This may wind up being a five star book for me. I'll have to give it time to mull over before I'm willing to add that extra star, though.
There's a cerThis may wind up being a five star book for me. I'll have to give it time to mull over before I'm willing to add that extra star, though.
There's a certain ineffable sweetness about Jill Mansell's books. I've been trying to explain it to my friends for the past few days. In her books, characters are rarely mean. There may be a tosser or two, as you'd see in real life, but most of the characters are simply good people trying to be better and make good decisions. They never set out to hurt other people. They may be hurt, but if they are, the novels will feature healing. For all that these books are light, I also think they present a really wonderful vision of the world that I'd like to live in. There's a sense of optimism that is sorely lacking in so many other books.
This book encapsulates that charm and sweetness perfectly. This is why I snatch every Jill Mansell book that I can find on sale. (Yes, I buy them on sale--even though I like them, I have a difficult time shelling out too much for books anymore. Job insecurity in recent years has made me much less impulsive about spending money.)
I know this review has said very little about A Walk in the Park. I don't intend to say much. The wonder of this book isn't really in the plot. It's in the flawed but good characters making their way through a world. It's in the wonder of knowing that this is not a jaded world. It's a fantastic place to visit, and I recommend it highly....more
This book gets three stars from me only because I really like Jill Mansell. If this were my first introduction to her work, I don't know if I would haThis book gets three stars from me only because I really like Jill Mansell. If this were my first introduction to her work, I don't know if I would have picked up another one. It's sweet, but lacks even the small bit of substance in her other books. ...more
I love Jill Mansell's books. They're always consistently wonderful. While there is an element of refreshing sweetness to the books, at the same time,I love Jill Mansell's books. They're always consistently wonderful. While there is an element of refreshing sweetness to the books, at the same time, Mansell is not afraid to confront complicated relationship issues. This one largely focused on the issue of trust and parenting, and I adored every minute of it....more
I enjoyed the first book but didn't think it was wonderful. Since I wanted some more light reading, I checked the next three books out of the library.I enjoyed the first book but didn't think it was wonderful. Since I wanted some more light reading, I checked the next three books out of the library. Half way through this one, I started skimming and sped my way through all of the ones I checked out.
I do understand why so many people love this series, but there's just not enough here to hold my interest. The plots are a little too predictable, and the romance moves at a pace that puts snails to shame. I'm not in the mood for this, and I doubt I ever will be again....more
OK, OK. I gave into the pressure and finally read the book. I liked it, and I can see where other people do, too. I just didn't find it all that funnyOK, OK. I gave into the pressure and finally read the book. I liked it, and I can see where other people do, too. I just didn't find it all that funny....more
I think it may be obvious that I like Jill Mansell books. This one was exactly what I expect from her: a lighthearted romance with real depth of emotiI think it may be obvious that I like Jill Mansell books. This one was exactly what I expect from her: a lighthearted romance with real depth of emotion. It follows the formula laid out in other Mansell titles, and that's not a bad thing at all.
The cover copy for the book only mentions Tilly and Jack, but this is a much larger story than just the two of them. It's the story of Tilly, yes, but it's also the story of Tilly's best friend, Erin, and her new flame, Fergus. And it's the story of Fergus' wife, Stella. It's the story of Tilly's employer, Max, and his ex-wife, Kaye. It's about how the loves and lives (and lies) of one small town tie each other together. Like other Mansell titles, it's relatively lighthearted, but there's also real depth of emotion. Some of the characters experience real pain, and it's easy to empathize with them.
All in all, I love Jill Mansell's books, and I'm quite happy knowing that there are several more out there that I've not yet read....more
This book wasn't quite what I look for when I Jennifer Crusie's novels. That, in and of itself, could account for the relatively low stars I've givenThis book wasn't quite what I look for when I Jennifer Crusie's novels. That, in and of itself, could account for the relatively low stars I've given it in comparison to her other works. The dialogue was fun, as it is in every Crusie book, but there wasn't much else to recommend the story.
I'd say this book belongs in a special subset of chick-lit that I like to call "adultery-lit." These are the books wherein a spouse seeks and finds fulfillment outside of marriage. Maddie, our protagonist, has very good reasons for wanting to end her marriage to Brent, but my inner prude doesn't like the timing of her new love interest. Admittedly, part of this book was about Maddie throwing off the chains of expected behavior, so the fact that she engages in an extramarital relationship isn't really all that much of a shocker. It's just not something I enjoy reading too much.
