Nothing gets me to a book faster than the promise of a ghosty gothic with feminist lit overtones. Unfortunately, in the case of Amy Lukavics second noNothing gets me to a book faster than the promise of a ghosty gothic with feminist lit overtones. Unfortunately, in the case of Amy Lukavics second novel The Women in the Walls, that promise turned out to be empty.
Motherless Lucy Acosta lives in a creeptastic Victorian mansion isolated in the woods with only her distant father, her aunt, and her cousin/bestie Margaret for company. Well, there was a cook, I suppose, but he offs himself on the first page in a spectacularly promising fashion. Soon after, Lucy's aunt disappears into the forest, and her cousin starts hearing voices in the walls. As Margaret becomes increasingly unhinged, Lucy must try to protect her own secrets while unearthing those of her family.
Turns out, however, that Lucy's secrets aren't terribly interesting - if you had "another teen novel that uses cutting to up the emotional ante for no good reason" please collect your prize - and Lukavics takes so long getting to the reveal about the family that you'll very likely have lost interest. Which is a shame, because there really is a slam-bang finish. It just feels like it belongs in an entirely different novel.
I picked this up thinking the author was doing a shout-out to Charlotte Perkins Gilman, but despite Lucy's repeated mentions about the gold-patterned wall paper oppressing or freaking her out, I'm honestly not sure at this point that the reference was intentional. Whether or not it's dealing in shades of The Yellow Wallpaper, The Women in the Walls certainly has something of the Victorian about it - only that "something" is a flat female lead who floats like a ghost through her own narrative, leaving both the book's promise (and this reader) unfulfilled....more
I cannot tell a lie: WildCard Karmody does exactly nothing for me.
It's not the poor man's fault. He's a likeable enough techno geek wrapped in a badasI cannot tell a lie: WildCard Karmody does exactly nothing for me.
It's not the poor man's fault. He's a likeable enough techno geek wrapped in a badass Navy Seal package, and the narrative following his trip to Indonesia with heiress (and former college acquaintance) Samantha von Hopf to deliver a ransom for her uncle is full of action and humor and (of course) romance. But Kenny, sadly, is just not my thing.
Heinrich von Hopf and David Jones, however, are exactly my cuppa, so I read this one more for the ancillary narratives, one of which (per the Brockmann norm) takes place during WWII between two spies and the other of which happens in the middle of nowhere Indonesia between a missionary and a man running from his past.
That's the beauty of Brockmann: even if you're not wild about the main couple, there's usually something going on at the sidelines to keep your interest. And that those "interests" frequently show up as central characters in later novels is - combined with the author's general awesomeness - a compelling reason to keep reading right along the series....more
From time to time, even the best of authors falter. Or, in this case, falter, stagger a bit while wildly trying to regain their balance, and then fallFrom time to time, even the best of authors falter. Or, in this case, falter, stagger a bit while wildly trying to regain their balance, and then fall headlong down a flight of narrative stairs before crash-landing in the cellar of awful...and then, whilst lying there stunned, try to dig themselves a bit deeper. Such, sadly, is the case with Julia Quinn and Dancing at Midnight.
Despite being a bluestocking, Lady Arabella Blydon has been something of a success on the marriage market - unless you count success as receiving a proposal from someone you'd actually want to marry. Frustrated, she retreats to the estate of her cousin's husband, whose land just happens to adjoin that of John Blackwood, freshly-minted baron, ex-soldier, and all-around hottie. The two meet cute, and...well, that's where things go off the rails. (Page 4, if you're counting.)
Because John's got issues. Not so much the normal broody romance hero issues, though there's that, too - while in Spain, one of his men raped a young Spanish girl who later killed herself, and he's been carrying the guilt for that around ever since. No, John's issues are more of the Jekyll & Hyde type, in that he can't go five pages without changing his bloody mind about whether Bella is the best thing that's ever happened to him and let's make smoochy time or if his dark past means he should give her the cut direct and coldly rebuff any attempts at communication. Seriously. Every five pages. For THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE PAGES. It's enough to give a reader whiplash. And a migraine. And a desperate need to choke a man with his own cravat. Bella Bluestocking is only slightly better - and by that I mean she's an idiot but at least she's consistently idiotic.
