.
Banks is very good at taking a familiar, dramatic, category romance set-up and then fleshing it out emotionally so it doesn't feel stale and dated. Ashley's journey from naive optimism to disillusionment to discovering her own value is deliciously angsty, but also plausible and authentic. There's learning and growth for both characters, though I would have liked to have seen a little more from Devon's point of view. I also found his doting hero role overdone: things like adjusting her scarf and cap for her so she won't be cold make him a little too queasily fatherly. But his suffering over the pain he's caused Ashley and his efforts to make it up to her help make this a delightfully cathartic read.
This novella from A Clockwork Christmas doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with Christmas, but it certainly gives a steampunk twist to secret baby...moreThis novella from A Clockwork Christmas doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with Christmas, but it certainly gives a steampunk twist to secret baby romances. Eight years previously, Ophelia’s husband threw her out after learning the shocking truth that she was not human, but a mechanical creation housed in a human shell. The death of the man she considers her father has put Ophelia in grave danger; if her secret is discovered, she could be declared to be “nothing more than a piece of unclaimed property, or ever worse perhaps part of her father’s estate.” She has no option but to turn to Dario. She also has a surprise for him: the son she was carrying when she left.
This happens to be a flavor of angsty goodness I’m particularly fond of: the badly behaving hero who has to suffer oceans of remorse for hurting the heroine. Dario believes Ophelia to be a “thing,” incapable of emotions, and the fact that he still has unwanted feelings for her makes him especially cruel:
"'You gave me everything I wanted, all my heart desired -- only none of it was real. If that's not a betrayal, I don't know what is.'
'Betrayal!' She almost spat the word out. 'And... and... how was it not real, pray tell. In what way did I ever play you false?'
'It was not real because you are not real."
Of course, this makes Dario's eventual realization that she does have feelings, indeed shows far truer love than he, the "real" person ever had, even more gut-wrenching.
The science behind the story is pretty dubious, even for steampunk, and there are any number of plotholes, but the poignancy of the situation brought tears to my eyes.
(reviewed from an e-arc provided by netGalley)(less)
I started this in a somewhat dubious mood, since I hate books in which the fat girl loses weight and then gets the guy -- especially when she just get...moreI started this in a somewhat dubious mood, since I hate books in which the fat girl loses weight and then gets the guy -- especially when she just gets really busy and then suddenly discovers she’s become thin. Blech. This did not turn out to be that kind of book: Cat does lose a considerable amount of weight, but she works damn hard to achieve it. And though she does get a guy, that’s not really the reason why.
High school senior Cat has hated her former best friend Matt McKinney for almost four years, and the dream of her life is to utterly crush him in the science fair. Her project needs to be based on a random picture and the one she draws is a group of early hominids; looking at it, Cat ponders how good it would feel to be like a hominid woman : “… for some reason, it occurred to me in that moment that she was actually kind of cool in her prehistoric way -- strong, determined-looking, ready to haul off and hurl that rock while the guys just shouted and looked concerned.
And she was thin. Not emaciated, fashion-model thin, but that good muscular thin like you see on women athletes. She looked like she could run and hunt and fight as well as the men -- maybe even better,
And that when I realized: I wanted to be her.”
And so Cat begins an ambitious project: to eat and live like an early hominid. It’s one that will not only affect her relationship with Matt, but will also change her entire life.
While I never failed to be interested in this book, which has some very engaging characters and relationships, there were times when I thought I didn’t like it that much. Cat sometimes came off as a hypocrite, noticing a boy’s weight and constantly being rude to him when he tries to connect with her, despite having been traumatized for years by some nasty remarks, herself. And I was really put off by a lot of heavy-handed vegetarian (really vegan) propaganda, with some rather dubious sources. I doubt that anyone would actually use this as a inspiration to work towards better health -- it's just too extreme.
But what bothered me most was Cat’s continual self-hatred and self-deprivation, her tragic refusal to participate in life because she’s too fat to be seen, to be liked, to exist. Which made it all the more moving when Cat finally realized herself what she’d been doing. The happy ending for Cat is not just becoming thin, resolving her feud with Matt, and finding love, but letting go of a lot of thoughts and feelings that had been what was truly weighing her down.(less)
This was a very powerful and moving story. I don't feel up to an organized review right now, so just a few points about what I thought:
-- The book is...moreThis was a very powerful and moving story. I don't feel up to an organized review right now, so just a few points about what I thought:
-- The book is told entirely from the point of view of Seth, which was a good choice because it puts us in the mind of someone who knows absolutely nothing about BDSM and so is realistically freaked out by it. The set-up is a great way to introduce the concepts and have it feel organic, not teachy, for the most part.
