Wow, this is a self-conscious pile of pretension. And the painful part is how the only way the author can think to depict "smart" is by vomiting irrelWow, this is a self-conscious pile of pretension. And the painful part is how the only way the author can think to depict "smart" is by vomiting irrelevant facts all over the place. I mean, this is a woman who signs exit papers without reading them, goes back into an avant-garde bar after being warned shady hot-shots are targeting her, and misreads every interest cue thrown her way. I mean, it's one thing to misinterpret social cues. It's quite another when the misreads all break the same way—i.e. for maximum embarrassment/drama for the protagonist. Add the special-snowflake of an obviously gorgeous woman considering herself ugly because she's "different from the other girls" and I just can't......more
Some stories, in order to be told in the way they need to be told, include built-in limitations in the audience they can reach. And I find it both a pSome stories, in order to be told in the way they need to be told, include built-in limitations in the audience they can reach. And I find it both a profound joy and a deep disappointment when I find one as good (and, indeed, moving) as this one is. I wouldn't mind hearing the experience of a non-LDS reader and what they got out of the story, but I would find it impossible to recommend the book to anyone not LDS.
Okay, I have to get this off my chest because Odekirk twice has people claiming that you pronounce Rhys "rise" (starting with the lead character of that name). I'm sorry, but she's just plain wrong. Please, people, get this one right so my son can stop correcting the occasional misguided souls who mispronounce his name. Needless to say, I pronounced it right in my head every single time and it wasn't at all hard to do...
Anyway, as I said above, this story is an outstanding romance, even if the audience I think will enjoy it is constrained (both naturally and artificially, but I'll get to that below). I fell for both Emmy and Rhys pretty much immediately and really enjoyed spending time with them as they grew together and learned to respect and love one another. The core of the conflict of the story is a serious one: that Rhys is not a member of the church and that Emmy is a faithful one. Further, Rhys has spent years attending BYU, so his non-membership isn't easily dismissed as simply needing to learn more. So to be together without change means giving up Emmy's hope for forever in order to be with him in the now. Which is heartbreaking in all kinds of evocative ways.
This kind of story is often told in faithful literature as a conversion story and it is almost always fumbled badly. Too often, the pre-conversion non-member is shown as degenerate or incomplete or simply lacking in some important way; a way that will, obviously, be filled by their acceptance of the teachings and doctrines of the church (or worse, by the love of their paramour). Odekirk pulls off the nigh-impossible here in putting Rhys together as someone kind, generous, loving, and complete without missing anything obvious in his life or character. That takes a very clear eye and empathy and balance that few manage and kudos to Odekirk for navigating those difficult waters so flawlessly.
Not that the story is without flaws (as you might expect in a first-time author—unless she has a pseudonym not on her profile). The main problem is that the story is relatively predictable because the main conflict is right out there from the start. This is alleviated, at least somewhat, by Odekirk's fine characterization (see above) (view spoiler)[so I wouldn't have been at all surprised (or disappointed) if they had gone a non-standard route to reconcile their disparate beliefs. So I'd have been content if Emmy had married Rhys before his conversion and they worked things out in some non-obvious way post-nuptially. (hide spoiler)] But the bigger flaw is (view spoiler)[the contradiction of Rhys holding his non-member status back as long as he did with Emmy. He was kind and strong enough that it was an uncharacteristic weakness and I think a stronger story might have been told had Emmy dated him (at least a little bit) knowing he was a non-member. Having her ambushed like that unbalanced reader sympathy by making Rhys too clearly in the wrong. It might have been stronger if she had some culpability in the pain of not being able to reconcile their (non)faith before their feelings had become entirely entangled. Which I wouldn't hold against the book, really, (for not telling the story I'd prefer) if it didn't feel unnatural to me that Rhys withheld the truth as long as he did (including a couple lies of omission) to get there. (hide spoiler)]
Anyway, this was a solid four stars throughout. If that second flaw hadn't been present, it could have edged to five. So a fantastic book I can whole-heartedly recommend. To the right audience. I wish I could recommend it to everybody, but I really do think that non-LDS readers will mostly find it impenetrable.
A note about the publisher: Once again, I'm sad to see a good book in the hands of Covenant Communications. Their high prices and limited marketing mean this book will have an added artificial constraint in finding readers. I truly hate that people will have to shell out $11 for the ebook and even more for print. At least this one has a beautiful cover and decent production/editing....more
This is third in the series and characters and events in the previous books (mostly the first) play a heavy role in this one. Which leaves me kind ofThis is third in the series and characters and events in the previous books (mostly the first) play a heavy role in this one. Which leaves me kind of torn because the earlier books are definitely helpful, but this one is so very much better than the others that it's a shame that they're first. Seriously, if you can put up with references to past events you just know are depicted elsewhere I recommend starting here. Donovan does a good-enough job explaining everything that needs explaining in this one. I think.
