I was hoping for something more emotionally wrenching, like Neurosurgeon...and Mum!. Not much emotional conflict here, not much need for emotional groI was hoping for something more emotionally wrenching, like Neurosurgeon...and Mum!. Not much emotional conflict here, not much need for emotional growth from either character, but a lot of medical filler (I know, that's what this line IS; it feels like its purpose is to demonstrate the protagonists' competence, but it comes across as boring exposition and lectures about good health habits) and a lot of travelogue-ish stuff (which, don't get me wrong, I kind of love that and Hardy is very good at it, but in this book, at least, it didn't have a real or specific impact on developing the characters or their relationship).
So. A going-through-the-medical-romance-motions book. Bland and not compelling, but at least I didn't want to wring the character's necks because they were mature and professional. Just not at all interesting enough to make the book worth it.
Oh, yeah. Also, the book didn't feel very contemporary. The characters are young, but their idea of personal ads for an online dating site felt like something out of the 80s newspaper ads. A big fuss was made about the hero not telling the heroine when he'd return from a trip--telling her a day later, instead--in case his flight was delayed (the delayed flight being very specifically the detail the hero focused on, not any other part of his travel plans that could conceivably be delayed), because he didn't want to worry her--can't she just look up your flight number on the Internet, dude, and know when to expect you, then? It was just contrived and didn't feel like actual young professionals in 2015....more
Oh hey excellent successor to The Sparrow. Do you like your first contact sci-fi to feature alien children and mystics and scientists? Do you like thoOh hey excellent successor to The Sparrow. Do you like your first contact sci-fi to feature alien children and mystics and scientists? Do you like thoughtful cultural analyses? Do you like Slytherclaws as protagonists? Do you like characters motivated by immutable philosophies? (And can you handle a lot of philosophical musing?) If so, you might like Dark Orbit.
I really liked the worldbuilding, the characters, and the fact that it's social science fiction that plays a bit with hard sciences, too. I did not like how the story concluded so vaguely; the wrap-up kind of hurried through revelations and then the major ethical problem of the book was NOT resolved and kind of referenced in a "Well, that'll be an interesting day when THAT is decided! But that's not today, so!" way, which was really, really disappointing.
Also, I'm now totally obsessed with beminding. ("To be true to one's self, one must be true to all others.")
I'd be interested in reading critiques about how disability and mental illnesses were handled in this book....more
Sad and funny, and almost cluttered with perfect little details and anxiously ambivalent interactions, but I think I need to take a break from litficSad and funny, and almost cluttered with perfect little details and anxiously ambivalent interactions, but I think I need to take a break from litfic (minus Ferrante) for a while. I want stories, not experience portraits that reflect real life's inconclusiveness....more
I think I've hit the point of diminishing returns when it comes to Agatha Christie mysteries, unfortunately. I've caught on too much to how she constrI think I've hit the point of diminishing returns when it comes to Agatha Christie mysteries, unfortunately. I've caught on too much to how she constructs her ambiguities and who is to be immediately eliminated as a potential culprit (view spoiler)[(anyone with a recognized motive, it seems like) (hide spoiler)], I've grown bored with the vintage "I think this is supposed to be romantic for the time, but it's kinda creepy" aspects, and I'm done with trying to ponder how illegitimacy~ factors into characters' worldviews. I wish I could return to the "omg AMAZING how did she do that??" feelings I had when first reading Christie (like with A Murder Is Announced and A Carribean Mystery--I'm still wild about how I was absolutely gobsmacked by how well and how fairly I got played whilst reading the latter, particularly). ...more
Mostly meh. The characters were too flat for this to be above-average literary-fic-with-speculative-fic elements, and the conceptual stuff was far tooMostly meh. The characters were too flat for this to be above-average literary-fic-with-speculative-fic elements, and the conceptual stuff was far too dull and predictable to be good speculative-fic-with-literary-elements. The prose was fabulous, though....more
This is probably the most adorable book I'll read this year. It's so cute. I laughed out loud multiple times, and I"Here, have a drawing of a snail."