Otherwise, the book was fun and rather entertaining, but it pales in comparison to the better Crusie titles....more
I wish I could remember that I really don't like cozy mysteries. I seem to be missing the gene required to enjoy them; every single one I've picked upI wish I could remember that I really don't like cozy mysteries. I seem to be missing the gene required to enjoy them; every single one I've picked up tends to land in the "never again" pile. (Except for Agatha Christie, which is probably why I keep trying.)...more
This is a genre romance novel with pretensions of grandeur.
I was intrigued by this book because of it's duel format. It features a Harvard Ph.D. candiThis is a genre romance novel with pretensions of grandeur.
I was intrigued by this book because of it's duel format. It features a Harvard Ph.D. candidate in history researching the famous (in her world at least!) Pink Carnation, a British spy during the Napoleonic Wars. Eloise, the student, travels to London after a bad break up and decides to research primary sources on the Pink Carnation. The novel opens with her in a slight jam--she's crushed in an overcrowded Tube ride, has spilled coffee on herself, and discovers that it's raining and she doesn't have an umbrella. All of this makes her a truly hapless sight when so goes to interview a descendant of the Purple Gentian (a spy that inspired our Carnation).
Her host is a nice old woman and immediately gives Eloise access to private family papers.
And that's where the book goes downhill.
Eloise is apparently reading journals and letters, but that's not what readers see. Instead, we are simply taken into the story of Amy Balcourt and Richard Selwick (who happens to be the Purple Gentian). Their story is a very typical romance novel. Amy is returning to France for the first time since she left it during the Terror. She's been living with her English relatives for the last 15 years, plotting and planning how she could help the famous British spies--the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian--restore the monarchy in France. Or at least expel the Republicans. Or Napoleon. In any event, she wants to help. Her father was killed by the guillotine, and she has a powerful hatred of the current French government. Richard has posing as a French sympathizer, working as their head of antiquities, all the while spying for his native England. Amy, of course, doesn't know this, and is repelled to learn that such an attractive young man could work for the side of the devil. Richard, in turn, is drawn to Amy. He knows her brother is involved in something underhanded, and in his attempt to investigate, he stumbles into Amy late at night. She doesn't know who he is due to the mask, but her hero worship of the Gentian leads to a slightly compromising situation. Cue the rest of a standard romance novel involving mistaken identity.
This novel would have worked so much better if readers had been able to read the same letters and journals Eloise was reading. We could have learned the story as she did. Instead, Eloise has access to different information than the reader. For a novel that's based around the idea of historical research, it doesn't read as being very authentic. Amy and her friends are unrealistic, and the graphic sexual encounters do not read as anything that would appear in a young lady's journal. Considering Richard's dangerous occupation, he would have been unlikely to keep a journal of his encounters with her either.
Further, I would have liked to see more of Eloise. I didn't like her as a character--she was too much the cliched chick lit heroine--but with only roughly four chapters to her credit, she was never able to properly establish her identity as a character or as a researcher. Sadly, the framing device of Eloise's narrative seemed like a pathetic attempt to elevate the book out of it's genre--the historical romance. Both the size of the book--a trade paperback--and the period artwork cover would seem to imply that it is more than a genre romance, but that's simply not the case.
I will admit that I enjoyed Amy & Richard's story. It was fun and trashy, and there were actually a few surprises. Other than the mustache-twirling villain, the supporting characters were delightfully madcap. Unfortunately, all of the characters were smarter than Amy, which didn't work well. They were able to see through Richard's subterfuges before Amy, allowing her to make an ass of herself repeatedly while they looked on knowingly. Gwen the chaperone was perhaps the most inspired character--but she was also almost a caricature.
If you're looking for a fun romance without pretensions, pass this book by. If you just want a trashy book set in the Napoleonic Wars, and you're willing to overlook the Eloise sections, have at it. I picked up the second book in the bookswap at the same time as I grabbed this one. I will probably continue with the series through that book alone. Unless the modern storyline develops further, I simply don't see enough her to elevate it above the usual genre romances and into a permanent place in my library....more
For a long time, I've been confused. I thought Jill Mansell was another pseudonym for the woman that writes as Sophie Kinsella, and I could not undersFor a long time, I've been confused. I thought Jill Mansell was another pseudonym for the woman that writes as Sophie Kinsella, and I could not understand why I liked the Mansell books so much and wanted to throw the Shopaholic book across the room.