I just loved this story. It starts strong and never lets up and only falters very slightly at the very end. And even then I'm going to give it a pass because I loved Tanyalee and Dante just so very much. I'm not sure if Donovan just did a fantastic job skirting the edge of cliché without falling in (you can make a case for insta-love, manic-pixie-dream girl, and intrusive fate) or if I was just so into the story that I decided to accept the best possible reading of the motivations and events. At any rate, I know I'm gushing a little bit and I'm just going to roll with it.
The thing is, Tanyalee is such a strong character and so engaging in her quest for redemption that I was emotionally invested early and strongly. Someone coming out of rehab is at their very most vulnerable as they start the difficult process of using the newly learned skills and routines in the real world. It's clear from the start that her rehab was honest and likely complete, but it's also clear that the pre-rock-bottom woman had dug a world of hurt for herself and that it would take some uncommon strength to go where she knew she had to go. Asking forgiveness and making amends are some of the toughest steps on the road to recovery and I just loved Tanyalee's determination and courage in pursuit of becoming healthy.
And Dante is a dream without being too perfect to believe. So he's good too. Also, buff Special Agent with that bone-deep protective vibe gets me every. single. time.
If you read my review of the second book, you'll know I'm not a fan of the thriller aspects in Donovan's stories. It's as weak in this one as it is in the others. Only, it's also a heck of a lot less present and doesn't really change anything important about the characters. That final thriller bit was pretty laughable in a lot of ways, but at least the main characters didn't do anything egregiously stupid or completely out of left field.
So maybe I dropped the overall rating to 4.5 rounding to five. Or maybe I just didn't care and left it at five. I don't know and since there's no visible difference in the GR rating system, five stars it is...
A note about Steamy: There are two explicit sex scenes. They're integral to the story and character arc (even though effectively bookending it), though, which tends to lower their impact on my steam tolerance. So this is on the border between light and medium for me, though it might register higher for others....more
I made it 3/4 through before I just had to stop. Which is sad because I totally loved the first third or so. This is a great setup with Lane and JamieI made it 3/4 through before I just had to stop. Which is sad because I totally loved the first third or so. This is a great setup with Lane and Jamie being a really good surface match and the brother, Simon, being a much more subtle (but complete) one. That dynamic had the kernel of a good story in it but it dragged on. way. too. long. The problem is that the reader knows that every single sign that Lane gets about Jamie's "hidden depths" come from Simon's experience and observations. And that breaks the narrative once it persists long enough. And that turning point happened at about the middle of the novel. I kept waiting for there to be some other conflict or emotional arc or wrinkle but no luck. There's only so long I can put up with Lane thinking "there's this splinter that keeps me from being completely committed to this relationship, but I'll ignore it for a little longer for, er, reasons."
So I felt increasingly picked-on as the essential deception continued and by the time I stopped it had gone on long enough to amount to relationship fraud—with both Jamie and Simon guilty of collusion, frankly. Which broke my sympathy for the Simon/Lane potential because who works to deceive someone they respect or even just like mildly in their romantic endeavors? It's a dick move and having the two brothers engage in it together completely tanks both.
So I had to stop. Maybe Lane can end up with one of her BOYBAND crushes in my head. Or something. Sigh....more
I really enjoyed this, though not without some bumps. Christian and Venetia were lovely, with lots of drama pulling them apart and I didn't even mindI really enjoyed this, though not without some bumps. Christian and Venetia were lovely, with lots of drama pulling them apart and I didn't even mind the conceit of falling in love while she covered her face. Nor how harsh things turned for a while (because it was earned and expected).
I wasn't so much a fan of Venetia turning coward quite so thoroughly towards the end, but even that would have had me rounding a 4.5 up. Unfortunately, that was never in question because Thomas kept throwing in boring PoVs from people around Venetia—namely, her sister and sister-in-law. Helena (the sister) is more than a little pathetic (yearning after a married "artistic" idiot who needed help from his girlfriend to get himself published). Seriously, she read a good five to ten years younger than her 27 just from the swooning around after someone obviously weak and incompetent. Millie, the sister-in-law, was such a sorry little thing in unrequited love with her own husband that it was hard to spend time in her PoV because you know she's being set up for her own book. Which means you also know there will be no movement on her pining/yearning/doe-eyed nonsense until then. Also: their whole deal to not have sex for eight years strained credulity.
Worse, though, these PoV shifts were shoe-horned in at awkward places where they broke the momentum and plot into tiny little pieces. Very inelegantly done, I think.
So 3.5 stars rounding to four just because I really liked the central couple and that they fell so completely in love by getting to know one another (though the sexy times obviously didn't hurt, either).
A note about Steamy: There are two explicit sex scenes, but the second is beyond short. So this is the low end of my steam tolerance, even though the two leads are going at it like bunnies (just off-screen). Thomas chose to stick with the emotionally significant events and I think that worked out rather well....more
This story is a real mess. In pretty much every dimension. Vivian is a mess of contradictions with a life and lifestyle I never did fully buy. Henry dThis story is a real mess. In pretty much every dimension. Vivian is a mess of contradictions with a life and lifestyle I never did fully buy. Henry ditto, actually, and in largely the same way. I never escaped the feeling that they were both floating through the story touching down now and then for a scene but never with a purpose or goal or anything. It doesn't help that I never got any sense of chemistry between them or a sense of why they'd end up together or be good for one another.