-- The characters are middle aged. This makes sense, since a long and deep friendship is necessary for the story to work. And of course, people don't grow out of liking sex, or kinky sex, just because they're getting older. But I'm a product of my culture, so I found the depictions of a middle-aged sex kitten kind of unsettling. It's probably very good for me to expose myself to books like this.
-- The feelings expressed seemed very genuine to me, and I have been there.
-- There were some aspects of the story I found troubling. Leah is so completely dependent in every way: emotionally, physically, financially. What would have happened if Kaden had died suddenly in a car crash, say? I also found it disturbing that Kaden (view spoiler)[controlled everything from beyond the grave so perfectly and for so long. And Seth never seemed to feel any resentment or concern about this. (hide spoiler)]
-- There was too much word repetition, but overall the length of the book is justified. All the parts of the story were important.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
In the previous books of this series, we saw Tessa Donovan and Jamie Donovan both struggling with their family image: Tessa trapped as the good girl,...moreIn the previous books of this series, we saw Tessa Donovan and Jamie Donovan both struggling with their family image: Tessa trapped as the good girl, Jamie as the bad boy. As it turns out, their older brother Eric is also struggling with how he thinks his siblings see him: despite having been their mainstay since the death of their parents, he doesn’t feel like a real member of the family, and the recent changes in both Tessa and Jamie have left him feeling far less needed or useful.
Meanwhile Beth, the adult toy store manager Eric had a one-night stand with in the novella “Just One Taste,” continues to be uncomfortable with her image as an uninhibited sex expert. And she can’t forget Eric, the only man who's ever gotten her out of her own head during sex.
When events bring them back together, they find it impossible to stick to the one night they’d originally agreed upon. But can they get past the false ideas they have about themselves and each other, and find the real people underneath?
It took me a little while to get into this; the narrative voice seemed surprisingly rushed and unsubtle in places, and I hadn’t liked the short story much. What first won me over was Eric -- not only is it really interesting to find out what was behind his harshness in the previous books, but buttoned-down Eric is unexpectedly smokin’ hot. In fact, I’d say this is the hottest book of the series, mainly because there’s something very slow, serious and deliberate about Eric that’s really enticing:
"He still didn't kiss her. She felt his whole hand curve around her waist, the edge of his hand restng on the curve of her hip, his thumb fanning slowly across her ribs. She opened her eyes to see him still watching his hand.
'You left too quickly last time.'
'I know,' she whispered.
'I wanted more.'"
Damn, so do I!
With additional background into her life, Beth also became much more understandable than she had been, and most of the elements that bugged me in the novella began to work. (The one thing that still nagged: the secondary characters with alternative lifestyles. They’re portrayed positively, but the way Eric and Beth think about them makes me think they see them as a circus act.)
The intricacy of the themes in this series is notable, and this was no exception. Eric’s issues interweave with Beth’s in a compelling way, particularly the fact that neither feels “real”:
“He though she was nothing more than a walking, talking sexual adventure. The irony of it was like a dull knife in her heart. She’d been real with him. For once, she’d been a real person in bed.”
I also love that the titles in this series are all actually meaningful, and that all three books meld into one ongoing story about a family. Definitely read the whole series, in order, to get the full effect.
4 1/2 stars. I’ve joked before that I’m the only person in the world who reads erotic romance for the story, but reading Curio made me realize that it...more4 1/2 stars. I’ve joked before that I’m the only person in the world who reads erotic romance for the story, but reading Curio made me realize that it’s really not a joke. Story is always the most important part of a book to me -- it’s just that in interesting erotica, the story is about how people feel about sex.
On an obvious plotline level, very little happens for the first three-fourths of this relatively short book: a repressed older virgin goes to visit a male prostitute several times and they talk a lot and have sex. Not even very obviously adventurous sex; the fact that he’s a prostitute is the most shocking thing about the story, at least in that area. What’s fascinating is what’s going on for them and between them: what we learn from Caroly, our narrator, about how it makes her feel, and what we slowly learn about Didier’s feelings. The utter newness and overwhelming beauty of everything for Caroly is masterfully written.