Turns out I was wrong. They are not the same person.
That's good to know. All I can say about this one is that it was sweetly romantic and fun. The characters, for all their absurd behavior at times, were frightfully real. They struggled with the inability to speak up about their feelings, struggled with understanding their own hearts, and finally had to speak up. Poppy starts the book with the act of speaking up--she realizes the night before the wedding that she's about to marry the wrong guy. That act of boldness propels her forward and into a new, more assertive life in London. People around her struggle to be like her. They, too, would like to be bold, but they each have obstacles to overcome. And they don't realize that sometimes boldness masks an inability to face other decisions.
Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely and will read more of Mansell's catalog. I'm so glad that she's not Sophie Kinsella. I can go on liking her without the guilt....more
I picked up this book due to Avon's aggressive marketing campaign. I get emails from the publisher, and they were pushing this title pretty heavily. AI picked up this book due to Avon's aggressive marketing campaign. I get emails from the publisher, and they were pushing this title pretty heavily. After reading the summary, I was intrigued, and since I felt like rewarding myself with a fun romance, I bought it.
The cover copy tells the bare bones of the plot. A few years ago, Autumn and Sam had a fling in Vegas which ended badly--and she's hated him for years because of what happened. When they run into each other at a wedding, they find themselves talking and being civil, and Sam volunteers to help Autumn with a situation that brings him back into her life.
The cover copy also obscures several key facts about the story, and I'm not going to spoil them here. I think they make the story richer and complicate the relationship. What I can say is that when Sam and Autumn run into each other, neither one is looking to resume their fling. However, their increased contact leads them to remember just what drew them to each other in the first place, and as they come to know each other better, sparks begin to fly anew.
When I picked up the book, I had no idea that it was in a series, or that the series was based around a fictional Seattle hockey team. Both facts were delightful. I work in Detroit, and I come from a hockey family. Passages like this one just made me smile:
Sam stood in the tunnel of the Joe Louis Arena and waited to hit the ice. He hated playing in Detroit. Hated the stinking octopus.
He stood behind Logan Dumont and in front of Blake Conte. Captain Walker Brooks hit the ice first admist a wall of booing Red Wings fans. Sam had always found jeering crowds amusing. He fed off all that passion, and no one was more passionate about a sport than hockey fans. When it was his turn to step on the ice, he stuck his glove under one arm and skated across the ice, waving like he was a conquering hero. He looked up at the filled seats and laughed. He might hate playing at the Joe Louis, but he loved playing hockey. He'd been on the road for over a week and was exhausted and jet lagged, but the second the puck dropped, that all went away. Adrenaline pounded through his veins and rushed across his skin. He dominated behind the blue line, using his body to agitate and intimidate. He closed firing lanes and spent four minutes in the sin bin for cross-checking and hooking. The latter was complete bullshit. It wasn't his fault that Zetterberg got tangled up in Sam's stick. He should go back to Sweden and learn how to skate like a big boy.
I will add that any Red Wings fan wouldn't call the arena "the Joe Louis." We call it "the Joe" and leave it at that. But, since Sam isn't a Red Wing, I'm willing to forgive his lapse. I'm also willing to forgive his hatred of octopus. While I adore the tradition and cheer whenever I see a squid hit the ice, I'm sure it's disgusting to other teams. (Thankfully, we only throw squid, not rats like some fans!)
--back to the review--
Sam and Autumn felt real to me. They each had their reasons for behaving so recklessly in Vegas, and the wounds and regrets they carry from that meeting are lifelike. They are not always likeable, but they're also believably flawed.
The sex was fairly graphic at times, but that's also in character. Neither or these characters does anything by half--once they've mad a decision, they throw all their energy into it. Once they decide to have sex, they aren't tame about it.
