Caroline has many things to be happy about. She's got good friends, a devoted cat, a job she enjoys, a very nice Kitchen Aid mixer and a beautiful new...moreCaroline has many things to be happy about. She's got good friends, a devoted cat, a job she enjoys, a very nice Kitchen Aid mixer and a beautiful new San Francisco apartment. What is missing from her life, and has been missing for over six months, since a particularly disastrous date, is the big O. To make matters worse, the main flaw in her otherwise lovely apartment seems to be that the walls between her bedroom and that of the one next door, are very thin. And her neighbour has a very active, frequent and loud sex life with at least three different women (all of whom Caroline gives snarky nicknames). She keeps losing sleep, and one night, in a fit of frustration, pounds on the wallbanger's door (forgetting that she's clad only in a skimpy nightie) and demands he keep it down. Simon, as the wallbanger is actually called, answers the door wrapped only in a sheet, and seems very amused by the whole situation.
Caroline and Simon start out fairly antagonistic to one another, but when his two closest friends start going out with Caroline's two besties, they are naturally thrown together more often than not. They start out with a tentative truce, which turns into friendship, which eventually seems to blossom into something more. Will Clive the cat ever be united with his one true love, the woman who mieows through Caroline's walls intermittently?Will Caroline ever recover her lost O? Will Simon be able to give up his little harem of women and settle for just one woman?
This is a book that popped up in my recommendations on Amazon, and Goodreads, and which I completely discounted because of both the title and cover, which didn't really appeal to me at all. Only after reading rave reviews of it on a number of romance review sites that I follow and trust, did I decide to give it a chance, and I'm so glad that I did. It's a funny and frothy contemporary romance very much in the style of Jennifer Crusie at her best. The confident and very uncomplicated heroine who loves baking seemed taken straight out of one of her books. She's happy with her life, her friends and her job. I did get a little tired of just how much she obsessed about her missing O (really, this is a very central feature in the first third of the book), but in her position, I'd probably be pretty frantic, myself.
Simon is a great hero. He's not ashamed of his sex drive, or his multiple partners, all of whom are aware that he's not seeing them exclusively, and all of whom are vastly different women, in personality and body type. He travels the world in his job as a photographer, and clearly isn't happy with the idea of being tied down to one person or one place for too long. The secondary cast of friends and employers is also very well done, creating a very believable support network for both characters. The romance between Simon and Caroline isn't instantaneous, and even after they admit their attraction towards one another, without obstacles. It felt like a fairly realistic way for a relationship to develop, and I just wish that the climax, so to speak, of all the tension in their romance hadn't played out quite the way it did.
I'm by no means I very obsessively clean person, but the mess the two make out of Caroline's kitchen, had me cringing and took me completely out of the book. I don't think smexy times and food should mix, and I certainly couldn't be passionately seduced if there was flour and honey and other sticky substances all over myself, my partner and my kitchen. *shudder*
Caroline's somewhat long-winded whining about her missing O in the first part of the novel, and the somewhat messy romantic reconciliation of the couple aside, I really did enjoy this book immensely, and would recommend it to anyone who'd like a fun and quick read. It also made me want to learn to make zucchini bread (which Caroline bakes more than once) and re-visit Spain (where parts of the novel take place). None of those are bad things, though. Highly recommended, especially for Crusie fans.(less)
I didn't even make it through the first chapter. Author keeps using long, unstructured, badly punctuated sentences. The whole thing is an exercise in...moreI didn't even make it through the first chapter. Author keeps using long, unstructured, badly punctuated sentences. The whole thing is an exercise in tell, don't show. I just couldn't take it. (less)
In an exciting sci-fi future, on an interstellar cruise ship, rogue assassin Rikki (I seriously can't remember her surname, it's not importan...more3.5 stars
In an exciting sci-fi future, on an interstellar cruise ship, rogue assassin Rikki (I seriously can't remember her surname, it's not important) is trying to dump a body. While assassination is legal if you have a license and a contract, Rikki's not a member of the Assassin's Guild, and generally feels that she doesn't need anyone controlling her or regulating how she does things. A very attractive man helps her get rid of the body, and then escape the security guards on the ship. One thing leads to another, and the next morning, Rikki discovers that the hot guy, Misha, is the one who actually hired her to perform the hit - trying to observe her technique. He's the licensed assassin who's recently been blamed for most of her hits in the region, and he wants her to either join the Assassin's Guild and start observing the set guidelines, or he's planning to stop her.
