Clara is the sweet girl who plays a villain on a soap opera. Her last boyfriend ditched her publicly because she had no interest in living up to her primadonna stereotype, but luckily the handsome and rich Jared Blackheath was there to pick up the pieces and whisk her away to his love mansion for weeks. She had such a good time that she forgot about her own sister's wedding.
When Clara and Jared get to the wedding, Clara finds that Jared is acting odd - he's tense and angry, and it seems to be directed entirely towards her new brother-in-law. But why?!?!?!
I bought this HQ manga because it was only $0.99. I really like the format of these books, and I think it's a great way to rekindle interest in old romance novels (the original version of this story was published in 1998). They have a fun, old-fashioned feel that makes them charming rather than outdated. Tellingly, no one in these books, not even the rich people, have mobile phones or laptop computers.
The art in here is good. It's not amazing, but it definitely suits the story and doesn't do anything weird... except for Clara's face on the cover. The derpy thing she has going on with the duck face is a little strange. Also, these manga usually open with a full-color panel and for SOME reason, the one in here looks as though it's been colored in with crayon.
As for the story... ehhhh. I've read a lot of "family sekrits" romance novels and this one is pretty stock. I felt bad for Jared, but I was glad he was able to come to some sort of closure in the end (albeit, at terrible cost). There's an incredibly insensitive old lady character in this book who oh-so-casually drops a tragedy bomb after being all, "Oh, I remember you!" ...Guess who's not getting invited to any more dinner parties?
For $0.99 this was decent, though. Manga is usually pretty pricey, and for what I paid, I have to say that this was pretty solid.
Just when you thought that those Harlequin Presents romance novels couldn't get any fluffier, someone got the ingenious idea of turning them into Japanese-style josei manga. God bless that person, I say. Truly a woman (or man) after my own heart.
Genna is a lawyer hoping to make partner. One day, while sitting outside, she hears this sexy-voiced dude in the garden of her law firm sweet-talking a lady under a magnolia tree. She couldn't see them, but her imagination ran away with her and now she can't get that guy's voice out of her mind.
Nick, Genna's friend, is her friend and her boss. She likes him like a brother, but there's something between them that's not quite platonic.
When her firm has a Halloween party, Genna goes in costume and recognizes the man from the garden (wearing a mask). They end up having an affair, but always in the dark, always anonymously. Part of her wonders who it is... but she's not quite ready to shatter the illusion. I'm a sucker for mistaken identity tropes, so obviously when I realized what this was, I was like :D
I really enjoyed this manga. The art style is gorgeous (sometimes the styles can be a bit hit-or-miss). It actually reminds me of some of the manhwa I really liked in college - for whatever reason, Korean-style manga is much more elaborate and ornate, and that's the style Watanabe's work reminds me of.
I also really liked the story. It's hot. There's great chemistry, the dialogue is good, and the case Nick and Genna are working on parallels their own relationship, in a way, which I always like. Meta is the new black, and all that. I honestly would have given this five stars, except Genna punches Nick in the face and bruises his mouth when he does something that she sees as a "betrayal." And honestly, I'm so over that "women impotently expressing outrage via physical violence" shtick. Hitting is not okay, and she literally had no reason to hit him. It was an overreaction in the extreme.
Apart from that, though, WHISPER was a great story, easily the best Harlequin manga I've read so far. I'm really growing to love these. I rolled my eyes a little when I first saw them, thinking they were a silly cash grab, but some of these artists are incredibly talented and really bring the stories to life. Plus - the outfits! And the scenery! It's glorious!
This is a Nenia and Sarah BR brought to you by Kindle Clean Out Club Productions. Tired of hoarding ebooks and not reading them? Now, in 200-550 easy steps, you can! No, but seriously, if it weren't for this forum, I'd be way more behind on my to-read list. It is The Best. If your Kindle is also out of control, join our group and make us of this forum! I'm always looking for new partners in crime.
First, a disclaimer. I received a free copy of this book to review a while ago. I don't think it particularly biased me one way or the other, since I'm an assh*le and have no problem rating the books I receive - for free - one star, but just in case it did bias me, now you know. NOW YOU KNOW.