This is probably the most adorable book I'll read this year. It's so cute. I laughed out loud multiple times, and I needed to close the book and compose myself during the poetry scene. Dare nails comic timing with aplomb. Definitely a fluffy (fluffy! btw there's a lobster named Fluffy in this book, if that's your kind of thing) romance with some serious aspects (social anxiety, PTSD, and veteran homecomings are all incorporated into this book), but one I'd recommend to friends who aren't normally romance readers but who are interested in giving a fluffy romance a try.
The lying-and-blackmail angle was handled deftly, I thought; the drama and tension provided structure & conflict, but Dare swerved when necessary to ensure that neither character became unsympathetic or an asshole. I loved the romance itself a lot.
Not a five-star read because Scottish dialect WHY and because sometimes the serious stuff wasn't treated seriously enough for my liking (tone is difficult, I admit, and Dare did mostly a good job), but I enjoyed it dearly....more
Thinly developed and sometimes clunky, but I loved the characters. I'm so into when a hero can describe the heroine to his friend like so:
Thinly developed and sometimes clunky, but I loved the characters. I'm so into when a hero can describe the heroine to his friend like so:
"...she's kind of a dick and she cuts deep. Even when we're in a scene she talks so much shit."
"And you love it."
"Fuuuuck. I do. What is wrong with me?"
I thought Weatherspoon did a good job of paring down the story to its essential scenes, but I would have loved to have read a longer version of this story, because Nailah's and Armando's emotional journeys often seemed telegraphed in broad strokes rather than explored in complex, textured ways....more
I liked the writing at the sentence level; I can see how it could read too purple-y and too cluttered for some readers, but I kind of like the "push hI liked the writing at the sentence level; I can see how it could read too purple-y and too cluttered for some readers, but I kind of like the "push hard at an imperfect metaphor!" style. Aside from that, though, I basically finished this book solely to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end. It was tedious, and nothing was grounded in the characters personalities, which were poorly developed to begin with. Paper doll characters being pushed by romance conventions, basically. I could accept the assholeishness required by the set-up and plot, but it was sooooo boring. (Though, there was some nascent kinkiness I wasn't expecting; there were I think four threats to spank the heroine, and there was a lot of pushing of the humiliation button. I mean, the sex itself was bland if somewhat explicit, but it went nowhere actually kinky--or interesting. There were just kinky undertones that I don't usually see in non-erotica.) ...more
Wry. Very wry. I laughed, winced, and ruminated. The difficult and sometimes sensitive subject matter was balanced by fleshed-out characters (I thoughWry. Very wry. I laughed, winced, and ruminated. The difficult and sometimes sensitive subject matter was balanced by fleshed-out characters (I thought all the important characters were more than caricatures, which is a fantastic thing to find in comedy, particularly satire, but necessary for a successful tragicomedy, which this is) and from Allen's deft deployment of shifting POVs.
On dealing with parents keeping secrets from you:
"It's not fair to Moses. It's not fair to have your whole world suddenly shift like that--from slave to mother. Some slave who is not related to you at all ends up being someone whose existence explains all that you are. Someone who knows more about you than you know about yourself. But that is what happens when you are dealing with people who were here before you were. You are not their equals. There is no way to have any kind of real relationship with them. You will always feel that there are things they aren't telling you--important things, life-and-death things. This is why the Bible says honor thy mother and thy father--honor them because you certainly can't befriend them. How can you befriend them when they know more about you than you know about yourself? It's too easy for them to manipulate you. You have no choice but to honor them. Even if you hate them, you have to honor them."
