Registration for SIWC 2013 just opened, so I'm starting to read some of the books I bought at previous SIWC book fairs and haven't yet read.
Eileen Co...moreRegistration for SIWC 2013 just opened, so I'm starting to read some of the books I bought at previous SIWC book fairs and haven't yet read.
Eileen Cook has been a presenter at SIWC, and I have attended a couple of her sessions. She is funny and engaging and you just know she'd be a hoot to have a drink with. Youth/young adult fiction isn't my usual genre - I'm happy to be far, far away from my high school years - but I liked Eileen so wanted to read her work.
This was a really enjoyable read. Hailey makes one stupid mistake, and her perfect life starts to crumble. She survives it, of course, but it's the lessons she learns outside of the (posh private-school) classroom that help her survive and thrive and become stronger.
I'll read more by this author, on the strength of this book. (less)
I heard Sarah Mayberry interviewed on the Smart Bitches podcast, so I've been snagging her backlist. And I really enjoy friends-to-lovers stories, so...moreI heard Sarah Mayberry interviewed on the Smart Bitches podcast, so I've been snagging her backlist. And I really enjoy friends-to-lovers stories, so I started with this one.
I liked this book, but it didn't blow my socks off. Some of the prose is a bit clunky, which is not uncommon in a Harlequin, but the characters, situation, and setting were better. Some of the conflict seemed slightly manufactured, and then was rather easily resolved, but again, that's common enough in a Harlequin. I'll read more by this author, because I really liked her narrative voice and her characterizations. (less)
This was my introduction to Robert Dugoni's work, though it's not even the first book in the David Sloane series. Got this one as a Kindle e-book, pre...moreThis was my introduction to Robert Dugoni's work, though it's not even the first book in the David Sloane series. Got this one as a Kindle e-book, pretty much when it became available. Because I love e-books.
This story combines police procedural and courtroom drama (kind of like Law & Order, but without Jerry Orbach), and I do enjoy a good investigation story. There is a ton of pretty much every kind of tension you can imagine - personal, professional, romantic, emotional, physical, mental, legal, psychological, physiological, and any other category you can think of - and that tension kept me turning pages. I needed to find out what happened next, what more could possibly go wrong for David Sloane.
Tightly plotted, and peopled with memorable characters. Recommended for lovers of investigations, roman-policier, and courtroom stuff.
**spoiler alert** M/M romance is not my usual genre, but a friend's recommendation got me interested in this one. She praised the research into the pe...more**spoiler alert** M/M romance is not my usual genre, but a friend's recommendation got me interested in this one. She praised the research into the period (Victorian / early Edwardian) in both England and America, in the divergent spheres of theatre and medicine, and I agree with her there. She also observed that there's a lot going on, and the latter half of the book feels a bit overloaded with possibilities that are then rushed past, and I agree with her there, too.
What I thought worked: Characterization, setting, and clean, easy to read prose with occasional flashes of evocative brilliance ("hillsides buttered with daffodils and jonquils", encountered only once and early in the book, stuck with me to the end). I liked that the story was about real, believable people, and that it was about love in all its forms, and not just about steamily-described sex between impossibly good looking people. The story developed and illustrated all the relationships in two people's lives, including the unpleasant and adversarial ones, to demonstrate how we become who we are partly because of who surrounds us. Secondary characters - especially Nick's wife - are well-rounded and credible and sympathetic, even if they're not "for" the romantic pairing.
What didn't quite hit the mark for me: This is a romance, and yet the two romantic leads don't even meet until about Chapter Six. The first five chapters are spent detailing the life of one protagonist, literally from birth to age 26, and Chapter Six (I think it was 6) starts with the birth of the other protagonist! All of this is backstory, authorial throat-clearing, and although some of it's crucial to the story, I think it could have been woven in to the narrative more effectively than in a six-chapter opening infodump. Conversely, there was also a good deal of telling rather than showing in many places, and events were summarized that might have served the story better had they been detailed.
The revelation [here's the spoiler:] that Kit's allegedly dead father is in fact not dead felt oddly handled, and rather deus ex machina overall. Tom Rourke is revealed - only to the reader - to have survived his son's attempted stabbing, and to be bent on revenge, but once he has the means to put his plan to go to America into action, he instead drinks and whores away his funds, then gets arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. Why the delay? What's the point of that, if only the reader knows that there's a threat lurking somewhere? It doesn't really increase the tension to have him 'alive but incarcerated offscreen', and the murderous escape from prison (which served primarily to provide a murder weapon to be used later) didn't do it either.