Julia Quinn is one of my favorite romance writers, and I chalk this fail up to youth and inexperience. Dancing at Midnight was one of her earliest novels (her second, I believe), and there are hints of the writer she'd become in it - charming and peculiar secondary characters, a love of literature, and an appreciation of witty banter. (Okay, there's not actually anything I'd qualify as witty banter in here, but you can see where it was a goal.) I'm willing to blame this on a sophomore slump, though I'll admit it did occur to me about 3/4 of the way through the novel that it might be a masterful attempt at satirizing the genre, and if you read it that way it becomes far more palatable. Still, long-time fans who've thus far managed to miss this one should continue to do so (or try The Sum of All Kisses, which I swear is Julia doing a fix-it fic for this story), and readers looking to get into the Quinnverse should skip this and go directly to the Bridgertons....more
As far as I'm concerned, real life is full of enough tragedy and terrible shit to more than meet my daily quoI am not, on the whole, a fan of weepies.
As far as I'm concerned, real life is full of enough tragedy and terrible shit to more than meet my daily quota, so I tend to steer clear of Nicholas Sparks and his ilk and stick to genre fiction that comes with high adventure and happy endings - or at least tentacle monsters and existential dread, which is abstract enough to not really require a box of kleenex and a three day ice cream binge. I am, in other words, not this book's target audience, and I lay the blame for my reading it on how Sam Clafin looks in a tux.
Chances are I'm not the only one to pick this book up because of the movie, so for those of you who followed the same path, rest assured you'll find the scenery extremely similar. Working class Louisa Clark needs a job badly, and in desperation agrees to take a job as a caregiver for upperclass Will Traynor, who suffered an accident several years ago that left him quadriplegic. They're an unlikely match - she's a goofy, fashion-conscious homebody with an optimistic attitude and he's an embittered ex-businessman who sounds as if he could have competed in the X Games - but even when they're rubbing each other the wrong way there's sparks between them, and their time together begins to change both of them.
There's a few more subplots in the book than the movie, one of which offers a sketchy rationale for why Louisa is such a homebody, but the rest is more or less matches so if you're pleased by the film you'll likely find the book just as satisfying. To my mind the novel has some issues - the unnecessary rotating narration, the heavy-handed Pygmalion references which put the Lou/Will relationship on pretty squicky turf - but overall it's charming and does a masterful job of yanking on your heartstrings. I suspect I also enjoy it because Nursing A Wounded Hot Guy Back To Health is such a trope in romance, usually accompanied by unbelievable and miraculous recoveries, and Moyes refuses to engage with any of that insanity; the situation is what it is, and no stem cell treatment ex machina is going to swoop in and resolve things.
Moyes does her best to make Me Before You about choices - the ones Louisa has, and the ones Will feels have been taken away from him - and it's understandable that the choices made at the conclusion of the novel might make some people feel as if the author is taking the position that life as a quadriplegic isn't worth living. To me, Moyes seemed to work hard to make Will's an individual choice rather than a general commentary, and to attempt to provide other voices and their choices through the residents of a quad support chat room Louisa visits...but your mileage may vary.
Overall, Me Before You is funny and touching and sad, if far from perfect - unless your definition of perfect is "Requires three hankies"....more
The last time I checked in with Andersen's The Final Prophecy series was back in 2010, when it was still being referred to as Nightkeepers. 2012, theThe last time I checked in with Andersen's The Final Prophecy series was back in 2010, when it was still being referred to as Nightkeepers. 2012, the mythical Mayan apocryphal fulcrum upon which her series rests, has since been and gone, which has the unfortunate effect of letting a bit of the air out of her plots. I mean, we all knew the world wasn't really going to end 12/21/12, but you could at least suspend disbelief on the remote possibility that it might right up until dawn of the 22nd.
Unfortunately, Demonkeepers has little going for it other than its ability to move Andersen's overarching plot forward. Our leads, Lucius and Jade, hook up within the first 40 pages, which seems jarring if you haven't read their backstory in the previous novels. And if you haven't - well, all you're going to learn here is that Jade is buttoned down, and Lucius got buff. The end, move along, nothing but Mayan sex magic to see here!
