July 20, 2015 Book provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
I am a bit particular when it comes to how I cook and this is book is the closest I have ever come to finding a cookbook that offers recipes and cooking styles closest to how I cook. Usually I get a cookbook an leaf through the recipes discarding some and having to modify others beyond all recognition. With this cookbook, filled with fresh ingredients I already find on my shelves, and including many of the fat saving ingredients I like to use, I find I don’t have to modify very much at all.
I asked for the cookbook because I wanted to have a book that helped me with some techniques I have never mastered. I think there are some really cool recipes and ideas like grilled watermelon. They even made me look again at microwaving which I haven’t considered as a really great way to heat and defrost, but I haven’t liked to cook with it.
I have tried several recipes in the book including slow-cooker cilantro and citrus salmon which was really excellent. The salmon was moist and the citrusy steam and cilantro gave it lovely flavor.
I had a little trouble with Honey-Balsamic Brussels Sprouts with Goat Cheese: It was hard to keep them from burning and they were a little too galricky for me. I will try them again, paying more attention to the grilling and reducing the garlic. I also made the Grilled Chicken with Red Raspberry Glaze and it was delicious. And I tried their stewing instructions for Chicken in Tomato Wine sauce.
I also plan to try the Baja Fish Tacos, the Shrimp and Watermelon Salad with Cucumber Lime Vinaigrette, and when the weather turns autumnal I am going to spend more time looking at the Braising section.
As I said, I am really picky about how and what I cook and this is the best, and healthiest cookbook with the easiest and tastiest recipes I have read in a long while. I also appreciate the pantry stocking section. There are some very basic and general ideas for heart and cardiovascular health but they are second to the great food.
This is a perfect present for anyone: no matter their age, gender or expertise. It would be a fantastic shower gift.
I think it should be a kitchen staple for the healthy and delicious recipes and the information on techniques. ...more
I picked this up in a two for one credit on Audible. It was an okay story with a well performed narration. I especially liked Jake — of course — who wouldn’t. And I imagine the difference in economic status, education and opportunity would create a culture clash of sorts. Jake finds her shopping excessive — she was rather wasteful, especially when he and his family have so little.
I do see why her parents, her father especially, would be concerned for her not knowing the business. But, what happens when he does give her a task from which to learn is the wrong lesson for today’s business environment.
The sexy times are slow to start up — for a while I thought I might have downloaded a religious book, but once they get going they really move and are well-done.
I didn’t believe how shallow and back stabbing her friends are, they were two-dimensional and I didn’t believe them.
Having been protected her whole life Robin is wise in some ways and naive in others. She is a little self-important to begin with but then London handily brings about several comeuppances.
Jake is really a great guy, but his family seems a little too hangdog, downtrodden, downhearted. I can see where the differences in economic status are highlighted. This gulf is so wide it is hard to imagine they could actually be overcome.
It was an okay, if somewhat pedestrian, story. I will probably read the rest of the series; especially if I can get them from the library or in another sale....more
Audio files provided by Tantor Audio for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.
Don’t mistake sex for love. I find I often want to scream that to women reading erotic romance, and to the writers writing it.
Here’s this super sweet guy trying to prove to this relationship shy woman that he is worthy; that she should change her policies, and get back on the horse.
David is a really nice guy: polite, well-grounded, hard-worker, family-oriented, and when he asks his crush’s sister about her she tells him to write the very business-minded woman a memo.
His memo though, and their converstaions don’t focus on values, why he is a good bet, etc. They focus on the fucking (with some licking and sucking).
Slowly, over time and a lot of phone sex, they decide to really make a go, but it all depends on, hinges on, sex.
Don’t get me wrong, sex is very important, and this steamy relationship has some great stuff, but Nalini decided to focus on the wrong thing to make this woman who has been stuck in the past of a bad relationship interested. If either or both characters just wanted sex, I suspect they would have scratched the itch elsewhere. But he’s looking to prove he is Prince Charming, Dudley Doright, the real deal, and the whole ball of wax, so he has to sell her more than a penis, he has to sell her on him, on the man behind the penis. A long-term, committed relationship has sex as a component but respect, love and the ability to get along with each other out of the bedroom is what makes love really last.
I wish Nalini had developed this story more than she did and focused on what really makes a relationship. What it comes down to is that I didn’t believe Thea would go for the reasons he gives her that they belong together. Yes, it is Erotic Romance, but, if you want to sell it as romantic love then you can’t make it all about the sex.
Audio files provided by Tantor Audio for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.
How do you trust anyone, even your spouse when trusting could get you killed? That is the overwhelming lesson one young woman has to learn at the treacherous court of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn.
I didn’t really find anything surprising in this story of love, lust and longing, terror and treachery in the Tudor court of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I found the two main characters interesting, a little bit out of the ordinary and certainly the writer knows how to write up some sheet burning that might have made me blush had I been on speakers rather than headphones. The inclusion of a brief power exchange feels a little contrived.
I thought the way Eloise comes to grips with the reality of her arranged marriage to a stern man several years, and many experiences, older than she is was truly well-done. Women were brought up to see themselves as chattel. While there is a smidgen of rebellious thought in Eloise’s mind, she sees that many arranged marriages worked out well and believes fulfilling her duty to provide an heir will gain her the independence she believes she will desire.
Three things waste a lot of time for the couple: The razor’s edge of life at the Tudor court with the whole Boleyn scandal, misplaced jealousy, and poor communication skills.
The folly of the Tudor court; the double standard, intrigue, and Henry’s desire for a viable heir do not present Henry in a good light.
I felt the author had a split purpose: one was the arranged marriage and the other the political intrigue. The two themes seemed to vie for position — The relationship is very hot, but there’s less of the relationship development and too much intrigue.
Again, I don’t recall that anything bothered me too much in the recording. For me an audiobook needs either a stellar narrator who can do all the parts deftly, or one I don’t notice all that much.
All in all, though I enjoyed the book, but I’m not overly keen to rush on to the next volume in the series....more
INSIDE CHRISTIAN : GREY by E. L. James (Audio) 50 SHADES from Christian’s point of view gets you inside HIS head. original post: http://fangswandsandfaINSIDE CHRISTIAN : GREY by E. L. James (Audio) 50 SHADES from Christian’s point of view gets you inside HIS head. original post: http://fangswandsandfairydust.com/201...
Audiobook provided by publisher for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.
I admit, I enjoyed FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. I wish I could give you a reason why. It’s like watching a TV show and not wanting to admit it. Many of my more Ivy League friends watch reality TV shows I think heinous assaults on the airwaves and senses, but hate FIFTY SHADES.
“Liking” and “Enjoyment” are complex psychological and emotional responses I won’t even try to justify and which often have little to do with quality.