HOW THE DUKE WAS WON is kind of like a Regency era version of The Bachelor. James, Duke of Harland ("His Disgrace"), needs to get married for business. He decides the best way of going about this is inviting four ladies - and their mothers - to his estate for three days to choose which of them would make the best duchess. Which I guess would make this The Duchlerette?
Charlene - a totally accurate 1800s name that does not scream Dolly Parton-esque country music singer at all, no ma'am - is the daughter of a famous courtesan. The creepy dude the two of them are indebted to, Grant, is about to call her in for their debts, and just to prove that he's a total creep, he's tried to brand her with an iron to make her his. Charlene is also afraid for her younger sister Lulu (these names guys, omg) who she is trying to shield from their family's unsavory history.
As it turns out, Charlene is the half-sister of one of the women who's been invited to the Duchlerette, Dorothea. Her mother, a countess, proposes a My Fair Lady-esque transformation, lasting just long enough for Charlene to compromise the duke, thereby landing a proposal and allowing Dorothea to swoop in and claim her regal prize.
WHAT COULD GO WRONG?*
Most of my friends didn't like this book, which always has me worried. I can definitely see why HOW THE DUKE WAS WON could rub people the wrong way. It is not on the scale of Lisa Kleypas or Courtney Milan, and the dialogue is rather laughably modern with the characters all behaving in highly unconventional ways with no consequences. If you like historical accuracy, the names of the characters alone should have you tossing this down and fleeing the other way.
For a fluff piece, however, it's quite enjoyable. I liked Charlene as a character, with her penchant for martial arts as taught to her by her Japanese bodyguard, her devotion to her younger sister, and her very compelling reason for agreeing to this scam in the first place (Grant is a creep). James was a good character too. He was an alpha male without being brutish or creepy and I liked him a lot. The sex scenes in here are pretty steamy, too. Not too graphic, but definitely not fade-to-black either.
Overall, I enjoyed Lenora Bell's HOW THE DUKE WAS WON. I'd read more in this series for sure.
I'm working my way through an omnibus edition of Maugham's work, and man, he can write. I'm torn between the impulse to swim leisurely through his prose or just gleefully cannonball into it. Unlike some writers of this time, Maugham is not particularly flowery, but he has an interesting way of presenting ideas and constructing sentences that makes you want to read over them several times, just to appreciate their ideas and form.
MOON AND SIXPENCE, which could just as easily be called "Portrait of the Artist as a Douche," is based loosely off the life of the artist, Paul Gauguin. I tried to pronounce his name several times, ineffectively, ranging from gewgaw, to Google, to gaijin. As it turns out, the way it's actually pronounced makes him sound like a creature from a Japanese monster movie (it rhymes with "Rodan"), which is only the first way this book surprised me.
Strickland seems like he has the ideal of the moderately successful life: a wife, children, a good job with steady pay. But he is discontent, and one day, coldly decides to leave his wife and job and go to Paris, living in squalor. Why? So he can paint. The confusion of his family, neighbors, and the narrator himself is palpable. To paint? Not because of madness, or because of another woman - but just... for art? For art's sake, and not for fame?
The narrator follows Strickland, as he wrecks yet another marriage, paints more art, and eventually goes to Tahiti, where he finds the climate agreeable and even obtains one of the locals as a "wife." The whole time he is cruel and scornful, dismissive of others' feelings, wants, or desires, and even his own comfort. Everything must be sacrificed for art. Ultimately, I'd say this is a tragedy, because that vision ends up consuming Strickland; he pours his entire being into his art, and like many artists, it isn't until he's dead that his work becomes first a curiosity and then something far more powerful.
A lot of my friends did not enjoy this book and I can certainly see why. Strickland is a jerk, and so is the narrator. There's a casually dismissive attitude towards the things that people generally consider worthy in a human being: compassion, empathy, loyalty, family, kindness, charity, etc. Art here is portrayed as something wholly selfish, and the message here seems to be that it is somehow okay; that an artist is allowed to be an egotist, because self-absorption is necessary for introspection. I don't like that message, so I can see why some people might write off MOON AND SIXPENCE as too dark and grim and irritating. However, I found myself fascinated by these terrible characters.