And it didn't help that Vivian has a giant case of negative motivation*. That might have been overcome if I'd had any sense that her career mattered to her, but it turns out it doesn't in anything but the author saying it does. She was only busy when she wanted to be and had scads of time whenever she needed it so there was no sense of sacrifice of effort, just something she could fling up any time feelz threatened.
And Henry had a lighter case of the same malady. Really, it felt like Gibson was just phoning this one in, the character motivation and plot were so light. And don't get me started on the broody cloud he stands under most of the book about being the family secret keeper. That just got tedious (though some of the secrets were kinda juicy once we got details).
I was debating giving this three stars on a pity play (because I often like Gibson and I was engaged enough it wasn't painful to pick up each time) until I tripped on a pet peeve that blew me out. Yes, Gibson resorted to a (view spoiler)[surprise pregnancy that forces the couple to get together. Worse, it's absolutely and perfectly clear that even though both had fallen in love (and had said the magic words), they were never, ever, ever going to get back together. It was literally months and both were starting the recovery from broken hearts when Vivian finally figured it out. Worse, Henry had to learn from tabloids rather than Vivian pulling on her big-girl panties and letting him know he was going to be a daddy (hide spoiler)]. Everything after that was irrevocably tainted. And frankly, Vivian got tiresome. In fact, I couldn't help feeling like the grand gesture was hers to give, not receive! Bah, so very much fail.
So two stars it is for this mess of a story whose only redeeming feature is that Gibson is a talented writer with some dialogue that didn't suck.
A note about production values: This book had a noticeable lack of copy editing. Dropped words, repeated phrases, and one or two cases of homonym-abuse. Seriously, this was an incredibly unprofessional production. It was never unclear, but the stuttering was pretty bad.
A note about Steamy: There were two explicit sex scenes and both were so-so. Middle of my steam tolerance, though on the low side, really. And yeah, lots of superlatives were used, but I find I didn't buy them any more than I bought the rest of the character interactions or emotional arc.
* Negative Motivations: I kind of hate that the term "negative motivation" isn't widespread, yet. Since it isn't, I'm going to save off this little jag to append to my reviews that feature the term. Jennifer Crusie blogged about it a bit back and it changed how I understand story. The problem with the term is that if you've never heard it before, you'd assume it meant motivations that are harmful or immoral. Not so. What it refers to is motivations not to do something. The thing is that many of us are motivated to not do things for a lot of different, perfectly valid and reasonable, reasons. The problem is that in a story motivations to not do things are a huge drag on the plot—particularly considering the fact that most negative motivations are overcome by the character simply deciding they don't care any more (or, rather, that they do care and are now motivated to do the thing). So not only do you have a counter to action but you also have a situation where to overcome it, all a character has to do is change their mind. Which means eventually, the reader is rooting for the character to get over him/herself already and do the thing we want them to do. Conflict drives story. Conflict between a reader and a main character drives readers away from story....more
Just as good as Awkward, maybe better. Jenson is so sweet and trying so hard and I love how well Chmakova pulls us into his perspective and why he doeJust as good as Awkward, maybe better. Jenson is so sweet and trying so hard and I love how well Chmakova pulls us into his perspective and why he doesn't even realize he's being bullied, even as he adopts patterns and mechanisms to avoid the pain. Chmakova is a talented artist and storyteller and does such a fantastic job depicting the protohumans of middle school in all their messed-up glory. And I'm really glad she chose a graphical format for theses stories. She says at the end that "expressions are 99.999% of what makes a character". And for these stories, she's exactly right (and she nails her characters every page, every frame).
I'm not one who will seek out her art on the internet or go out of my way to devour her books. But I'll absolutely let myself be dragged through it all by my daughter who is an enthusiastic fan......more
I just devoured this story. It's a comic, so a fast read, but I was just so charmed by it that I didn't want to put it down for even a moment. ChmakovI just devoured this story. It's a comic, so a fast read, but I was just so charmed by it that I didn't want to put it down for even a moment. Chmakova so perfectly captures that age and the concerns and social dynamics. I really loved both the affection and clarity that engages memory, sympathy, and even a little healing by taking those awkward dynamics and illustrating a way through them that was both plausible and hopeful. It doesn't hurt, of course, that Peppi and Jaime are such wonderfully realistic people and so carefully drawn (both literally and, uh, figuratively...).
Plus, I have the added bonus of looking forward to gushing about it with my enthusiastic daughter tomorrow. I love when she gets engaged with something because she throws her whole heart over and this is a love I can share in that same way. Worth all the stars even before that part, but that's always a boost....more