Without the recommendation from my friend, I'm not sure I would have stuck with this book beyond the first chapter, to be honest. Or I might have flipped forward until I found the other protagonist's name, and given it another chance from there. (less)
**spoiler alert** I picked this book up because I absolutely understand wanting to get away from everything and just being alone for a while, to catch...more**spoiler alert** I picked this book up because I absolutely understand wanting to get away from everything and just being alone for a while, to catch my breath and figure out what's important. Becca has more than ample reason for wanting to get away, and I was intrigued to see where she went, and what she did when she got there, to find her way back (because I had absolutely no doubt that she would return to her life with her troublesome children, distant husband, and increasingly forgetful father).
The narrative magic didn't really start, for me, until Becca got to Rainbow Valley and met Sheena. I could tell immediately that this was going to be an important relationship, and I wasn't wrong, though I underestimated its full importance.
[SPOILER] Marital infidelity is a tricky subject to portray sympathetically, and I confess I lost a bit of respect for Becca when, after having turned her husband away for months, hating her post-two-children body, and having lost her nut over the gift of sexy lingerie, she so readily fell - repeatedly - into bed with almost a perfect stranger. Attraction and desire are perfectly understandable, but I was disappointed when Becca acted on them, rather than turning the emotional reawakening into a way of reconnecting with her husband. I also didn't really care for Jason, the guy she fell into bed with. I don't care for characters who sexually pursue people they know are married; it's a selfish, self-serving behaviour. Thank goodness Becca saw Jason for what he was, eventually; that redeemed her a little bit for me.(less)
Peopled with quirky characters that are sometimes unlikeable but always interesting, who move through situations ranging from mundane to improbable an...morePeopled with quirky characters that are sometimes unlikeable but always interesting, who move through situations ranging from mundane to improbable and ludicrous, and replete with gorgeous prose, this is a book to read slowly, for greatest enjoyment. Probably best read at sometime other than "before bed", too, because these images stick with you (well, me) and leap out of of the subconscious into dreams that are the ordinary flavour of bizarre, and turn them into utterly inexplicable sleep experiences. Your mileage may vary, of course.
The prose is richly evocative, and the protagonist's experience of many different varieties of freak show - family, summer camp, fairground, beauty industry, etc. - come across in all their glorious colour, cacophony, and stench. The beauty industry is perhaps the biggest freak show (though there some crossover with the others) and one gets the sense that less exaggeration was required to achieve the desired level of satire there than in other areas of the story.
This book deserves all the positive buzz it's been getting. Write more, Brad!(less)
Nice romantic interlude in my reading; a good way to break up all the shoot-em-up action adventures I find so addictive. The hot sex doesn't hurt, eit...moreNice romantic interlude in my reading; a good way to break up all the shoot-em-up action adventures I find so addictive. The hot sex doesn't hurt, either. (less)
OK, I have to admit to some surprise at how much I enjoyed this story. I've never read any Nalini Singh, and this short piece (a mere 59 pages on my e...moreOK, I have to admit to some surprise at how much I enjoyed this story. I've never read any Nalini Singh, and this short piece (a mere 59 pages on my e-reader) was a good introduction to both a new author and a newish genre (paranormal romance). I like reading short fiction by new-to-me authors and in new-to-me genres; I can tell pretty quickly if something clicks with me, without needing to invest the time it takes to read an entire novel.
I have steered away from paranormals because I don't care for vampirefiction, and I'm a bit meh on werewolves, unless it's done well. But I've heard really good things about this author's books at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, I was sitting in a ferry lineup, and there were no other temptations around, so I opened this up on my e-reader.
Er. Wow. Kind of smokin' hot, stuffed full of sexual tension and just enough slushy love stuff to satisfy my romantic sensibilities. There's more going on in this short piece than just the love story, though, and sure enough, this is a "2.5" in a series - a short written for an anthology. The peek into the Psy-changeling world was enough to intrigue and make me want to start at the beginning of the series. (less)
My friend Sofie recommended this author to me, and I have in fact met Susanna a couple of times, and had her sign her books, for me and for Sofie.
I re...moreMy friend Sofie recommended this author to me, and I have in fact met Susanna a couple of times, and had her sign her books, for me and for Sofie.
I really enjoyed the dual storyline in this, and give the author props for making the transitions seamless and natural. I loved the prose, the beautifully described setting, and the richly detailed characters. The pacing is good, and there's never a dull moment, even when Julia is living the day to day tedium of Mariana's life.