I enjoyed this book a lot. I've read Maugham before and really liked his work, so this isn't really surprising. His other book was more of a comedy of manners, though; it was nothing like this. I'm really looking forward to working my way through his repertoire and seeing how his stories vary, while enjoying his beautiful writing and compelling, yet flawed characters.
I'm really starting to get into these Harlequin manga. The short, breezy romances translate really well to comic book format & have plots that wouldn't be out of place in most shoujo or josei storylines. This one, HUSBAND-TO-BE sounds cheesy AF, but it's actually pretty cute.
Rachel has a degree in zoology but right now she's hopping from job to overqualified job, mostly as a temp or a secretary. One day, she meets an explorer millionaire named Grant who wants her to work for him because of her unique background.
Both Grant and Rachel are engaged to other people. Rachel's seeing this mansplainer named Driscoll who resents her for her intelligence and sees her as either a tool or an impediment to his own future, depending on what he wants from her at the time. Grant is seeing a woman named Oliva, who is the stereotypical classy blonde mean lady that is so common in romance novels, but she's also smart and runs Grant's affairs for him when he's not around. Despite this, Grant and Rachel feel a connection, & find themselves attracted to one another despite knowing they shouldn't.
I don't normally like stories about cheating and this book was no exception. I take issue with the fact that the author went out of her way to make both fiance(e) as unappealing as possible in order to make the cheating "okay." One of my friends on Goodreads actually posted a review about this pretty recently regarding her feelings on the subject and I really agreed with what she said: she said that if your relationship is that messed up, it's better in the long-term to just break up, and that having another relationship on the side just makes you the bad guy, in a way. Which I think makes sense.
I did like Rachel as a heroine, though. She has a pet tarantula, has short hair, and dresses kind of like a hipster. I liked that she was smart and into science, and she was capable, too. Later on in the story, when there's danger, she doesn't scream and panic. This story was quite a bit different from the last Harlequin manga I read, which was SALZANO'S CAPTIVE BRIDE, and that was much more in line with the stereotypical tropes of alphahole hero and uber-passive heroine.
Overall, I quite liked this book for what it was, although I don't think the title does it justice or even really conveys what the book is actually about. That is one seriously crappy title.
TRUMP IS F*CKING CRAZY is adapted from Keith Olbermann's series, The Resistance, which can be found on YouTube if you're interested. I haven't watched it, but from what I gleaned, it's comedic political reporting in the style of Samantha Bee, intended to criticize the Commander in Tweets: DT.
I despise DT, so obviously one look at this title and I was down. Because, you know, as a liberal-leaning woman, I'm so deep in this echo chamber that all I can hear is the sound of my own "shrill" screaming.
You do know why we're repeating ourselves, though, don't you? Because nobody's listening. Or else they're pretending not to.
To be honest, I'm not sure which is worse.
I should note that if you are Team DT, you will not enjoy this book. If the news reports don't change your mind ("fake news") and the words of DT himself didn't change your mind ("locker room talk"), then this book is nothing but a single drop of "alternative facts" in the great lakes that compromise your cognitive dissonance. You're welcome to read it anyway, and probably should read it anyway, but I doubt it will make you happy. However, if you come onto this review with the intention of changing my mind or "sharing your opinion," you should know that I'm going to delete your comment and/or block you. I have zero interest in hearing your opinion, because I hear it from the man himself every g-d day, and it disgusts me. He is a despicable human being who is alienating our foreign allies while running this country into the ground and hurting the people in our society who need our help and protection and support the most, and if you support him, knowingly, despite every example to the contrary that says you should absolutely do otherwise, you're despicable, too. I stand by that.
Feel free to unfriend me over this. I no longer take it personally. I have a shelf of book reviews that have caused me to lose right-leaning friends (at this point, I'm not even sure I have any left - ha ha, "left" - but it's possible), and I'm always happy to add to it. I mean, talk about good advertising: "this book is so controversial, people will unfriend you over reading it!" I'd slap that on the front cover.
Back to this book - TRUMP IS F*CKING CRAZY knows its audience and caters to it with ruthless single-mindedness. I saw someone saying that it got repetitive after a while, and I must say that I agree. Up until about 275, I thought this would be a four-star read, but I lost steam around p. 300, and after that, I grimly skimmed the chapters until I reached the end. Olbermann is great at summing up issues and articulated many passing thoughts I had but couldn't fully express, but there's just so much going on with this administration that reliving it - again - left me feeling fatigued.