I loved Smith's voice, and I loved the interactions between Reese and Michael (and, also, I want to eat at Michael's restaurant omg), but I really didI loved Smith's voice, and I loved the interactions between Reese and Michael (and, also, I want to eat at Michael's restaurant omg), but I really didn't understand the purpose of including cheating in this book. It was clear Reese didn't love her boyfriend or thought of them having a partnership at all, and the conflict this instilled between her and Michael wasn't something I found compelling....more
Not quite a husband, but definitely quite a rapist. (He's like: she's so frigid when we have consensual sex, so I know,OH SHERRY THOMAS NO. Like, wtf.
Not quite a husband, but definitely quite a rapist. (He's like: she's so frigid when we have consensual sex, so I know, I'll have sex with her while she's asleep and relaxed!!! MULTIPLE TIMES, to the point she has to bar her door against him!!! WTF OMG!!) She enacts some noncon and dubcon sexual acts, too, but two rapists don't make a romance either. (And it wasn't as overt or well-developed of a situation as the both-characters-are-rapists classic Prisoner of My Desire.) Also, it's basically about two white Brits romancing~ against the adventurous backdrop of a war in Asia in which colonized people are uprising against them and puts their precious lives and love in danger. Also also, racist terms are used a lot, which I can understand to some extent--'cause these two characters definitely are privileged Victorian imperialist Brits, so, like, what do I expect, that they wouldn't use the term "coolie"? And I'm sure Sherry Thomas, as a WOC herself, probably did make that purposeful choice. But it didn't make the book easy to read.
And I hate that I love Sherry Thomas's writing so much--she's poetic and practical and her words wrench every ounce of heartbreak out of you--and I thought both Bryony and Leo were interesting characters, and I wanted a better story for them, and really, the cheating wasn't something that bothered me as part of their history, but the rape and the racism just made all the supposed romance fall apart for me....more
Compassionate and suffused with love and with grief (for ourselves, for our lives). So, y'know, a standard Jacqueline Woodson book. As always, WoodsonCompassionate and suffused with love and with grief (for ourselves, for our lives). So, y'know, a standard Jacqueline Woodson book. As always, Woodson writes so elegantly, and so accessibly, about the meaningfulness and the evolving & transitory nature of so many different kinds of relationships....more
A rich, layered mystery, investigated by a protagonist with a deep and interesting history and with a textured, complicated relationship to justice, iA rich, layered mystery, investigated by a protagonist with a deep and interesting history and with a textured, complicated relationship to justice, injustice, and law and order. While I liked the ending, it still felt a little thrown together, like everyone just decided to wrap up their disparate plot lines--to quit the actions they spent the bulk of the book doing--just for the sake of an ending.
When Cynthia finally walks through the door, their eyes lock, and Jay feels a strange, helpless sensation, as if he's been struck dumb in her presence, as if he can't move. He feels a prickly heat on his skin. He doesn't know why she has this power still, to stop him in his tracks. Except that history is a funny thing. Fifty years from now, if they're still walking around on this planet, if they should bump into each other on the street or in a bar somewhere, it'll be just as this moment is now, like a key turning in a lock. They are each other's history, capable, with just a glance, of unlocking hidden truths. She is his witness.
Didn't work for me at all. Muriel Spark could have written the shit out of a story with these elements: a beautiful costume designer who pretends to bDidn't work for me at all. Muriel Spark could have written the shit out of a story with these elements: a beautiful costume designer who pretends to be ugly after her best friend commits suicide because (he claims) she doesn't love him; an unattractive, lovesick pianist whose compositions turn out to be literally mind-altering; a fragile woman who had once been kidnapped and kept in a coffin for three days and who owns a pottery shop where she sells awful pieces of pottery by carefully breaking them beforehand and then restoring them, so that when customers pick up the piece, it shatters in their hands and they think they've broken it (and then she cries until they buy it as per the store's You Break It, You Buy It policy); a former police officer who was injured in the previous woman's rescue operation and now works as a security guard at a nursing home, where residents conspire to stage fights among themselves so that he can break them up and feel useful; and poison pen letters from beyond the grave, in which the dead friend explains that one among their number is a confessed murderer who is planning to kill again.