The mention, I think by Julia's brother, that people who are reincarnated tend to surround themselves with the same people over and over again had me drawing mental lines between characters in the past and those in the present, and I was frustrated that 17th-Century characters didn't all seem to have a modern equivalent. But that's a minor quibble, and more a matter of my desire for symmetry than any fault of the writing.
I would have liked to have more of the historical storyline in this book, more of a balance between past and present. I especially wanted more of the danger of the past, particularly in the person of Mariana's horrible uncle. (view spoiler)[Not that I wanted to see Mariana beaten, but to have Mariana touch her bruised cheek at the beginning of a regression, and to have Julia leave the area for a few days to avoid the worst of her uncle's wrath after a particular event, felt a little like cheating. (hide spoiler)]
The romantic storyline first surprised and then bemused me(view spoiler)[, as Julia got involved with someone other than I expected. I was sure at first that Iain was The One, but then Geoff came along and he's the one Julia starts seeing, and then nothing much happens except for some dinners out and a few kisses. And the ending felt like magic for Iain and Julia, but my delight in that was alloyed by my compassion for Geoff, at the other end of the phone in Spain, who had no idea that his girlfriend and his best friend were soul mates who had just connected again after three hundred years (hide spoiler)].
This book grabbed me by the neck in the early going, with its depiction of domestic abuse and the escalating misery and danger of the heroine's marria...moreThis book grabbed me by the neck in the early going, with its depiction of domestic abuse and the escalating misery and danger of the heroine's marriage to a man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. That part of the story created a low thrum of dread in my belly, and I had to push through until the danger was finally over, and the happy-ever-after could start. I've never been a victim of physical or emotional abuse, and have oft not understood how the abused can stay with her abuser, but Kleypas's depiction of how something starts out with love and happiness can devolve into yelling and blaming and hitting and worse opened my eyes and (she says in her blissful ignorance) felt both well-researched and sensitively portrayed.
Smart Bitch Sarah's recommendation of Smooth Talking Stranger got me started on this series, but for my money the writing is better in this book. Big huge fat triggers for anyone who's ever been a victim of domestic abuse, or *spoiler* of rape, though, which may be why this isn't the book the Smart Bitch recommended, but the characters are better, and the story hangs together better, and it doesn't have any of the "huh?" moments that pulled me out of the story in Smooth Talking Stranger.(less)
Pretty good story. Setup and situation are potentially ludicrous, and might well have been in less able hands. Protagonists are fairly interesting and...morePretty good story. Setup and situation are potentially ludicrous, and might well have been in less able hands. Protagonists are fairly interesting and rounded, and the secondary characters are well differentiated. The heroine's Big Dark Secret turns out to be a bit of a lame duck, I thought. And the hero is the sort of romance hero who needs to learn how to Use His Words.
The story bears traces of what I think of as Georgette Heyer's Regency slang - phrases like "plant [someone] a facer" - which pulls me away from the story rather than enriching the worldbuilding. It may be an accurate phrase, and had it been the Bow Street Runner who uttered it, it would have seemed appropriate I'd have given it no more thought. But from a duke, even one with a reputation for wildness and brawling, to me* it felt like a lack of differentiation between the classes, which is something that irks me about Heyer's use of allegedly accurate Regency slang.
This is my first Picoult, and I have to say, the woman knows how to weave a story, if this is any example. All the characters are detailed and real, t...moreThis is my first Picoult, and I have to say, the woman knows how to weave a story, if this is any example. All the characters are detailed and real, the situations believable, and the research about the Arizona prison system (and the people in it) impressive in scope, scale, and focus. I'm not usually much into court drama, but the courtroom scenes in this one definitely take second place to the intricate weave of the lives and relationships of the characters.
The book has more than one protagonist - the point of view rotates between Delia, her father Andrew, her fiance Eric, her friend Fitz, and even her mother Elise. This has the potential to be confusing or detract from the story, but the narrative voices are actually pretty clear, and the increased intimacy with the characters isn't just a device; it serves the story very well.
I'm a fan of Mindy Klasky's writing. Love her Glasswrights' series, and the Jane Madison series, and the As You Wish series. Was intrigued to find she...moreI'm a fan of Mindy Klasky's writing. Love her Glasswrights' series, and the Jane Madison series, and the As You Wish series. Was intrigued to find she'd written a Harlequin, because they usually fall far short of my expectations in the matter of character development. But Mindy is a dab hand at character, so in I plunged.