I know it isn’t the most well-written book, it doesn’t even have the most well written sex scenes. I sometimes don’t know why I like a book — I liked TWILIGHT even though I thought the writing was jejune. Maybe it’s just the enthusiasm with which Anastasia approached life, maybe it was how she reached the heart of the damaged billionaire who never let anyone touch his heart and whose only connections with women were familial, his pedophile dominatrix, or the women who were his subs. He cared for the non-familial women but, none had reached his heart.
We all want to be the one who reaches the heart of the one we love.
There are a lot of people who diss this book. Lest we forget, Stephenie Meyers also wrote a TWILIGHT from Edward’s point of view, MIDNIGHT SUN, which was never published commercially. But, in reading the version she released online (http://stepheniemeyer.com/midnightsun...), I discovered that many of Edward’s lines in the movie were pulled from that text. I don’t know if that is the case here, but I did feel many of Christian’s movie lines came out of this. And it is possible, it came out of the exercise of working on the movie. I did feel the movie script was more well written than than the book.
Technically, I would note this story in the story timeline is concurrent with the first book.
I have to admit that being inside Christian Grey’s head for 1200 minutes was a bit much. But, she did write consistently in the character. AND, what I glimpsed of the character throughout gave me insight into just how deeply a woman would have to wriggle into his heart to pull his stunted emotions into the world. She showed me just how damaged he was through his dreams of his childhood and in present day (well 2011), reactions to people. It also gave me a look at the psychological and emotional struggles of this character as his heart reacted to Anastasia. And, I got insight into Grey as a character overall, things I didn’t really get from Ana’s POV. For example, his devotion to the world hunger cause and his personal connection to that. It makes him much more three-dimensional.
The struggle of becoming more human, more emotionally touched, less closed-off, less self-centered, is what I saw in this book, and what I felt was valuable and worth my time.
I also got a different sense of the plot as there are large pieces of Christian we never saw in first book; it helped the first book make sense. So, it goes beyond the original FIFTY SHADES in scope of character and time. And it makes a more poignant story than seeing it from Ana’s point of view.
I liked it, mostly. First person is not my favorite — it is rarely well-done. I think it is still a bit crudely written. And it’s a little unrealistic — the CEOs I have known haven’t had nearly as many hobbies or as much free time as Mr. Grey. While it’s probably the most realistic thing in the book the unspoken reactions, those things a character thinks in response to a question or stimulus, were not my favorite things and I don;t know if it was the audio or the writing.
The audiobook production was well done. Zachary Webber did a fine job; didn’t sound too different from the actor in the movie, Jamie Dornan. That would have been difficult for me to reconcile. [I have found it difficult that OUTLANDER’s audiobook voice, Davina Porter, while amazing, is very, very different from that of Caitriona Balfe, the actor who plays the same character on TV.] And, Webber’s women’s voices were not too breathy or little girlish.
Some people are determined to hate all things from this book and movie franchise, and that’s up to them. I often have very different views of books than others do. And, I know that sometimes I like something that isn’t technically well-written, and don’t like other things which are critically lauded.
All I can say is that while it was not perfect it did fill in some blanks and gave me a richer “FIFTY SHADES experience.”...more
Audio provided by Tantor Media for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.
I have been married a pretty long time now, and I admit that I misspent a lot of years trying really hard to turn my husband into some mytholgical creature: “the perfect husband. It took a long time for me to just let him be himself which turns out to be just perfect after all.
We get a lot of signals from movies, books (cough-cough), TV, friends, whatever,… on who and how we should be, who our mates should be and a lot of ideas turn into beliefs. Relevant to this book is the idea that finding the “perfect man,” or even “MY perfect man” should be left behind. We are at great liberty now to choose husbands or partners for love rather than more practical considerations like the women in Austenian stories.
When I first began listening to this book, with the main female love interest, Chelsea writing her list for what her man would have, it reminded me of some of my friends who have spent years and years trying to find a perfect man, or to mold the one they find into the man they think they deserve. Men are no more perfect than we are. Sadly, I think we all have to learn this for ourselves in order to really believe it; or to believe we are also imperfect.
This is a story in the Hope series, about the people in a town of the same name in Oklahoma. I have had mixed reactions to the stories and characters in this series. Molly, in the last book, seemed “too dumb to love.” But, in this one both parties in the relationship have been hit with the stupid stick.
All Chelsea’s negatives, the things that keep Bash off her list are not exactly materialistic, but they are superficial and rather Chelsea-centric. He can’t be into sports or hang out at bars but she does those things with her friends. The list she makes shows how she has been frustrated in the past, but she reacts to symptoms of asshatt-guy syndrome rather than the real essence of it.
Chelsea should have, in my humble opinion, thrown the list away and been perfectly happy. Bash shows her he is attentive, spends time with her, capable of expressing love, and abunch of other great qualities she thinks only come from being the kind of guy her list would bring. But he is hot, and they have great chemistry. If you have a long relationship you know that being good together in and out of the bedroom is important. Bash treats Chelsea with a degree of chivalry and respect I often find lacking in erotic romance. He appreciates her physical attributes heartily but not crudely. Actually, all Jaci’s heroes are very respectful of women.
Okay, well Bash isn’t SO perfect. He wants Chelsea, a lot, exclusively, but then he does seem to want to keep his options open too, or at least keep it all superficial. And, he effs it up big time. But, without having to overcome that list; without the challenge, it is possible he would not have taken her seriously enough.
Here’s the deal, these characters are approachable and relatable but are very much fictional people I doubt I could find anywhere. That’s okay because Jaci brings them to life, makes them hot, makes them fun, makes them sexy and makes it like fireworks on the fourth of July, then like the same fireworks got rained out. She makes the whole bunch hot, cool, contradictory, and brings her characters to life and love. I ended up seeing myself and my friends in a different light. For me that is saying quite a lot.
I enjoyed how a dog makes such a big difference in the life of these two characters; how a pet brings them together initially. It is heartwarming. The whole story is great, but I have to point out that if Chelsea had been more open at the start a lot of heartache could have been avoided but would not have made a long and interesting book:
Chelsea: My last five dates were jerks so I am writing up a perfect guy list. Bash: What are you doing? Making a perfect guy list? That’s dumb. I’m hot and I really like and dig you. Chelsea: You’re so right – I love you, let’s get married! ♥ The End ♥
I’m not saying real people or characters in books, should date and such indiscriminately. But, with some practical considerations, some issues of temperament and belief, women and men need to be open to each other. We rarely know what life will bring us, and often don’t really want what we think we do. Sometimes we look for the wrong things. There is no Mr.Perfect, no one man or woman who will fulfill your every need. You are the only person you can change.
