Wow, book #18!! Hard to believe it's been almost 5 years since I picked up Virgin River on a whim!! Even after so many boo**spoiler alert** 3.5/5 (C+)
Wow, book #18!! Hard to believe it's been almost 5 years since I picked up Virgin River on a whim!! Even after so many books, I find Virgin River and Jack's Bar to be warm places - almost idyllic - that I'd love to visit :) Guess Ms Carr has been doing a good job :) While the place has not lost its charms, the books themselves have been a bit like a roller coaster with ups and downs. They are definitively some that stand out, like Wild Man Creek, which is why I keep reading the series. I was hoping Redwood Bend would be one, especially since it got positive feedback... unfortunately, it wasn't. Before I launch myself into this review, I'd like to mention that I did not read Hidden Summit, the previous book in the series. However, I don't think I missed any vital information and it didn't impact my enjoyment of Redwood Bend. All right, here we go :)
For me, the strength of Redwood Bend was the setting and the characters. There's a reason why readers keep reading the Virgin River series. Obviously, the writing is good :) But the real reason is the setting, the place itself: Virgin River. It's the rustic and isolated feeling Virgin River gives off, the warmth and helpfulness of its inhabitants. It's a quiet and charming place to be, a bit too true to believe and perfect for fiction :) Yes, the conditions are harder... but the concerns and priorities are different and so is the lifestyle than in big cities. You can do more with less. And there's a sense a community in Virgin River that is so strong - the kind that you used to find in all neighborhoods and that is slowly fading away in suburbs and big cities. It's nice to revisit such a place in Redwood Bend :) It was warming to see Katie and her two boys be welcomed in Virgin River and how easily they settled in. It was also great to revisit some of the characters such as Jack and Preacher. Jack is definitively the core of the community, not just because of his bar, but his personality... so it's not a surprise to see him again. As for the rest of the cast, I think Ms Carr did a good job at balancing their apparitions so the spotlight was not taken away from Katie and Dylan.
As I mentioned, the other strong aspect of this book for me was the characters, i.e. Katie and Dylan. Katie is a widow raising two 5 years old twin boys. I loved how her maternal side came through in Redwood Bend. She's really what I imagine a mother of two active young boys to be. A Buddha with multiple hands, preventing her sons' action to get out of hand and creating full-blown chaos :) But even SuperMom needs a break from time to time... Katie simply felt real and that was nice. As for Dylan, I admire him for the man he has become... especially since he did not have a great start. As a very popular teen actor, Dylan was spoiled, basically a brat, who got into drugs and alcohol. Luckily for him, his grandmother got him in hands and straighten him out and he made it. I liked how loyal he was to his employees, accepting to do something he didn't love anymore - acting - to keep his business afloat. I think he was a very nice and good man.
My issue with this book is I felt Katie and Dylan had no chemistry together. They're attracted to each other and then, Dylan finds himself hanging around Virgin River longer to be close to Katie and they have a fling. That part was kind of cute, but I needed more. What held them together, what made this romance work besides physical attraction? There wasn't really a connection between them, so I wouldn't be able to answer... Okay, I could, but aside from the surprise result. Sure, they were both nice people... but what else? They simply didn't seem to fit each other. Katie was SuperMom and Dylan was the ex-heartthrob who didn't believe he'll ever have a family, given the example his parents set out and his estranged relationships with all relatives except his grandmother. I mean, technically, in real life, these people would never have started a fling. Also, I was quite disappointed that there was no bonding between Dylan and the twins :( That's one thing I always enjoy in books with small children, their interactions between the H/H. In this case, it was awkward. Yes, the twins got attached to Dylan eventually, but we don't see how this attachment is formed... and I suspect it is more due to proximity and time, than actual feeling ^_^; Also, I felt there was no trust between Katie and Dylan. It seems to me Katie was too quick to believe the worst out of Dylan, all the stories written in the gossip magazines. She didn't even give him the benefit of doubt. I felt that given the amount of time she spent with him and their intimate relationship, she would know him better and have more confidence in herself and more faith in Dylan.
Another issue I had with Redwood Bend was the event that happened at the end of the book with one of the twins. Yes, Ms Carr foreshadowed it... but I felt it was a tad far-fetched. I don't get why the boy would suddenly have an inclination to go into the forest ^_^; I seemed out of character for me and I guess it was there to add some drama, but I think the story could have done without it.