So, I mean, I'd happily read about that zaniness, if it had been written in, say, a cold-blooded, cutting-edge tone. I don't mind surreal, I don't mind sitcom-y levels of characterization, I don't mind absurd, I don't mind magical realism. But this book was never consistent when it came to levels of absurdity, levels of reality, or emotional coherence. Characters just jumped to whatever conclusion was necessary to serve the facile story.
The group of friends here? There was no evidence of them being friends, aside telling-not-showing, and them often being in the same room as one another. There was no emotional depth.
There was also no intellectual depth. There are way deeper conversations about beauty and about attraction to be had than what is presented in this book. I was expecting something harder, more complicated, or at the very least funnier.
Easily the worst book I've finished this year, and I sure hope I don't read a worse one in the next few months....more
"This marriage is not all my fault. You stood in front of that Elvis impersonator with me."
I love a good Desire (lower levels of dickishness than Pres"This marriage is not all my fault. You stood in front of that Elvis impersonator with me."
I love a good Desire (lower levels of dickishness than Presents, but still with a good amount of drama and emotional turbulence, and lots of negotiation regarding boundaries and relationships), and this one was a delight. And it's a contemporary marriage of convenience that makes sense! Okay, so the initial reason for their Las Vegas quickie marriage two years ago was one of the silliest things I've ever read in a romance (they made a Grown-Up Pact...no, seriously, that's what they called it), but since I didn't have to suffer through a tedious prologue or any actual scenes of their Las Vegas hijinks, I forgave Cantrell that. And lucky me, because Cantrell has a great, humorous voice, and the story was so engaging. Corporate espionage at high-end fashion houses! Hitting the beats of a good MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE story but twisting them as well! It never descended into the stereotypical depths of manipulation and antagonism it could have, which was pleasing. I really enjoyed the give-and-take between the two protagonists, who tended toward solid cooperativeness, even when their insecurities got in the way....more
I was expecting more corpses. For the majority of the book, there was only the one. And, like, I'm not saying I'm not bothered by one corpse, but theI was expecting more corpses. For the majority of the book, there was only the one. And, like, I'm not saying I'm not bothered by one corpse, but the title had me assuming that there'd be more, and that we'd be tripping over them much sooner. That disconnect was probably the major influence in my finding the book slow, and the fault was probably all on me.
So, investigating some strangeness surrounding a much-changed childhood friend, Dandy goes undercover as a teacher (!! Dandy!! a teacher!!) at a girls school. St. Columba's is possibly the only place that could rival Hogwarts in the Scottish boarding school league tables for mysterious disappearances, unqualified teachers, and no one learning anything useful ever.
McPherson writes such tangled and interesting plots, and she's great at intriguing scenes where you know there's this huge clue lurking between the lines but you can't quite put your finger on it. She has a ridiculously, jealousy-inducingly witty voice, and I like Dandy and her investigative skills a lot. The other recurring characters I like less, and I wish for a little less sexism or for more of it to get called out, but for the most part, I continue to really enjoy this series....more
So Jane Casey's currently the only author whose U.K. releases I make a point of going out of my way to buy, because I'm that hooked on the series andSo Jane Casey's currently the only author whose U.K. releases I make a point of going out of my way to buy, because I'm that hooked on the series and the U.S. editions don't come out for AN ENTIRE YEAR LATER. And after this installment, I'm once again counting down until I can read the next one.
After the Fire isn't quite as expertly rendered as the last book, The Kill, but Casey is shaping up to be quite the virtuoso when it comes to POV and tight writing. She's always had a good handle on fascinating, complicated characters, and so naturally, once again, Maeve and Josh Derwent are fascinating, complicated, flawed, and each other's greatest/worst allies, and it's wonderful to read. Maeve's nuanced points of view of the other characters, her uncomfortable shifting through the emotional debris of her life, and the way she has to deal with negotiating sexism & being a woman in a sexist workplace are some of the series' greatest strengths, and this book was no exception....more