Jaci brings the joy and pain of life and love to this series in 3-D, surround sound and full technicolor. Her characters are hot, smart, idiotic and weird. They can be very frustrating, and Chelsea can certainly annoy with this list of things she thinks make a guy perfect. But, Jaci also hits some solid truths that made me think and reminded me of the lives of some of my friends. I can’t say I noted much about the audio production which is an excellent thing. I prefer it when the audio doesn’t distract me from the story!...more
Book provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
I thought Don’s idea of a project to find a wife is funny except I have seen too many friends set out with equally unrealistic expectations for finding a husband. One guy laughs funny and another wore a short sleeve shirt to a date; no one is ever right, it seems, unless they are unattainable.
I have been married to a scientist for may years, and while he is pretty normal, many of the people we have known in his field have probably been somewhere on the Autism spectrum. So, while some of this is funny, a lot of what I read felt more like people I know than people in a comedy. Of course, sometimes I watch BIG BANG and think, “that’s not funny it’s like so and so.”
I did like how the author seemed to try to handle the foibles, the personality, the advantages and challenges of the main character, Don, who is believed by the reader to have Asperger’s Syndrome. What might have seemed bizarre without the thought processes written into the story, I helped me feel friendlier and less off-put by an unknown quantity. Of course, we cannot know if this is how the Aspergian mind really works, for as realistic as it seems to be, the author does not have Aspergers. Nor does Graeme Simision say that Don has Aspergers.
I read this for my book club, and the word there was that we all knew too many people for this to be really, really funny. The women who had read the book in German said the translations wasn’t very good.
But, what we all liked was how multidimensional Don is. I am used to reading a character with some issue/challenge being written as that issue; stereotyped. But, here Don’s particular behavior and personality are more about him and how he sees the world. We all liked how Graeme had Don he analyze situations, learn, and change when faced with a problem. His changed behaviors often led him to change his attitude or created an emotional change. He was very honest about himself. We could all do more of this; we don’t need to have Aspergers to think our attitude or belief is the way things really are.
Yes, it contributes to an understanding of people who are on the spectrum, but, blah, blah, understanding, blah, blah — we all agree that it is great when books contribute to furthering understanding. But, I just liked that the character was honest and straightforward, weird, probably hygiene challenged, but still interesting and [mostly] likeable. I liked that he could change, that communication and withholding were not the main issues for the romance, but unusually expressed and misunderstood intelligence were. I liked how when the character had a problem he talked to his friends or a specialist about it.
Several women in my club, including me felt the ending was a little fluffy, and that perhaps the author had ended it differently but then changed it to accommodate a sequel. And, I felt the character changed too much at the end.
I did believe the book could be enjoyed by both men or women and as such is not a traditional romance novel; perhaps that it is told from Don’s point of view contributes. It’s a quick and engaging read that looks at “different” people differently than ever before....more
Audio provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.
This is the last book in a trilogy, I have not read the first two and I listened to an audio download. A certain amount of confusion is to be expected entering a series at the end, but there’s a paranormal element here that just confused the heck out of me: ghosts and possibly immortal individuals.
When impossible, unexpected things happen, people scratch their heads a few minutes and then move on. No one suggest psychiatric testing or exorcism.
If I ignored my confusion, like ignoring unexplained foreign dialog in a novel, this is often a charming Cinderella story with elements of Beauty and the Beast thrown in for good measure. I am not sure which components were intended and which were coincidence.
When Hallie walks in on her sister committing fraud and theft by fraud, with legal documents being delivered by architect rather than a lawyer, and too much fluff swept under the rug I was having a hard time understanding what the heck was happening, to whom it was happening and why. For example, everyone is there for a wedding, but there’s a second wedding in the family taking place in another country and it’s a royal wedding so they all get together to watch it on TV.
I have never been to Nantucket, but I don’t know how many of these hijinks would even be possible. I got the feeling this novel was half about tying up loose ends and half about the love story between Hallie and Jamie. Mostly, it loosely connected paragraphs and chapter strung together in a confusing plot for me. And, so many storylines! Military hero with PTSD, weddings, mistrustful twin brothers, big strange and loving family, a would be beau, and one beautiful, larcenous sibling. I felt like it was a whirlwind; as if I were reading a puzzle!
The narration was well done, but I think it was not a good audiobook for me, and I definitely feel I should have read the whole series. I cautiously recommend it if read with the first two book in the trilogy. It does not stand alone....more
Rose Steen is just trying to get away, hike the Highlands and figure out life after her divorce. She doesn’t plan what happens when she takes a short hike to the most famous lake in Scotland.
This book was a surprise gift from the author who is also a friend.
I don’t recall reading a lot of stories with Highlanders of any sort before OUTLANDER around 1996 — not that there weren’t any they just didn’t become a “thing” for me until then. And, since I have started book blogging they have become even more of a “thing,” especially in the romance genre.
So, I get a lot of Scottish Highlander themed books, Highland faeries, time travelers, historical figures, etc. Many of them are more an homage to OUTLANDER than the authors would probably recognize.
THIS BOOK IS NOT AN HOMAGE TO OUTLANDER. That was my first fear when I saw my gift from Julia. But if I hadn’t liked the book, I would not be reviewing it. This book does feature a handsome Scottish Highlander of the nearly extinct Clan McGregor and a woman. But she is not a time traveler and doesn’t pass through a big stone to another era. She does skip some stones though.
Julia’s story offers something very different, unique, heartfelt and steamy. It also brought to mind how people are caught up in war regardless of their beliefs; how it affects life at the time and in the future.
This is a short novella at 83 pages, and Julia has to employ several devices and leave out some details in telling the story of this female baker and the semi-corporeal Culloden survivor she meets in the areas around Loch Ness. The rules behind the occurrences in the story are not explained as we would demand in a longer book and the relationship is fast-tracked.
Nessie offers the one big nod to Gabaldon in DINNER WITH A HIGHLAND GHOST.
Otherwise this is a short tale, with a heartfelt heroine. Julia’s heroines are always heartfelt and often remind me a bit of her; certainly some of her physical and metaphysical personal experiences seem to find their way into her books. She takes the adage of “write what you know” and adroitly delivers it to the page in this paranormal romance.
Julia writes hot scenes very nicely; they are blush worthy and suitable for adults but I would have no qualms sharing the book with my mother (except at 86 it might not be great to get her blood pressure up too high).
The other similarities between Gabaldon’s series and this short from Julia Barrett are the battle of Culloden and a woman of a more modern period who, familiar with the concrete — with the strictly rule driven science of baking, suddenly has to cope with something that no science can explain, as well as the elements in the unpredictable Highlands.
If you seek a paranormal short and like the paranormal romance genre, especially featuring the Scottish Highlands, I recommend this book!...more
If you are anything like me ORPHAN TRAIN by Christina Baker Kline will blow you away with it’s depth of feeling, and sense of injustice.