Overall, I liked this novel enough to read it in one night. (I finished it after midnight, hence the two-day spread in my dates.) It was fast paced and fun, and exactly what I wanted at the time....more
As I look over the reviews for this novel at Goodreads, I'm shocked by just how negative so many of them are. But, as I looked over the "rating detailAs I look over the reviews for this novel at Goodreads, I'm shocked by just how negative so many of them are. But, as I looked over the "rating details," a small fact became clear to me. This book is "front-loaded" with negative reviews because so many people have liked those reviews. In all, only 3% of the reviewers gave this book one star, but six of the first ten reviews I saw were one star. This seems especially bizarre considering that 14% of reviewers gave the book five stars.
Also, I as I read these reviews, I couldn't help but ask myself a very serious question: hadn't any of these reviewers ever read Kate Chopin's short story Desiree's Baby? Any novel predicated on the idea of two ostensibly white parents giving birth to a child that is visibly black is paying homage to Chopin.
As for the novel itself, I have to say that it wasn't bad. As my three star review indicates, I liked it. It's the story of Dana Clarke and her husband, Hugh, in the weeks following the birth of their daughter, Lizzie. As the novel opens, Dana wakes from a disturbing dream to discover that her water has broken. She's strangely passive as her husband shuttles her out the door (it's a good thing he acted as he did--she gave birth within six hours!). Delinsky has Dana pause in the baby's room on their way out of the house, and in lengthy exposition, Delinsky describes the nursery in great detail. This pause, while irritating, is also important. Dana has a moment to reflect on all of the changes that are about to arrive in her life, and she has a pause where she wonders if she really wants to enter this phase of her life. It's only a pause; she and her husband want the baby, but it's an important realization that they have no idea what it will mean to be parents.
Once Lizzie is born, the characters find themselves in a crisis. Lizzie is obviously of African American descent. They have no idea where these genes have come from; Hugh's ancestry is well-researched. Dana's father is unknown, so they assume the genes came from him. They feel compelled to find an answer, as their friends and neighbors start to whisper that maybe Dana wasn't that faithful after all . . . Horrified by these rumors, Hugh gets a paternity test. He's certain that Dana has been faithful, and he wants to use the test to prove that point. However, he fails to understand that even asking for a test is a betrayal, and as the days move on, a rift gradually opens in their marriage.
There are a number of plot-lines throughout the novel, but the only story that matters is that of Lizzie and her parents. Hugh is a lawyer, representing a client pro bono in a paternity case against a senator. Their neighbor has a biracial daughter, and she's feeling anxiety about her place in the world. Hugh's father finds himself in a moral dilemma about his work. The outcome of these stories doesn't ultimately matter that much. The big question of the novel is simple:
Can you live by what you say? Are your speeches only empty rhetoric, or do you live the life that you talk about?
Any other questions are secondary, and as Hugh and Dana begin their life as Lizzie, they find that they must discover if they can meet the challenge of being the people they want to be....more
After having just finished rereading the "Boy" series, I decided to continue my Meg Cabot kick and return to a title that I had not reread in years: SAfter having just finished rereading the "Boy" series, I decided to continue my Meg Cabot kick and return to a title that I had not reread in years: Size 12 is not Fat. Unfortunately, unlike the "Boy" books, this one didn't fare so well as a reread, and lost a full star in my estimation.
The story is rather straightforward: in the tradition of cozy mysteries, an unlikely detective finds herself in a situation where she is compelled to solve a mystery. In this case, the detective is Heather Wells, a former teen singer. After gaining a few pounds, demanding to sing her own lyrics, and losing her recording contract, Heather discovered her boyfriend (a member of the boy band Easy Street) was cheating on her with a more successful pop singer. Without much education, and having had her mom steal all of her money, Heather finds a job as an assistant resident director of a residence hall at New York College. Soon, a girl dies after apparently elevator surfing, but Heather knows this girl is not the type to elevator surf, and she decides to search for the truth, even when no one will listen.
When I first read the book, years ago, I saw a number of reviews that commented on the repeated joke regarding the dorm, I mean residence hall. Every time someone mistakenly calls Fischer Hall a dorm, someone has to correct that person with the right term. If it's within Heather's thoughts, she corrects herself. Initially, I didn't have a problem with the joke; I'm an academic, and I've seen the changing language of higher education. However, it got old quickly and Cabot used it throughout the entire novel.
I still think this is a good book, but it simply wasn't as charming on a reread as it was the first time....more