Despite all the issues, I did like how the romance was resolved and the ending of the book :) I thought it was nicely done and I liked how Dylan didn't give up his home. Oh and I have to say, one of my favorite part of the book was when Dylan's grandmother came to visit! I thought it was sweet she was looking out for Dylan... Plus, I liked how she was an acquaintance of Muriel. The world is indeed small LOL.
All in all, Ms Carr delivers another nice installment in the series. While it didn't wow me, it was nice and cozy. Fans of the series will most probably enjoy it :)...more
What I liked? I really, really enjoyed Gimme a Call. I pretty much enjoyed everything about it and it kept me engrossed ti**spoiler alert** 4.5/5 (B+)
What I liked? I really, really enjoyed Gimme a Call. I pretty much enjoyed everything about it and it kept me engrossed till the end. I thought both the younger and older Devi were likable characters :) Yes, the older Devi was a bit pushy and selfish at times, but when you have the opportunity to change your future for the best, you take it... And it didn't only benefit her, it benefited the younger Devi as well. What I liked in this "relationship" is that the younger Devi wasn't just a drone and did what she was told. She questioned her older self, took risks - some with better results than others - and at the end of the day, was the wiser of the two :)
One thing that I thought was very well-done by Ms Mlynowski is that she managed to not reveal to the readers and younger Devi the cause of the break-up for the majority of the book. That added a little suspense and also insured that the reason behind it was not typical. I also liked the message about how important a balance life is that Gimme a Call imparted with the readership. Devi got lucky because she had a second chance, but no matter how much you are in love, you cannot lose sight of your future and friends as Devi did. Especially given how crucial those high school years; they're really the springboard to adulthood and the rest of your life for most people. I also really liked how Devi realized that friendship was important... And I think that the overall problem Devi was facing, getting caught up with their other half and as a result, letting their friendships fade, doesn't only happen when you're in high school, but also when you're in your 20s, 30s, 40s... So I personally felt I could relate to it - although I've never gone out with anyone steady.
Any Issues? I really liked the concept of Gimme a Call and I think Ms Mlynowski did a good job writing it. Younger Devi would do something and Older Devi would feel the effects of it right away, she could see the changes in her life... and not all of them, positive. What bothered me however is that it seemed Older Devi did not have any memories of the past three years. The only recollection she had was her own - going out with Bryan, finding herself alone. All she had to prove the changes were pictures and the results (like her college acceptance letters), not the progress... And I find that somewhat sad :( But this is really a minor issue and has more to do with my personal taste than the actual book.
My Grade? 4.5/5 (B+). I originally gave Gimme a Call 4/5 (B)... However, as I read more YA and have more books under the belt for comparison, I really think Gimme a Call is one of the better ones :)...more
I thought The Lady's Secret was a cute read and a good, solid debut novel for Ms Chambers. I enjoyed seeing Georgy masquer**spoiler alert** 3.5/5 (B-)
I thought The Lady's Secret was a cute read and a good, solid debut novel for Ms Chambers. I enjoyed seeing Georgy masquerading as a man and thought she did a good job :) What made it work was that she had the background for it. Georgy would have been an incredible actress, if it wasn't for stage fright... and so instead of being on stage, she's been working behind the scene on costumes and decors. So she has the acting skills to pull it off, but also know men clothing to become a valet and know how to make herself appear manly through clothes. In that sense, I think it was very well thought by Ms Chambers.
I really enjoyed the first half of the book when Lord Nathaniel didn't know that Georgy was a woman. His growing interest in George, his confusion, the sexual tension between the two were great and fun :) However, I felt that once Lord Nathaniel found out that Georgy was a woman, the story started losing steam. Basically, because we reverted back to a "typical" romance. The excitement and spicing up that were present in the first half were no longer present. Instead, it was about Lord Nathaniel seducing Georgy, Georgy succumbing and it became predictable.
As for the intrigue, it was also a bit predictable. I mean, we all knew that somehow, Georgy or Harry would find proof. What I don't get is why Georgy's aunt showed her the secret compartment of the tea trolley if she suspected Georgy's identity. It seemed kind of too obvious and easy. Although I have to say, I was glad that their cousin wasn't involved int he plotting... and the twist concerning him was interesting.
Overall, The Lady's Secret was an enjoyable read and a good debut novel. I liked Ms Chambers' writing style and would definitively pick her up again, given a good premise :)...more