And my instincts were correct - this story is far better than most of the Harlequins I have read (which I freely admit, is not that many - maybe 20 in the last three years, and none at all in the 20 years before that). The characters are better developed, the world they inhabit better illustrated, and the situation and plot that much more believable because of it.
The founding premise - Hero's grandmother insists that he marry before her next birthday or he loses all stake in his family's company, and the person he decides to woo is already pregnant with his child - would have felt contrived in less able hands, but Ms. Klasky makes the ultimatum a perfectly believable one, from this Grandmother to that Grandson; it's all of a piece with the tenor of their entire relationship. She applies the same deft hand to the existing relationship between Hero and Heroine, and to the new, getting-to-know-you phase they enter once he proposes.
The conflict is borne of who the characters are, and where they've been, and what they want. And they both have full histories, arsenals of thoughts and beliefs and dreams and visions, and desires. When they are in accord, it's lovely, and when they aren't, it's reasonable and believable, and helps them both grow, and moves the story along.
I liked the characters a lot. Even the secondary characters are well-developed. I'm not awfully fond of romances that feature babies, even if they haven't yet been born, so this one doesn't get more than three stars, for that purely personal and highly subjective reason. (I read this because Mindy wrote it; I'd have given it a miss if it bore another author's name.) (less)
Amnesia is tricky. It's very easy for it to come across as either dated or corny, backed by inaccurate or hand-wavey medical science. Its popularity a...moreAmnesia is tricky. It's very easy for it to come across as either dated or corny, backed by inaccurate or hand-wavey medical science. Its popularity as a plot device peaked in back in about the mid-1970's, and the "oh my God it's all coming back to me!" revelatory scene is now as clichéd as the villain who discloses his entire plan to a captive James Bond. Very, very tricky, and it's a brave writer who ventures into this territory.
Fortunately, Sophie Kinsella is a brave writer, and a good one, too. Yes, the protagonist had an enormous gap in her memory, and yes the person she wakes up as is different in pretty much every way from the person she remembers being - different hair, teeth, body, job, home, boyfriend (well, husband), wardrobe, priorities, you name it - but the difference here is that, under the gloss of the fully automatic Kensington loft-style flat, impressive job title, and gorgeous rich husband, Lexi is unable to account for the changes in her life. Information slowly trickles in, and she begins to understand how things changed, but the why continues to elude her. And it's the why that's interesting, that keeps the reader intrigued. Because what could possibly inspire a mid-twenties fun-loving working girl to turn into a hard-nosed boss bitch from hell who alienates her closest friends and sublimates her own tastes and desires and nature to live a life that looks dreamy from a distance, but doesn't feel like her, up close?
Some of the characters are brilliantly drawn, especially Lexi's mother, who proves much more sympathetic than I ever expected. I wish she'd had a bit more screen time. Same with younger sister Amy, who had great potential, and Lexi's dad, who is dead before the story starts, but has a lot to do with the why. (less)
It was a long weekend; I got lots of reading done. This book illustrates just how dangerous hitchhiking can be, even if you're six and half feet tall...moreIt was a long weekend; I got lots of reading done. This book illustrates just how dangerous hitchhiking can be, even if you're six and half feet tall and 250 lbs. On the other hand, thank goodness Reacher was hitching, and thank goodness this bunch picked him up, because otherwise who knows what might have happened with that terrorist cell in Iowa, or how things might have escalated before the guys from Quantico could arrive.
I still love Jack Reacher and want him on my side in a fight. (less)
What an amazing book! I confess I had few expectations, because the book was a freebie, a give-away at a "literary luncheon" at Whistler Cornucopia (w...moreWhat an amazing book! I confess I had few expectations, because the book was a freebie, a give-away at a "literary luncheon" at Whistler Cornucopia (www.whistlercornucopia.com) in November 2006. The luncheon was an "exploring food and wine pairings" thing, sponsored by a winery and a restaurant, so most of us (including Kit) had had several glasses by the time the Kit spoke about her book. I was too near the back of the room to be able to hear her very well, and I now regret that; had I heard her better, I wouldn't have waited six months to read the book!
Part biography, part memoir, this is a factual book written with a fictional conceit - an imaginary exchange of letters between two authors inhabiting different centuries. And it's fascinating. There are parallels between the two authors' lives - apart from both being writers, they were both social reformists and agitators for change in tumultuous times, and they were both nurses - and these commonalities support the friendly and collegial tone of the letters that go back and forth between the 19th and 21st centuries.