For both Molly and Vivian, their childhoods are full of injustices, unfairness and wrongs that can never be righted. For Vivian, her life was painful until she found love, and she learns there is no reward, no instant Karma, she ends up with a life that seems happy, but is it happy? We’re so lucky to have anyone we love even for the briefest time.
Vivian’s life starts off in Ireland, poor with a slacker, trouble-prone alcoholic father and a mother who is clinically depressed. It goes on to treatment at the hands of possibly well-meaning people into a life of indentured grayness at best, hell at its worst.
Molly is born in coastal, northern Maine. At least part Native-American, her mother wasn’t ever really stable and when she loses her father and ends up in foster care, she is in a state-regulated form of the Orphan Trains. According to the webpage of The Children’s Aid Society (http://www.childrensaidsociety.org/ab...), the Orphan Trains were the beginning of the modern foster care system.
Both seem like kind of a crap shoot to me. The CAS says the children living homeless in NYC in the 1850s had little hope for the future. But, throughout the book it seemed like the system was often careless in its placement providing, perhaps, more of a chance at a good life, but if anything like the placement depicted in ORPHAN TRAIN, the system, and the children, were much abused and had little help or recourse.
We hear similar stories about foster care today. It is certainly an overtaxed system; difficult to supervise. Molly’s experiences point to bad matches and bad people, but I know there are lots of foster parents who provide a safe and loving home for children in need.
Vivian is certainly a “good girl” in any era: stoic, hard-working, pliable. Molly is superficially difficult as a vegetarian and wanting to hang on to her memories of her father through their Native American heritage, and after years of being treated like an extra mouth to feed, she hangs on to these small things to retain her sense of self, her sense of self worth.
The beauty is that the author shows the antipathy of the unwanted child; unwanted for being Irish or Native American, for being too old, for having red hair, for not being who the people want her to be. It made me want to scream.
She also never minimizes or marginalizes the experiences of either character. Through the lens of a long life, Vivian does this herself; to some degree an almost Zen acceptance. She doesn’t make it seem as if there are any ways to right the wrongs done to either woman, because, of course there is none. She only demonstrates through Vivian’s perseverance and through Molly’s inherent goodness, that there are ways to survive and to overcome the circumstances of birth and tragedy that placed each of them in a system which offered a crap shoot chance at a greater than bleak future.
This book will definitely make you cry, keep you thinking, and will give you a chance to undrstand the ways in which a kid’s life is usually out of their control, not their choice and if they do make it through it is often in spite of adult help, or because one person cared enough to save them.
Aside from drawing parallels between the past and current treatment of children, it also offers a memorial to the children who rode the ORPHAN TRAIN.
You cannot read this book without feeling it deeply but you really should read it. I say it is a MUST READ, and it is an IMPORTANT PIECE OF FICTION....more
An EMT and a food truck chef are cooking up something outside the kitchen in Manhattan. Electronic galley provided by publisher for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
There are probably few people in my age group who don’t mentally follow up “Afternoon Delight” with “Sky Rockets in Flight!” But while I thought this onehad great emotional content it’s erotic content did not follow up with those fireworks.
In this shorter story two people come to grips with love, loss and mortality. An EMT, Tim is becoming personally numb by compartmentalizing emotions even as he treats patients compassionately. He’s also coming to grips with mortality — especially after seeing one half of an elderly couple, still loving, lose ground in the battle against dementia.
After a personal illness and loss of a close relative, Sarah is trying to regain joy, and return to her fun loving and love for fun self.
As an erotic novella the couple in this story have a lot of sex. While they play complex, borderline power-exchange games aimed at maintaining distance while keeping each other interested, they are only human, and decent people who start to feel, not just for each other, but for life as well. Tim slows down his high speed, crisis oriented eating style, and starts to savor food, and life again.
On the other hand, for an erotic novel the sex is a little dull with a bit of hand action and intercourse but that seems to be it. I expect a little more variety from erotic novellas.
The novel seems to struggle with the erotic, as if the author is struggling to make her story about more than just that and therein she succeeds.
The author seems to know Manhattan well, there is indeed a fire station and a park where she says they are.
I liked the story and having a lot of elderly friends and relatives in various states of health and decline I felt the issues with which Tim struggled. I wouldn’t say it made me cry but it nearly did....more
Review and release event for the last book in Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink Series.
No one does military romance like Laura Kaye, she has a feel for the military hero; especially the hero who's been badly treated by the government. It is a tiny bit coincidental that each hero has, in turn, met their life partner in each book during the two to three week crisis period in which the series occurs, but such is the stuff of buddy/team contemporary romance series. They could be a band, a group of secret agents or whatever, but in a romantic series the object is to pair off and hookup.
In the case of this series each character, the military man, or the woman, or the anomalous same sex couple who are each family members of another couple, has a warrior-based PTSD, survivor guilt, or a more complicated, deep-seated issue brought in more with the crisis of searching and rescuing their honor and military careers. That each warrior is otherwise balanced, moral, willing to commit, and totally hot makes for some satisfying reading. That goes without saying. Laura Kaye is one of those authors who looks like a Sunday school teacher but who must have a very, very dirty mind (in a good way).
She knows her stuff too. A former professor at Annapolis, she is very well-versed in military terminology, procedures and history; she has a deep feel for our military, their sacrifices and their families. She knows the challenges faced by both the military and those who keep the home fires burning.
And, aside from sexy times, this series has plenty of action. In particular, the action in HARD TO LET GO made my heart race and caused me to hold my breath. And, whew! CRISIS! You just aren't sure what will happen.
There was one loose end regarding the disposition of injured personnel. I confirmed with the author that it is not an artifact of my ARC. I usually figure the last book of a series will tie up loose ends, but I guess Laura has decided to leave this one untied.
Otherwise this has been a great series where lots of action, lots of heat, lots of personal growth and drama. It all takes place over a short period of time and the growth and relationships all occur in a pressure cooker so they are fast but solid. If you like sensitive, military heroes who are loyal to their friends, their family and their partners this is the perfect summer read for you! I loved it....more
This was a hugely entertaining mix of Jane Austen and, let’s say, Harry Potter. Seriously, I hugely enjoyed this story that combines elements of several novels by Austen. the emotional and overly romantic Mary Ann from SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, Frank Churchill’s secret affair from EMMA along with many others who scandalize, ruin maidens, love properly, annoy or delight.
The magical aspect adds a lot to the story, if only we could do the fantastical things Mary Robinette KowalIt was occasionally hard to understand the motivations or the actions, and sometimes the descriptions left me, as the reader/listener wondering a bit about what was happening, but I felt I could fill in the blanks enough to be happy about it.
I certainly did not feel it was a typical Regency romance or a Regency with add-ons; it felt more like fantasy with a literary fiction vibe.