What alarmed me the most as I read through this book was how much of this I had forgotten. With new scandals happening every day, it's nearly impossible to keep everything in the forefront of one's mind. TRUMP IS F*CKING CRAZY begins during the election season, when Olbermann is certain that this clown is going to lose, and by the end, he's as bitter and jaded and angry and frustrated as all of us on the left, who are watching this demagogic, deceitful administration fan (either intentionally or inadvertently through great ignorance) the flames of hatred among our nation's most xenophobic, bigoted, violent extremists, whether it's condemning the NFL players peacefully protesting racial violence or ignoring Puerto Rico in the aftermath of a terrible national disaster, or initiating a ban that targets people not just on the basis of ethnicity but also on their religion... because one is not enough.
It's depressing, when you think about it too deeply, which is probably why most people don't. In fact, CollegeHumor just put out a video called "Now Is the Time to Do Something" that criticizes all the people sitting idly by, or acting like this is the very first instance in history where acts of injustice or incompetence have been committed on the administrative level. DT is just a symptom, not a cause. It's time for Americans to take a long, hard look in the mirror and decide for themselves what kind of a country they want to be citizens in... and why.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
As of 10/14/17, this book is $1.99 in the Kindle store!
For the most part, I don't like Sophia Kinsella/Wendy Markham books. Something about her heroines put me off, and for the longest time, I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. Then one day I realized: all her female heroines lie like they breathe. They lie over unimportant things, lie whenever they're cornered, lie to avoid conflict, lie to avoid solving problems. Lie, lie, lie. They take pathological lying to the next freaking level.
And you know what reaaaaally annoys me about that?
The way it's written, you can tell that we're supposed to find these liars so quirky and adorable and awkward. "Oh no, Ella Pants-on-Fire is afraid her boss is going to find out who released confidential information to the competitors, so she lied and said an angry mime did it. How funny! How awkward! How quaint!"
JUST HAVEN'T MET YOU YET features a heroine, Percy James, who could be fresh out of a Sophia Kinsella/Wendy Markham. She's in her twenties/thirties, with relationship issues and uncertain prospects (typical) and desperately wants to achieve happiness. So how does she do this? Lies on her CV to an interviewer to make herself more interesting. Lies to her boyfriend about where she's going and who she's seeing (she's actually going on her date with her alleged "SoulDate"). Lies to her SoulDate about not just whether she's single, but also that her mother has Malaria.
The plot is interesting and was a huge reason behind why I wanted to read this. Percy receives an invitation from an online dating company that claims to use browsing and consumer data to match people with their SoulDates - all the sites you visit and the ads you click are factored in to determine your personality and interests and, from there, your ideal match.
The problem is that Percy already has a boyfriend - a long-term boyfriend who she's about to move in with and who she's practically engaged with. Her friends caution her against the SoulDate idea (sort of - some are less opposed than others), but Percy eventually decides to do it... only, when she meets who her SoulDate actually is, she's surprised as all get out.
I felt really bad for Percy's boyfriend because he's my type of guy - you know, socially awkward, old-fashioned type. I felt like she treated him really badly. And yes, on the one hand, I get it: you can't stay with someone just to make them happy if you have no feelings at all, but you also can't just drop people like garbage. People have feelings. They aren't disposable. Percy treated romance like this thing she felt she was entitled to, and all her potential love interests in this book were just pieces that would help her to her end goal of having her happiness, and to hell with whatever they wanted.
Also, while I appreciated how one of the characters questioned her sexuality, I found it annoying how badly that was handled, too. I thought one of the other characters raised a fantastic point: you can't just use people as experiments to figure out what your sexuality is - especially if you aren't up front about the fact that you're questioning. Etiquette for LGBT+ couples is exactly the same as it is for straight couples: if one person is expecting a relationship and you're just "experimenting," for God's sake, say so up front so the other person can refuse, while fully informed, if that's not what they want.
This book annoyed me quite a bit. I couldn't put it down - I was oddly fascinated by the repulsive main character's shenanigans - but I didn't really like her as a character, and her constant lying and manipulation really got on my nerves. I think if you like Sophia Kinsella/Wendy Markham, you will like this author, as their styles are similar. Otherwise, though... no.