This is just the first section of the book. Rikki uses underhanded methods to discover Misha's real identity, and flashes back to her childhood, when his mother, also a licensed assassin, killed Rikki's father. She becomes convinced that he's trying to kill her, as well, and drugs him so she can escape the cruise ship. He chases after her, still determined to make her join the Guild or stop being an assassin, and there's a plot to kill the head of the Assassin's Guild and various back and forth of now they trust each other, now they don't.
August 2013's theme for Vaginal Fantasy Hangout (the online book club run by Felicia Day and three of her friends) was space assassins. Having nearly burned myself out reading in July, I figured light-hearted romance was just the thing the doctor ordered. So despite my misgivings, having considered both the spectacularly awful cover (even in a genre which features a lot of bad cover art) and the dumb title, picked, I'm assuming from some sort of generic name generator. Kris DeLake is a pseudonym for Kristine Kathryn Rausch, who writes a lot of fantasy and sci fi. Goodreads also tells me that she writes straight romance under another pseudonym.
The book is not bad, but certainly not great either. Rikki and Misha spend a LOT of time in bed with each other for people who don't trust each other. There's also extremely little assassining (this is a totally valid verb that I just made up) being done, and quite a lot more exploring joint (if repressed, in Rikki's case) back story. Like the ladies on Vaginal Fantasy Hangout, I liked Misha as a character a lot more than Rikki, who just never really grew on me. He's probably the reason the book gets 3.5 stars rather than just 3. This is by no means the worst book I've read as a result of the book club, but certainly not the best either, and I don't think I'll be bothered with any more in the series. (less)
This is considered one of the great examples of romance literature, and it's been in the top 10 of the top 100 romance novels polls on All About Roman...moreThis is considered one of the great examples of romance literature, and it's been in the top 10 of the top 100 romance novels polls on All About Romance since 2000 (in 1998, it was rated 15th). When romance reviewers are asked to name their favourite books, it keeps being mentioned, and raved about, and I just never seemed to find the time to read it. Written in 1992, it's considered one of the works that really changed the genre (away from the frequently No means Yes rapey/forced consent romances into closer to what it is today). It's also a wonderful book to give to someone who claims romance is just trashy escapism for frustrated, sex-starved housewives. This is about as far from Fifty Shades of Grey as you can get.
So what is it about then, you ask? Christian Langland, the Duke of Jervaulx is a dissolute rake if ever there was one, but he's also a mathematical genius, which is why Quaker spinster Archemedea Timms comes into contact with him. Her father, another mathematician, is blind, and Maddy (a necessary nickname if ever I heard one) writes out all his notes and takes them to the duke, and in turn reads all the duke's notes to her father. Then they hear that the duke's been killed in a duel, after an aggrieved husband called Jervaulx out. Maddy discovers this isn't true when she arrives at her cousin's posh mental asylum in the countryside, and finds Jervaulx locked up, senseless and in chains. She quickly realises what no one else has been willing to consider, that he's not mad but maddened, and that he's clearly in his right mind, just furious at being unable to communicate with those around him. A modern reader can see that Jervaulx has suffered a stroke, but it's not at all surprising that the duke's relatives would want him locked up and declared insane, so they could take over the running of his estates.
Maddy, despite being deeply uncomfortable with the Jervaulx's position and his dissolute lifestyle, believes herself to have received a calling from God, to help him. She stubbornly convinces her cousin (who for all the horrors of the asylum really is quite progressive, for the time) to let her tend him, and surprisingly rapidly, the duke is calm and compliant and even able to leave his cell on occasion. They grow increasingly closer the more time they spend together, with Jervaulx coming to depend on Maddy entirely. He has no way of communicating the amount of abuse he suffers from the other minders at the asylum, and realises that he can't risk them feeling threatened. He finally recovers enough that they deem him ready for his competency hearing, and take him to London, where most of his family still believe him completely addled. Only his battleaxe of an aunt believes him to be on the way to recovery, but she's worried about the reputation of the family, and wants Jervaulx to marry to secure the title. If he won't agree to matrimony, she'll have him shipped back to the asylum. Jervaulx has no intention of marrying anyone save Maddy, his rescuing angel, but her religious beliefs make such a union completely impossible.