It truly made me wonder about how we change our looks to please others with cosmetics or even surgery. In the novel, the use of glamour has a cost in energy. Is the equivalent cost in real life a less than authentic self or an attempt to hide our real looks?
The novel is read by the author which I was a bit skittish about. The only other time I have come across this it was a DNF. Fortunately, with dramatic experience as a puppeteer, the author has the chops to do the job well, and she did. In addition, there was no guessing at the meaning or intent of a sentence or word as there would have been with a third party. After all, who else would better know how these characters were to sound than the author? It was well-done in a pleasant voice aad not over-acted.
I highly recommend SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY by Mary Robinette Kowal. I don’t know if a series was originally intended or how well the other books worked, but this book, at least, got my attention and I loved the story, the characters, and the mixing of Austen and Magic.
Anyone who has worked for an insulting, irrationals, or selfish boss (therefore, pretty much everyone) will find plenty of recognizable characters in this story, which was my favorite so far in this series. We get the downtrodden employees who put up with a jerk because they have to, and we also get a reason the boss is such a jerk – her boss in the form of a record label. Too bad most if us don’t have an altruistic billionaire on our side, in the wings, working to make everything better. It had the most realistic characters I’ve seen with family obligations and reasons for working for a jerk so important in the books story and to the main characters. I also appreciated how Kylie’s grandmother’s words echo through Kylie’s life and affect her decisions — it’s a good reminder of the power a parental figure has in the shape of a person’s life.
Cade was a very respectful suitor, almost old-fashioned in his loyalty and devotion. But once he makes up his mind, he’s determined, doggedly so, to get what he wants and really seems to know his own mind. His preference for curvy women is pretty cool. If you read THE WRONG BILLIONAIRE’S BED, you may be surprised to find Daphne to still be as much of an ass as she is here.
I thought it was interesting that coincidence brings our poor little match-girl makeup artist and her prince billionaire together, but it is then his sense of honor and rightness that gets them back into the same physical space. I also liked that there was complex reasoning behind her sense of what had to be, where he was convinced, I thought, selfishly, they could work it out.
I am a little tired of a certain plot device that is used early on in the tale; it’s been used rather a lot of late. I don’t want to reveal a spoiler, but I have had a few of these pop up and have even stopped reading a few books where this is device is employed. I think it can be a cop-out, or a short cut. Mostly I am tired of its appearance.
Of the other four books in this series this is probably my favorite. The relationship is realistic because the love interests share a physical and emotional attraction but also share similar backgrounds where they were both, if not poor, then in a pretty low income bracket. A shared background can be helpful in the long term....more
Audiofiles provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
I do not hand out gushing praise often or effusively, so, what I am about to say is indicative of how much I truly adored this story. This is one of my favorite books now; in my top 25 books of my life. Surprises, red herrings, emotional grabs all play a part inthe complex story and events this tale delineates. But what really nailed it for me, the two things that pushed it to the top of my book altar were the emotive power of Annie Barrows’ prose and how much I simply adored her characters. The trick of what I thought was confusing elements of time versus character age; that was what I felt would be the story’s “Big thing.”
But it is not. While there is some foreshadowing, the plot is not completely unexpected. The characters’ emotional processes are a real surprise. And their ability to triumph in the small ways of what seems, at first, to be small lives is amazing. I could feel Willa’s and Jottie’s life forces: their heart beats and breaths, how hot they felt with the sweat of summer trickling down their backs.
But, oh, the prose; particularly that describing the words of Jottie’s speech and her internal monologue — even that of her dreams. In at least one passage Barrows provides the best and most heartbreaking description of loss, of lost potential I think I have ever read.
Beyond that, choosing to live the life we have: a blend of choice and circumstance, destruction and forgiveness is what I think drives the story and gives it its real meaning.
That brings me to the “antagonist.” This is a peculiar term; usually it refers to a negative force. But in this case the antagonist is supposedly Layla who, as a newcomer to the town challenges the ideas held by the townspeople This leads to the good of most, and to the revelation, eventually, of long-buried truths that force painful, but positive change. We cannot live happily, completely, wholly under a lie. And, life is always bittersweet for no life includes all the possibilities we face at every fork in the road: we choose and a option is gained but another lost.
This book has kept me thinking long past when I finished it. Let yourself fall into this world of the past where ethos and pathos vie for a place in your heart; where a child’s love for one person has to vie against her love and attachment to another. There are just so many emotions, thoughts and feeling that came up with this story.
As to the audio portions of the book: Most audios are one person giving voice to many characters. In tis recording there were several actors giving character to one voice or more. They all did a great job without overdoing accents or emotions. This is an excellent production I would have been happy to continue listening to.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book. I LOVED it and with the recording “spoke southern” for several days after....more
Today’s review of the FRENCH CONCESSION by Xiao Bai comes from the mind of my guest reviewer, and husband, Don Desbiens. It’s about Shanghai in the 1930s: a fascinating and, apparently frightening, place.
Reading anything about pre-war 20th century Shanghai is usually a lesson in contrast for anyone who has seen the giga-state that modern Shanghai has become.
In this new work, available to the west in translation, the author describes a Shanghai the modern visitor could not even begin to imagine:
Pudong as a collection of farm hamlets.
The foreign concessions full of westerners run amok.
The criminal gangs and the communist political cells indistinguishable from one another and the Nationalist government.
And the Japanese army and diplomats slowly pressing in from all sides.
The Nationalist security forces seem indistinguishable from the gangs and the Communists when the narrative is considered at arms length. The young man in the middle is a photographer and a dilettante, who finds himself in the middle of the chaos and the alleyways of the old city and it’s foreign concessions. I find little to sympathize with in this character, his lack of direction tugs him from one sphere of influence to another, from the White Russian lover to the French police, to the press who buy his photos, to the love interest in the communist cell that he develops an interest in by chance – but I think we as readers are meant to not particularly like him.
In fact, I only found the two female protagonists at all likable, having played the cards they were dealt with as well as they could.
A very enjoyable translation to read, I was put off at first by the list of characters at the front of the book, seemed to me to be like a line up of actors and roles or like a game of Clue, “Mustard in the Dining Room”. But once past this it became engrossing.
Another interesting read from modern China....more
Audio files provided by PenguinRandomHouse for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Few writers seem to construct a heroine as deeply as Laurell K. Hamilton. She has defined Anita Blake heart, mind and body. It is truly a remarkable feat to have created her so seamlessly that Anita could nearly step out of the book and I would know her on the spot.
This book includes a rather gross zombie raising that may not be suitable for vegetarians, or anyone squeamish. But it examines Anita’s abilities and powers as well as those of other animators. Anita seems to be a very powerful animator, but no one yet knows the extent of her abilities as she absorbs strength and abilities through her lovers. Some of her lovers also seems to gain power and new abilities through their relationship with her.