My sister gave me this book, with the preface that it was so disgustingly graphic that it allegedly made one of the publishers who read it vomit in his office. I wasn't sure about that, but it's listed under the book's lore on Wikipedia, so who knows? It's a bit like the tales of the paramedics who were called to screenings of the Exorcist (1973) because audiences were fainting in terror: whether these stories are true or not, it's good publicity.
I WAS DORA SUAREZ is certainly violent. It is a story of a young woman who is violently killed by an axe-murderer. The nameless detective sergeant is puzzled, because a journal left behind by the victim reveals her to be a very troubled and unhappy woman who was already dying of AIDS. What was the motive? What follows is a grim chase in which the police look for a disturbing man who has compensated for his impotence with sexual self-flagellation that can only find release in murder.
The detective sergeant is your classic "Tough Guy." Quotes added, because he's tough in the same way those obnoxious brostanding dudes in bars are tough. You know the ones, who keep saying, "Wanna go? You wanna go?" The detective sergeant is constantly threatening everyone around him, just to prove who's really in charge, and scoffs at the idea of doing anything by the book. I'm sure any real police officers who read this book would hate this noir Neanderthal. I know I did.
What redeems him a little is his utter faith in Dora, the victim. Even when it's revealed that she had AIDS - in a time when AIDS was a mostly unknown and panic-inducing disease - he feels no revulsion for her at all, only compassion and a strong desire to bring her some small amount of posthumous justice. Even when it's revealed that she's a prostitute, he doesn't care. He gets angry at his colleague, when he suggests that such a fate might have been inevitable.
Suarez was killed because she was beautiful, poor, sick and at our mercy, and we showed her none, and may our country hang its head (168).
I wouldn't say this book is necessarily vomit-inducing - I managed to read it while eating chips and drinking a beer - but it is quite disturbing and if graphic sexual and physical violence disturb you, I would not recommend this to you at all.
Reading this actually made me think of a friend - I know, that's the last thing friends want to hear, right? "I was reading this book about a serial killer and thought of you" - because she used to love dark stories like these, whether they were captive romances, old school horror, classic noir, or just experimental graphic-novels and she was actually one of the first people I thought of when I was wondering who else might appreciate this mystery. Sadly, I don't think she's on Goodreads anymore.
Anyway, this is why I like it when people gift me books - they usually aren't things I would ever pick out for myself but sometimes I end up enjoying them, regardless.
Hi, romance lovers! Great news! Did you know that Harlequin has republished some of its titles as manga? Until very recently, I didn't, either. I tried to find a news article about it, but the best I could come up with was a BBC News article from 2004 called "How Mills and Boon turned to manga comics." It's still somewhat relevant, but appears to be portraying these books as an exclusively Japanese phenomenon and that is so not the case now. I went into a comic book store just a few weeks ago and saw a couple of these puppies gathering dust on the shelf.
Honestly, the Harlequin/Mills & Boon novels translate pretty well to manga format. Shoujo/Josei manga tends to follow a simple storyline that is made complex through characterization, emotion, and various unexpected twists...just like Harlequins. The art work in this particular Harlequin manga, the cringe-worthily-named SALZANO'S CAPTIVE BRIDE, is especially vivid and lovely, and reminds me of Miwa Ueda's PEACH GIRL (one of my favorite shoujo manga series, even if it is a total soap opera).
The plot of SALZANO'S CAPTIVE BRIDE is pretty simple. It's about two sisters who live in Auckland, New Zealand. One night, Amber wakes up to find this Venezuelan dude named Carlos busting down her door. After yelling at her and manhandling her, she finds out that he hooked up with her sister, Azure (cringe), and Azure became pregnant from their one-night stand. Azure was currently "off" with her then-boyfriend and fearing the thought of raising her kid alone, sent Carlos a letter demanding money. Now that she's back together with her boyfriend, Azure doesn't want to do a paternity test or have anything to do with Carlos, because she thinks it will wreck their family.
So Carlos makes Amber a deal: he wants an heir, and he'll leave Azure alone and drop the paternity suit if she agrees to marry him and pop out a baby for him in Azure's stead. LOLwhat.