Laura Kinsale is considered a master of her craft, and I can see why in this book. At nearly 600 pages, it's quite a bit longer than a standard romance nowadays, and the relationship between Jervaulx and Maddy is slowly established, as their romance seems impossible. Jervaulx is all that is dissolute, sinful and decadent, and Maddy is a devout Quaker, who spurns creaturely comforts and worldly titles, calling everyone 'Friend' and even refusing to curtsy to the King of England himself. She fights her attraction to Jervaulx from the start, yet deeply respects his intelligence and kindness to her father, and is the only one who fights for him in the asylum. Yet this isn't the story of a selfless woman who through love and self sacrifice heals a broken man. While Jervaulx is initially terrified when Maddy is away from him, and seems incapable of managing without her, he gradually, with the additional help of loyal friends and servants, manages to rehabilitate himself. It doesn't hurt that most people regard him with so much awe and deference because of his title that they don't notice that he leaves out a few words here and there.
I love that Kinsale shows us both protagonists' POVs, and even the broken snippets of dialogue that are the only thing Jervaulx is capable of understanding as he recovers from his stroke. His rate of recovery is clearly shown in the amount of conversation he's able to follow. We also see firsthand Maddy's inner turmoil, and at no point are her devout religious beliefs judged by the author. There are no quick fixes in this book, there are no easy solutions. The harrowing conditions in even a very progressive and forward thinking asylum for the wealthy are terrifying, and I shared Jervaux's terror that he be sent back there, understanding why he might resort to less than honourable methods to win Maddy's hand in order to get his normal life back. While there is a lot of angst and anguish over the course of this book, it was also a deeply satisfying read, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who thinks romance can't be real literature. I now understand why it's prized so highly among romance readers, and will absolutely be seeking out more Kinsale to read. (less)
Taylor Markham is seventeen, and has lived at the boarding school by Jellicoe Road since she was abandoned by her mother when she was eleven. She's ju...moreTaylor Markham is seventeen, and has lived at the boarding school by Jellicoe Road since she was abandoned by her mother when she was eleven. She's just reluctantly accepted the post as leader for her house (boarding school dorm - think Harry Potter), which means caring for the well-being of the younger girls in the house, as well as masterminding the territory war between the town kids, the boarding school kids and the group of cadets who camp near the town for a number of weeks each year.
Hannah, the only grown-up that Taylor is really close to, just disappears one day, leaving behind the house she's been slowly restoring over the years, and an unfinished manuscript, which tells the story of four teenagers who met on Jellicoe Road more than twenty years ago. No one wants to tell Taylor where she's gone. Then she discovers that the leader for this year's cadets is none other than Jonah Griggs, the boy who helped her run away years ago, but who also betrayed her by getting them found. Hannah's disappearance and Jonah's reappearance in Taylor's life sparks a series of events that will finally lead to her discovering why she was abandoned by her mother, what really happened to her father, and what may be in store for her in the future.
I'm not doing a very good job of summarising this book, which started out very confusing (you see everything from Taylor's rather surly POV, and you're just plunged immediately into the action of what seems like the story of a very confusing and intricate way of playing 'Capture the Flag'. Taylor doesn't come across as very likable, and I was a bit confused as to how she had any friends at all. Still, the book has garnered a slew of awards, and came very highly rated on a number of review sites that I trust, so I kept reading, which is good, because it was SO worth it. Trusting her readers' intelligence, and ability to pay attention, Marchetta portions out new information sparingly with each chapter, making you grasp more and more of the big picture, and changing your opinions about the characters involved as the story progresses.
Another thing that was initially confusing in the book is the sections about the four other characters, who at first seem to have nothing to do with Taylor at all, but which you come to realise are extracts from Hannah's manuscript. This isn't spoilery, by the way, it's revealed fairly early on in the book, and I figured mentioning it here may help other readers accept it as an important supplement to the main story. It does become apparent why we're being allowed to read along with Taylor, and just take my word that you'll miss out on important stuff if you skip the sections in cursive.
This book made me laugh, and cry, and desperately want to hug several of the characters. If I were a teenager still, I'd want Taylor to be one of my friends, and as an adult, I want to embrace her and help her resolve her many understandable and conflicting emotions, not to mention her trust issues, fear of letting anyone get close to her, and her fear of abandonment. Then there's Jonah, the mysterious and brooding boy from her past, who killed his own father. Suffice to say, neither Taylor nor Jonah have any reason to particularly trust or rely on adults, and the running away incident in their past means there is a deep well of tension between them when they meet again. While the chief focus of the plot is Taylor trying to discover where Hannah went, and what actually happened with her parents, there is also a strong romantic subplot, which for all that this is a YA novel, took my breath away.