But these new abilities cause problems as well as make raising the dead easier. She seems to be able to do things she could not do before.
There are a few too many plots on sub plots in this book. There’s a hair raising police case, a different kind of zombie, an of course an argument over who in Anita’s life she is engaged to, in love with or just having sex with. She seems to have become the queen of most animals and types of supernaturals.
It also feels like another exploration of Anita’s and others’ psychology. How to think about it, how to cope and a discovery of her own sexuality and aspects of self. That it happens throughout and pulls her away from the main mystery she has to solve irritated me. I also feel like there is not enough Jean Claude in this book.
It’s clear though that Anita is gaining more and more power and that eventually will cause some cataclysmic event. Power is good when one uses it for good. Anita, despite what others may believe to be an immoral lifestyle is a good person who seems to act selflessly often. But, power always comes with a price.
I felt as if I missed a novella in between AFFLICTION and DEAD ICE. Events that I just do not at all recall reading or at least those events occuring fully, like Asher, his return and his new relationships, pop up several times. Narcissus, who we saw in NARCISSUS IN CHAINS is given a little more humanity, and his particular sexuality is further explored. Some other super scary parts of Anita’s life are also explored, and, along with a couple of the story arcs, that makes this novel particularly edgy and may throw it well into the Horror genre.
Between the number of sub-plots, the new characters, supernatural politics and such, I felt the book was disjointed.
In regards to the recording, I feel like Kim Alexis did a great job and has a deep grasp of the character. They did not include sound effects in this book’s recording so that was a relief.
Even with its issues and my ambivalence I think I will continue reading the series for the character development and inventiveness of the plots. LKH Has constructed her world very tightly and with great consistency....more
Audio provided by Tantor Media for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.
Is an ex-rugby player or business man a rock star? Gabriel Bishop is the ex-rugby-turned corporate star. Charlotte is the best friend of the main character in the first book in the series who ends up with a rock star. But there’s no rock and roll in Nalini Singh’s ROCK HARD. None. So, the connection to the series theme feels pretty thin.
I hate it when there are all these little things in a story that detract from my enjoyment of it.
Singh seems obsessed with the man being able to put his hand around the woman’s neck as a sign she has emotionally recovered from a terrifying ordeal. I couldn’t understand how she meant he should put his hand around her neck. To choke her, to give her a massage during sex? I wondered about it throughout the entire relationship portion of the story.
Charlotte did have a terrifying ordeal. And she talked to a counselor. One counselor. Then she determined that it didn’t help, so of course, this very bright woman didn’t find another. I thought that made her seem stupid, although trauma victims do things that make more sense to them than to people who don’t live through the trauma and she had her best friend who helped her. But along comes Gabriel who pushes her out of her shell and helps her a lot, and she accepts that help.
As in the first audio book in the series, ROCK ADDICTION, I didn’t understand the lack of accent for the characters as they were voiced. If it were taking place in England the characters would be voiced with English accents. It is an interesting choice in producing the recording. Otherwise, I though Justine O’Keef did a great job.
There is a thriller/suspense aspect to the story, although, unlike a thriller or suspense book you know there will still be an HEA. The genre requirements ordain it so. The bad guy is perfectly visible in my head, his good looks but slightly off smile popped right up in my mind. I didn’t get what Gabriel or Charlotte looked like in my head so much although I understood Charlotte’s baggy clothes.
Gabriel has his own issues within his family; and Charlotte is able to help him come to grips with it. In a way this gives the relationship parity and makes it more feasible; more possible.
If you can overlook the title having little to do with the book, and the series being thus far linked through two friends rather than through the theme implied in the series title, then this is interesting, sexy, dangerous and fun. It’s set in a beautiful and exotic (to me) location and full of hunky rugby players. And, Singh’s ability to weave a compelling narrative with sex and suspense make it a great beach read!
You may, of course, comment here, but I would really appreciate comments at the blog linked above.
Audio provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.
A posh-sounding woman meets her carousing neighbor and they do not get along well until a life-altering surprise walks in the door. At first she helps out of human decency but then, after experiencing an empathic moment goes beyond simple helping to really stepping up to the plate (mixed cultural metaphor there).
Young’s ability to engage the reader’s sympathy is outstanding. I immediately identified with Grace, first against Logan and then later with everyone involved.
Gah! Her family of birth sounds absolutely awful; her mother a cankerous poison, her father an uninvolved, unemotional juggernaut and her brother a vicarious would-be rapist. I would also have left them behind.
One issue is Logan’s temper. It’s the temper that put him on prison protecting his sister. It’s his smarts that helped him survive prison though. And it is his conscience that is haunting him. But his temper is quick; it is as if he (and an awful lot of guys in fiction) lacks the emotional tool kit for dealing without intense anger. He never threatens Grace though, but they do fight.
When Grace helps him out with a family issue it is nice to see how well she meshes into a family situation even though hers is so awful. I love how she has created family with a group of friends and that they are so very tight.
I like the continuity and depth to this series in general. MOONLIGHT ON NIGHTINGALE WAY is as sexy, as is-my-ipod-meltingly hot as the other books I have read in this series. It’s explicit and still very well done. I kept finding more tasks to do so I could keep listening. There are no dandelions left in my lawn because of this book!
I like the series’ reader’s accents and her voice. I don’t think I hear any extraneous noises in the recording either.
Does it matter if you read a holiday themed book around the holidays? I don't think it usually matters — a good story is good story. I do agree that when read around a holiday it can help put you in the mood for the event. Or, in this case it can just help put you in the mood.
I was looking up some information for the newest book in the series: MOONLIGHT ON NIGHTINGALE WAY when I came across this on Amazon. In VALENTINE, author Samantha Young creates sketches of several couples from her Dublin Road series. If you don't know the stories behind all the characters it's okay; the story won't be as rich but they'll still be enjoyable and easy to understand.
They all revolve around one Valentine's Day for this close group of friends and relatives. Apparently they take turns taking care of the kids so one couple gets stuck at home while the others go off on their merry ways. In this volume you get couples who feel neglect, couples who are in the first bloom of love, couples who are old hat but still hot for each other, even one guy super attracted to his sexily pregnant wife. There's a lot going on.
When I got it it was free on Amazon. At free it was a tremendous bargain with nicely written vignettes and it's good reading any time of year! I have enjoyed the series as well!
I am not a big "baby person." I seem to lack the gene that turns a woman into a pile of maternal goo over an infant (I think somehow a cat gene was substituted, because my maternal instincts light right up for a kitten). So, given that this book starts off with a pregnancy test, it immediately pushed my emotional involvement with the book down the scale.
I didn’t think much attention was paid to how much pregnancy would change this young woman’s life, nor to what her options were. I thought that Ben’s bandmate Mal’s choler over Ben sleeping with his sister-in-law was a little overboard; as if Mal always does the sane thing.