Andersen, like J.R. Ward, specializes in uber-Alpha males, so if being towered over and glowered at (while being scrupulously respected because this ain't the 1980s) is not your thing you'll probably need to look elsewhere. Readers interested in the series should start back at the beginning and avoid jumping in midstream, because I cannot imagine that any of this would make sense even with the ten-page glossary the author includes at the end. Stripped of its gimmick, Demonkeepers is passable but not exactly a keeper....more
Written in 1999, September Moon is definitely showing its age. The premise - tightly-wound governess moves to the wilds to take charge of an attractivWritten in 1999, September Moon is definitely showing its age. The premise - tightly-wound governess moves to the wilds to take charge of an attractive man's children - has worked since Jane Eyre and continues to stand the test of time, but the romance itself smacks of the '80s and '90s where men were men (and men were jerks) and people fell in love because, well, sexual chemistry.
Proctor - who still writes fabulous mysteries under the name C.S. Harris - has talent, and her depictions of nineteen century Australia are vivid and striking. Her eye for telling historical detail is unerring, which shouldn't be a surprise given she's got a Ph.D. in (European) history. In fact, the majority of the fun to be had in this novel is in the vicarious experience of the wild beauty of a virtually untamed (and very unforgiving) continent.
Still, romance novels are not loved for setting alone, and it's difficult to root too hard for the couple here, who seem like they could work out their feelings with a good shag and then just go on about their separate lives. So perhaps it's best to read this a historical travelogue, or as a solid exemplar of an era in romance from which we've gratefully graduated....more
In her author's note, Beverley mentions that her concept for her Secrets trilogy (of which this is the second) dictates a plot wherein strangers meetIn her author's note, Beverley mentions that her concept for her Secrets trilogy (of which this is the second) dictates a plot wherein strangers meet at an inn and false names and identities abound. Your mileage for The Secret Wedding will likely very depending on how much of that kind of masquerade you can stand.
At seventeen, Christian Hill foils the nefarious plans of a fellow officer to wed an heiress by force, interrupting the girl's rape and killing her dirtbag of an abductor. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself forced to marry the girl; a surprise that's compounded years later when he discovers that the bride he left that night to go to war did not in fact die as he'd been told. Instead she's living in Sheffield running a business and planning to marry...once she's absolutely sure the first husband she barely knew is as dead as she's been told.
It's a good set up, and could have given us something with emotional heft as the hero and heroine struggled to overcome their trust issues and (in the heroine's case) the after-effects of a traumatic sexual assault. Instead, we're treated to an almost Midsummer's Night's level shenanigan of concealed identities and deceptions, the kind that strains the bounds of credulity, in which the romantic leads pretty much lie to each other every time they open their mouths.
The only things that saved this for me are the extended cameos by the Marquess of Rothgar and the fanged rabbits of Hesse, the latter of which appears in a gag so hysterically good it seems to have come from an entirely different novel. If not for them, I'd have been fine with this particular novel remaining a secret....more
After almost 120 years of pop culture saturation, we all know Stoker's story: newly-minted barrister Jonathan Harker travels to the wilds of TransylvaAfter almost 120 years of pop culture saturation, we all know Stoker's story: newly-minted barrister Jonathan Harker travels to the wilds of Transylvania to meet with a client and unwittingly sells property in London to an ancient blood-sucking evil looking to relocate to somewhere with a few more options on the dinner menu. Because Britain's a small place, Harker's own fiancee Mina ends up an entree.
That much everyone knows, thanks to Universal Studios and Bela Lugosi or Francis Ford Coppola and Keanu Reeves. What may have slipped under the pop culture radar is the structure of Stoker's Dracula which is less epistolary than an early form of found footage, compiled of newspaper clippings, business letters, and journals arranged to narrate a tale of invasive terror. It's a fascinating early example of the form, and something Hindle's somewhat weak introduction could have spent some time on. (The endnotes, in contrast, are excellent as are the appendices, particularly the one featuring a narrative by Stoker's mother on the creeping horror of a cholera epidemic that clearly influenced Stoker's vision of vampirism.) The format is undermined at times by Stoker's weakness as a writer, and readers may find themselves drowning in narratives from self-righteous male characters who all sound identical, but the author's background in theater management gives him an eye for gorgeous set pieces which the story tosses up like creepy life-preservers to carry you through toward the end.
Stoker's Dracula is a bit of a mess. It's overly long and a bit too obsessed with female purity for my taste, but at the dark beating heart of it stands Dracula, a monster who's cast his shadow across a million nightmares. Getting to meet him on his home turf is worth the moralistic 19th century price of admission.