I've been putting this review off, trying desperately to get across why EVERYONE should read this book, and what a wonderful reading experience it turned out to be. Once I got through the first rather confusing chapters (which are still excellently written, just very sparing on helpful exposition), I was completely engrossed and I resented having to put the book down for things like sleep and doing my job. I read during the breaks between lessons, and every chance I got. I love this book, I quite possibly love every single significant character in it. I'll be very surprised if this book doesn't end up in my top 3 of the year.(less)
Green-haired alterna-girl Max MacCormack only goes to Colby Randall, a posh Hollywood prep school, because her mother is the principal. She's full of...moreGreen-haired alterna-girl Max MacCormack only goes to Colby Randall, a posh Hollywood prep school, because her mother is the principal. She's full of scorn for the rich and spoiled around her, and especially loathes that her mother forces her to take part in extra curricular events like planning the spring carnival. Max needs to earn money, and her current after school job is not working out as well as she expected. When she is offered insane amounts of money to ghost write Brooke Berlin's blog, she can't afford to refuse. Now she just has to spend most of her free time with a girl she can't stand, and convincingly channel her on the internet.
Brooke Berlin, Hollywood starlet and daughter of mega superstar Brick Berlin (think Arnie, Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise rolled into one) is convinced that she's one step away from the stardom she deserves. A popular blog showing the world what an "It Girl" she is, will help launch her rising star, she just doesn't have time to write it herself. So why not hire some creative writing nerd who will be grateful for any time she gets to spend with Brooke? Unfortunately, the only serious applicant to her ad is the spiky malcontent Max, Brooke's half sister's best friend. Can this girl be trusted to help jump start Brooke's career?
Brooke and Max are forced to agree to a truce, and before long, they're spending most of their time together, after Brooke's blog becomes a roaring success. Can the two wildly different girls learn to be friends? Even when there's a cute boy in the middle?
Messy is the second novel from Spoiled, where Brooke discovers that her father has a second daughter, whose mother has just died, when the girl (Max' best friend) comes to live with them in Hollywood. While Brooke was more of the antagonist in that book, here she gets to be one of the protagonists, and a very fun one at that.
The authors have admitted that when they were writing Spoiled, their model for Max was Mac from Veronica Mars. Max copes admirably with the fact that she is seen as somewhat of a freak at Colby Randall, and that her best (and pretty much only) friend is dating her brother, but her main worry is the terrible case of writer's block she suffers; not useful when she needs to write an admissions essay for a creative writing class in New York. That class is also the reason she needs to earn money. Unlike most of her classmates, Max' parents are not loaded. In fact, Max' father is unemployed, and the entire family are managing on her mother's salary. So when Brooke offers Max a ridiculous paycheck to ghost write her blog, Max forces herself to accept.
Naturally, as the two very different girls spend more time together, they start discovering that they may have more things in common than they expected. They even start approaching something close to a friendship, at least until a cute boy enters the mix. Max has been infatuated with the school quarterback for years and is so used to pining for him, that she refuses to accept her obvious mutual attraction to Brady (real name Taylor!) Swift. Brady/Taylor is Brooke's co-star in the new edgy Nancy Drew movie (where Nancy grows up in a slum, trying to read Les Miserables by candlelight, and her father's a drug dealer - I would pay good money to see this film!).
Brooke doesn't really like Brady (he's shorter than her and quite geeky, after all) but she knows all about how romances between co-stars can help publicise a film. Max keeps insisting that she doesn't really like Brady as anything but a friend, and when Brooke really puts the moves on a boy, he's pretty powerless to resist. Normally such a love triangle can feel contrived, but as the main focus in Messy isn't the romance angle - which girl will Brady choose in the end, but rather, will Brooke and Max realise that despite their differences, they've actually become really good friends? Brady is just the device to put some tension between them, which they have to work through to come out better friends in the end.
I liked Spoiled, but it didn't amuse me as much as Messy, which had me cackling with laughter several times while reading it. The authors, as anyone who reads Go Fug Yourself will know, have a wonderful snarky wit, and their observations on celebrity culture, both real and made up for this fictional universe, are wonderful. There are so many digs at movie stars, and reality shows, and celebrity culture, and at the same time, they manage to make both Brooke and Max so very likable. If you want a light-hearted, amusing read, you could do a LOT worse than picking up this book.(less)