Important to the story, or at least mentioned a lot, is the age difference between Lizzie and Ben. It was somewhere between six and nine years. Lizzie may have more emotional stick-to-it-ivesness, and Ben, having lived the rock star life, a lot more experience but neither character is really mature. At times Ben seems like he is going to do the adult thing and back away.
The band members for the group that opens on tour for Stage Dive fit into the story, but I didn’t think they were developed enough to merit the degree of the part they play. I didn’t really get their involvement in the story line at all.
There’s a lot more flirting and sexual tension than sex in this one. And there’s a lot of angst.
Sometimes I thought Ben was being the real adult, but at others I was a little worried about this couple, with their mood swings and immaturity would be better off as non-partnered parents. All the guys in this series have hair-triggers, though Ben has the fewest issues of the lot. I think it is interesting how Scott writes Ben’s importance as the true technical artist: the band member who gets the sound right, the one who works with the sound engineers on a song after everyone else has gone off with their girlfriends.
There are some fun twists thrown into the mix, and you might be made to think twice the next time you read anything that slams some celebrity’s significant other.
The climax and resolving make up scene were weak and I didn’t believe the way it was resolved would really have turned the beat around.
It is the last book about a member of this band unless the author adds a band member or they go into the security people or roadies. And I got really addicted to the characters. I don’t think it describes what actual rock stars are like. If it did then they would all be emotional wrecks with short tempers. If they had a real album I would buy it. But this one wasn’t my favorite – In other words I couldn’t get too deeply into DEEP....more
GARRETT by Sawyer Bennett: Happy, Sad, Sexy & Hockey
Audio provided by Tantor Media for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.
This is a hot, sultry, poignant story about a couple who have a massive exterior obstacle, but also face the age-old poor communication skills issue along with a big dose of flawed logic! It’s a sexy story with a measure of “happy” as a couple finds each other with a dose of “sad” when some tragic stuff happens.
Olivia fears that Garrett is only committed to her because she is sick and she doesn’t want to ruin his life by dying sometime in the next few years. The event that really precipitates the realization that her death would hurt Garrett is not the same kind of event. And I don’t think she trusts his motives for being with her when she knows he’s never been in a relationship for more than three dates, but breaking up with a sick chick would be low. Plus, she decided she ought to sow her wild oats while she still can.
On the other hand, he’s fallen hard and fast. Yes, he questions whether he should take a chance on a woman who is sick and puzzles it all out. For him, the event that precipitates her fear, solidifies his commitment.
The sex is hot with a little raunch and a tiny bit of dominance. They are a good couple together. The sex is more of an expression of love though. Sometimes reading steamy romances I think, do these characters realize there’s more to life than sex? But then in this one she’s sick so of course they do. The faulty logic is of course that there are no guarantees in life and love. Perfectly healthy people die in accidents or develop fatal illness once you are involved. The event that happens that makes Olivia worry the most would make me think more this way than the way Olivia does.
One thing really bothered me about the narrative and the narration. Olivia works for a gay florist wo is omewhat flamboyant in a 1980s, hello kitty crop top, disco and rhinestones, stereotype way. And he is played with that singsong, girlfriend! stereotype in the narration. I was a little offended by the way the character was written and played. He is a loving, caring friend to Olivia and then Cole, and what he wears is given more attention than who he is.
This could have been a fluffy sports book, but Olivia’s illness and Cole being a stand-up guy adds a level of serious that sets the story apart. ...more
Audiobook provided by publisher for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
One of my favorite movies has been ENCHANTED APRIL, a 1992 film directed by Mike Newell (IMDB) with actors both well, and not so well, known. It has charmed me each time I have seen it.
So, the title ENCHANTED AUGUST on Penguin Random House’s tear sheet caught my eye. You know how people adapt Shakespeare to the modern day, or how EMMA was adapted to become CLUELESS and P & P became Bridget Jones’ Diary? This is in the same vein: where ENCHANTED APRIL is about a group of Edwardian-era British escaping to Italy for an April break, ENCHANTED AUGUST is about a group of modern-day New Yorkers escaping to, Little Lost Island, a small Shangri-La of an Island off the Downeast part of Maine (the Northern-most coastal area).
According to Wikipedia, ENCHANTED APRIL was a
…film adaptation of Elizabeth von Arnim’s 1922 novel, “The Enchanted April,” directed by Mike Newell. The novel was previously adapted as a stage play by Kane Campbell in 1925, and as an RKO Radio film in 1935. A new, Tony Award-nominated stage adaptation of the novel by Matthew Barber debuted on Broadway in 2003. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enchante...
According to me, this book stays remarkably close to the film; I cannot say how close it is to the original book. But here is the question: It’s one thing to adapt a book to a play or movie, or adapt a play or a movie to a different time and/or place, but, what is it to rewrite a book with almost the same characters to a different time and place? Is this art, imitation or downright copying?
There are a few changes in the plot: The reasons the women want the vacation are originally different from what drives them in the movie but in the end it is a sort of peace and solitude within themselves they crave; a rebuilding of themselves before they can repair their relationships with their significant others and the world in general.
Again, I have not read the 1924 novel so I cannot say how different, how more accessible or less accessible it is. I know that prose style has changed in 90 years and so it may be that this is an easier read, more in tune with today’s needs and humor. I cannot spoil other differences between the film and the book regarding plot or character since, with a retelling it is those changes — how the story was adapted — that are often the most interesting and telling things.
And location: In Victorian and Edwardian literature, Italy was both a wild and civilized place, a place of higher passions and wild humanity (as we see in Forrester’s ROOM WITH A VIEW). “Italy” was distant land, a fairy tale, a concept that asked if we can have the higher passions of love and art and devotion without the darker sides of the same.
I don’t know that an island of the coast of Maine offers the same ideas of beauty wild and refined and the healing nature to the human psyche when these seemingly dichotomous ideas are reevaluated holistically.
One thing that has stayed the same is Lottie’s intuitive abilities. These are not paranormal in the way of fantasy literature where they give someone power. Her intuition is more along the lines of “everyday magic.” In either the film or here it enhances the other-worldliness of the getaway; it sets apart life before, during and after the trip. The recording was charming, the reader’s voice evocative of cool, pine needle littered paths through gardens and woods, peaceful like a retreat. It was a very enjoyable listen.
But, the thing I had to ask throughout was why was this, or any other retelling without significant change, book written? Why not just read the original tale? Have we changed so much in ninety years that the Edwardian story is less instructive, entertaining or enjoyable? The popularity of the Jane Austen’s even older novels would say we have not. And, when Austen is mashed up it is the changes in genre, continuations of the storyline, or an appeal to a younger audience than happily reads the original.