As Geraldine Brooks is quoted as saying on the back cover, this is a book brimming with meticulous research and unusual insights. I was never particularly a fan of Louisa May Alcott's (I didn't read Little Women until adulthood), but this book has piqued my interest in her adult-audience writings by giving me a larger view of the author and her life.(less)
This is two novels is one volume, so I'm going to claim it as two books read.
They sounded really funny and cool when I read the blurbs, but I found t...moreThis is two novels is one volume, so I'm going to claim it as two books read.
They sounded really funny and cool when I read the blurbs, but I found the delivery a bit wanting. I think this is probably more due to my own relative lack of religious context than to any fault of the author's, however. I know just enough about modern and ancient religions to get the basic references, but not enough to understand what felt like "in-jokes" that only religious historians or theologians would understand fully.
The writing itself is clever and funny, and has (as one reviewer said) some of the best similes since Douglas Adams. The frame of reference is British and so is the brand of humour, and the humour and quality of the writing were what kept me reading to the end of the book.
What an amazing book this was! Hornby throws together four astonishly disparate characters whose only commonality is suicidal intent and timing, and t...moreWhat an amazing book this was! Hornby throws together four astonishly disparate characters whose only commonality is suicidal intent and timing, and takes them on a journey together. They don't know each other, they don't really like each other, but they need each other. There are two men and two women, no single character takes precedence, and each is a fully-fleshed out human being, from teenage Jess to 51-year-old Maureen. There is no happy ending - there is no magic pill, no epiphany, no nirvana - but there is a human one.
I bought this book so I could read "Brokeback Mountain", and that turned out to be my favourite story in this book, though I read all the rest as well...moreI bought this book so I could read "Brokeback Mountain", and that turned out to be my favourite story in this book, though I read all the rest as well. Turns out that I don't actually enjoy Proulx's short stories (or her cowboy stories, maybe), particularly. Some of her phrasing is delightful and a fine example of the art of packing a lot of meaning into a few words, as is essential in short fiction, but some of the stories just wander along aimlessly and peter out rather than finishing up, and one of them ("The Half-Skinned Steer") had an odd touch of myth or legend about it that left me gaping at the end.
I don't feel a strong urge to read any more of her short fiction, but I'd be willing to try one of Proulx's novels, to see if I prefer her in that medium. (less)
What I love about Dick Francis novels: - horse racing features in all of them in some way*. - his heroes are all human, fallible, and flawed - his chara...moreWhat I love about Dick Francis novels: - horse racing features in all of them in some way*. - his heroes are all human, fallible, and flawed - his characters are all vivid and rounded - his plots are involving, complex, and interesting - his writing is excellent, both in art and in craft - almost without exception**, I collect and re-read his novels
* not that I know anything about horses or racing, but he does, and it's an interesting world
** not so fond of "Sleigh-Ride", but have read all the others (except the one published in 2006) and re-read most of them. (less)
This book was all right, but no more than all right. The writing wasn't as good, I thought, as in the first books, which grabb...moreNo spoilers, I promise.
This book was all right, but no more than all right. The writing wasn't as good, I thought, as in the first books, which grabbed me and pulled in in. The last three books read as if they were written to please fans and meet publishers' deadlines, and I think it's a pity that the phenomenon of Harry Potter became a higher priority than the integrity of the story and the craft of writing. This isn't entirely Rowling's fault; I can well imagine that she was under a great deal of pressure an all sides to feed the ravening fans as quickly as possible, or risk losing them. And since she was credited with the Miracle of Getting Children Reading Again, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the shortsighted in the publishing industry encouraged her (and others) to believe that only a completed series would Keep Them Reading. Question is, of course, what will they read now? Will they re-read, or will the little beggars demand fresh meat, at least every two or three years?
The story has some flaws (its length, for starters), but is generally a satisfying conclusion to the story that started with an unloved and neglected boy living in the Cupboard Under The Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Whingeing, Surrey. (less)
This book is fun and clever, and I highly recommend it. It's the first in a series, and I need to get books 3 and 4!
England has been at war with Russi...moreThis book is fun and clever, and I highly recommend it. It's the first in a series, and I need to get books 3 and 4!
England has been at war with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula for 131 years. The Politburo rules in the Republic of Wales. Busts of Shakespeare are a part of the English landscape, and insertion of a shilling gets you a recitation from one of his plays. Classic literature is the foundation of society and religion, time travel is possible, and protagonist Thursday Next has a pet dodo called Pickwick. (less)