I don’t want to say much more, because I really enjoyed being surprised by how everything played out. I’ll just say that the ending brought tears to my eyes, and that though this book doesn’t exactly fit the standard “rules” of romance fiction, the romantic in me was completely satisfied. (less)
Higgin’s books are often considered more chicklit than romance, with the lack of hero point-of-view cited as the reason they may seem insufficiently r...moreHiggin’s books are often considered more chicklit than romance, with the lack of hero point-of-view cited as the reason they may seem insufficiently romantic. In Until There Was You, she departs from her usual first person style to give us both points of view -- yet ironically, though it’s a good read in many ways, it’s the least convincing romance by her I’ve ever read. Possibly one of the least convincing romances I’ve ever read.
Once upon a time, the school bad boy married the school good girl and they moved away to live happily ever after… leaving Posey, the school flat-chested girl, brokenhearted. But happy ever after was ruined by death, and now Liam is back in town, a widower with a fifteen year old daughter -- and still the hottest guy Posey’s ever seen. Ludicrously overprotective and anxious about his daughter, Liam finds that being with Posey is unexpectedly comfortable and relaxing
First the good. As always, it’s funny. Depictions of Posey’s difficult adolescence brought tears to my eyes. And though I think the casual feel of Higgin’s writing works better in first person, getting Liam’s perspective is helpful, at least at first -- knowing that he has a lot on his mind makes it more forgivable that he pretty much ignores Posey for the first third of the book.
There’s often a serious edge underlying Higgins' lighthearted books, and there’s plenty here. On Posey’s side, there are issues over her adoption: greatly loved, she nonetheless feels something of an outsider in her family, and worries that her parents wish she was more like her cousin, a strapping German beauty who looks just like Posey’s mom. This aspect of the book is well-drawn, with tenderness and realism. (Posey’s brother was also adopted, and plans to adopt a child with his male spouse, so there’s a very balanced view of the topic.) And I thought it interesting to have a hero with severe anxiety -- it’s not a sexy disorder. Liam’s over-the-top protective dad act gets annoying though, and I can’t believe that in real life his daughter wouldn’t seriously rebel against his almost psychotic behavior.
I enjoyed the details of Posey’s work in architectural salvage. It’s more of a mission to her than a job, making sure things that were left behind are cherished and loved: “Something that had life in it yet, even if it was slightly damaged, or broken. Something that might find new meaning, new beauty, if given the right home.” How’s that for a metaphor? And this attitude of Posey’s is healing for Liam, who had never felt good enough for his wife or his daughter.
So -- what goes wrong? Part of it is Posey: her incessant mental squeeings over Liam reduce her feelings to an adolescent crush. And I found it unsatisfying that Liam so easily gets anything he wants; Posey barely seems to hold a grudge for something extremely hurtful he once did, (view spoiler)[I guessed that he had a good reason and he did, but even so, there could have been more emotion around this point. (hide spoiler)] and after a little initial resistance, which is probably what gets his attention, she throws herself at him at every turn. He always gets to be the one running the show.
But the nail in the romance coffin for me was that Liam’s feelings for her never seem like more than a mild affection, that will never be as powerful as his love for his first wife. A grand, classically ridiculous romantic gesture by him at the end can’t make up for that.
Considering that Until There Was You made me laugh and cry, I can’t give it less than three stars. But if you’re mostly looking for strong romance, I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
(E-arc provided for review by netGalley.)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
“As Nietzsche wrote: ‘The criminologists tell us that the typical criminal is ugly: monstrum in fronte, monstrum in animo ( a monster in face, and a m...more“As Nietzsche wrote: ‘The criminologists tell us that the typical criminal is ugly: monstrum in fronte, monstrum in animo ( a monster in face, and a monster in soul).”
But Nietzsche was wrong. I was born beautiful and lived beautifully for thirty-plus years, and during all that time I never once allowed my soul to know love. My unblemished skin was numb armor used to attract women with its shininess, while repelling any true emotions and protecting the wearer... In short, I was born with all the advantages that a monster never had, and I chose to disregard them all.
Now my armor had melted away and been replaced by a raw wound... What an unexpected reversal of fate: only after my skin was burned away did I finally become able to feel.”(less)
I have very mixed feelings about this story. It was undeniably touching, yet put forward a point of view that bothers me. (view spoiler)[Women are alr...moreI have very mixed feelings about this story. It was undeniably touching, yet put forward a point of view that bothers me. (view spoiler)[Women are already expected to sacrifice themselves for their children too damn much, IMO. (hide spoiler)] It was interesting to see Charley's "grim reaper" job from the other side, though.