I don’t think there is enough difference between the storylines in the film I saw and this text to say it is an original work. It is more of a translation of the 1924 book combined with the 1992 film, and the language and situations of today than it is an original idea.
If that is what you seek then this is a lovely vacation or beach read. It would be great fun to read the book and watch the movie; or read both books and watch the movie....more
I would say that the bggest problem the couple in this steamy entry in the Stage Dive Series by Kylie Scott is “lack of communication” but because ofI would say that the bggest problem the couple in this steamy entry in the Stage Dive Series by Kylie Scott is “lack of communication” but because of the mental health issues involved, communication issues are sure to follow. And when the male love interest, Jimmy, does communicate he is pretty straightforward, hones and insightful. This tells me the writer wants the character to be seen as taking his sobriety, and the work he did to get there seriously.
He still has emotional management issues though. BIG TIME.
Every so often he wants to go off the wagon, especially in the bad times, but that is where one’s sobriety companion comes in. And, once again, the band’s drummer, Mal seems like some kind of prescient puck who sees something that will bring two people together.
At some point, Lena realizes she has feelings for Jimmy that do not suit a professional sobriety companion. The term brings to mind the CBS crime drama ELEMENTARY where Lucy Liu plays sobriety companion, Dr. Jane Watson, to recovering addict and detective, Sherlock Holmes.
I started thinking about what would happen if that TV relationship was more volatile; if Sherlock liked to throw stuff and had a history of parental abuse. That’s what I picture for Jimmy’s and Lena’s professional relationship.
Lena kind of annoyed me more than anything. She sounded a bit like an evasive doormat. When things got heavy with her family or with Jimmy, her instinct was to run. She doesn’t sound as if she takes very good care of herself either.
Do you remember in Twilight, when Bella tells Edward he’s giving her whiplash from the mood swings? Well, Lena must feel that way as she follows a magazine’s list of how to get over a guy. He’s all for her dating other guys, right?
It seems like the characters have a hard time NOT sabotaging themselves, not getting in their own way.
On the one hand, this book and this series is very hot, and very addictive. On the other it can feel somewhat light and fluffy. It deals with weighty issues: death, abuse, betrayal, but then it kind of glosses over them all.
Audible Purchase. No remuneration was exchanged, and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
I’ve read all four of these books now and this one had my least favorite hook-ups. Jimmy, who came off in the first book as an asshat of major proportions, had not given up his addiction to asshattery, especially post-coital behavior.
It’s hard to say what exactly is making me really like these books. The biggest issue I have had is that the characters seem to equate sex and love. Sex is usually a big part of a committed romantic relationship, but it is not the only part, or even the most important one, and it feels as if this series makes it the biggest.
My issues haven’t stopped me from buying all four books — which if you know me is a big thing. I have to be really hot for a series to actually lay out money for it. And, that’s the best recommendation I can give....more
E-Galley provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own unless otherwise noted.
I loved the last book I read by Susanna Kearsley, THE FIREBIRD, which also flipped back and forth from the past to the present as does this book, A DESPERATE FORTUNE. THE FIREBIRD had a similar romantic setup but also had a paranormal element this one doesn't.
I do not know if all of Kearsley's stories feature this past and present device, but where it works in THE FIREBIRD in this book the lack of the paranormal connection made the stories too disparate.
I really couldn't bring myself to care about the characters of the present-day story line. We get a young math/coding/crypto whiz with Aspergers. (Another theme! I also just read the Rosie Project which features Aspergers as well). Her cousin has been her best friend, advocate and protector since childhood, but seems to have become bitter, unlikeable and self-serving.
She sets up Sara to decipher a diary of Mary Dundas, the daughter of a Jacobite wigmaker in exile. Mary has lived most of her life with an aunt and uncle but when her brother comes to supposedly take her to live with him, but then sends her on a secret Jacobite mission, she enters into a life fraught with intrigue, danger and characters who are not who they seem to be. Mary's staid life becomes an adventure and highlights how a woman could be treated solely as a commodity and as so much flotsam and jetsam in the tide.
The diary is not what anyone expects, but it is the lack of connection through the thread of time that just doesn't work for me.
The present day character, Sara stays at the home of the woman who owns the diary, an old friend of the author who seeks the translation. The France where Sara is staying is a very stereotypical France of books and movie, something out of time. The characters there are not stereotypical, but neither are they well developed; this leads me to find their motives suspect.
Only the main character from the past, Mary, is well-developed. The rest are like the characters in a Tarot Deck - if the Tarot deck contained the loyal warrior, the child's nurse, the uncaring brother and the swindler. But Mary does grow and her experiences completely change her understanding of the world and people.
One theme that I am still considering is the way Mary's family considers her as a commodity to be used and discarded and her ability to go on after realizing she matters little to them. That's a tough thing to work past, and hard to understand, but it is her family's disregard that turns her into an accidental adventuress.
The prose is often poetic, transcendent even and was the high point in my experience of the book. And, her research and grasp of the recorded historical events, and how she braids her fictional constructions into the actual events, is masterful. But pretty prose and research do not make a story, and I did not find it was enough to make this story seem less interminable. I had a really hard time getting through it; every time I got interested, the time shift between story lines made me have to try to care all over again....more
Sarah Addison Allen is a writer who can combine all the characters in a small town and make the most preposterous and anachronistic of them feel real. THE PEACH KEEPER is a gem of a tale about the grown grandchildren of two women, and the grandchildren’s friends who find the preconceived ideas they had of their families and of each other were skewed by time, circumstance and magic.
The effects of magic on everyday life is another aspect of Allen’s work I have enjoyed. In this case, it is about how the past influences the future. And, how, what was accepted in the past is harder to accept now. My only real issues with this book were the feeling of this small town, and the people in it, being frozen in time — specifically in the form of women’s societies and parental influence.Maybe having been raised in the North in a less isolated location makes me feel that these people are somewhat skewed in time; I have heard that traditions in the southern states have taken longer to change than in others. But even then, the ages of the characters and their parents in particular do not seem to add up. We’re talking about the present day 20 to 30 year old women having parents born in 1938.
Maybe it’s that magic at work.
Otherwise, the love stories themselves are enticing. One is understandable, the other more of an odd coupling. The development of the friendship feels natural as well. And, it feels like the people had to wait to grow up to either find each other as romantic or friendly interests. They had to come out from under the hazy influence of the town’s magic to see life clearly.
I was quite enchanted by GARDEN SPELLS but was less into by THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON which I felt shared some characteristics of TWILIGHT. So, I had not kept track of Allen’s work until this one hit my library shelf. I am glad it did; the story surprised me with the simplicity of its telling and the way the author makes each character feel real.
The narration is also fabulous with distinct and easily recognizable characters but neither the accents nor the acting is overdone. The quality of the recording is also outstanding....more