This is a romance novel, so obviously Amber falls for Carlos despite this terrible arrangement. He takes her to his love nest - I mean, mansion - in Venezuela and introduces her to his large, perfect family. The book is pretty short, and the vast majority of the scenes are about sex, preludes to sex, or emotional declarations pertaining to the two former. Also, babies. Carlos is definitely an alpha, but he isn't rapey (sexually agressive, yes but there is no dub-con, here). In fact, he explicitly says that he's willing to wait until the heroine is ready and she's the one who asks for it/makes the 1st move.
I really enjoyed this book. I bought it for myself as a fun little present because I was feeling sick last night and couldn't sleep. I loved the art work and the storyline was entertaining and easy to follow. I would definitely read more of these Harlequin manga. I've actually got my eye on one by Junko Okada/Lynne Graham that looks AMAZING: it's called THE SHEIKH'S PRIZE, but at nearly $5 for just over 100 pages it's a bit out of my budget. Let me know if it goes on sale, ASAP. Deal?
P.S. This is published Japanese-style, so yes, it is read "backwards," from right to left.
He lies in the room surrounded by pale maps. He is without Katharine. His hunger wishes to burn down all social rules, all courtesy.
Her life with others no longer interests him. He wants only her stalking beauty, her theatre of expressions. He wants the minute and secret reflections between them, the depth of field minimal, their foreignness intimate like two pages of a closed book (155).
I've had this book for about five years. My mom gave it to me. Sometimes she gives me books because she thinks I should read them, and other times she gives me books because she thinks I should try to read them. THE ENGLISH PATIENT falls into the latter category. If you asked me to describe this book in one word, I think I'd chose "overwrought." Sometimes the writing is beautiful (see quote above), but other times (many times) it's purple to the point of nonsensical, for example describing a peen as a "seahorse."
The plot is kind of strange. It's about four people - a nurse, a bomb defuser, a thief, and a burned patient - all living in this abandoned villa post-WWII. That sounds like it should be interesting, but in the first third of the book, the characters drift without purpose, swimming through the heavy-handed prose like sluggish fish. The story doesn't really get interesting until the last two thirds of the story, where the eponymous English patient finally tells his story of espionage and doomed romance.
Not really my thing. There are better WII stories out there.
The Kindle freebie section can be a cesspool of literary garbage, but once in a while, you dredge up a total gem. THE KILLING MOON, named after an Echo & the Bunnymen song, is like a cross between one of those gritty early 00's paranormal romances and the movie, The Silence of the Lambs.
Dana was kidnapped and tortured by a werewolf named Cole, but their relationship was complicated before that, and became way more complicated afterwards. Now he's locked up and she's a professional werewolf tracker, and she's forced to interact with him yet again because of information he may or may not have about a bunch of werewolf-related murders. It's painfully clear how damaged she is psychologically, and the struggle between the mind and the heart is clear as she struggles to resist the manipulative Cole.
I thought the murder mystery part was very well done. The pacing was excellent and the flashbacks heightened tension and improved the storyline instead of bogging it down. Dana was a sympathetic main character and even though she made some stupid decisions, I felt like they were in line with her character and they never bordered on TSTL - because she's one seriously F'd up piece of work.
Cole was actually sexy and that's testament to the author's skills, in my opinion, that she managed to turn a werewolf serial killer into an attractive love interest. The sexual tension between him and Dana was seriously off the charts. I think what makes it work is that it's clear that he respects Dana and understands her. He's not an alphahole. Avery was also a great male character and I couldn't decide whether I wanted Dana to end up with him or Cole. Hollis, on the other hand? Total slime-bucket. Hated him immediately and wanted him dead by the end. Boooo!
THE KILLING MOON has some disturbing content (rape, gore, kidnapping, etc.), but it was nothing too graphic in my opinion, and it never felt gratuitous. The pacing is tight and I was actually almost late for work one morning because I just had to find out what happened next. I really enjoyed the story and the tone of THE KILLING MOON and am definitely interested in reading the sequel(s).
THE NIGHT SHE WON MISS AMERICA is "loosely" based on a true story, and written by an author who is an editor at Vanity Fair. (It's funny that he's actually a journalist, because I was thinking to myself that this has the spare, matter-of-fact style of writing you see in books like THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS.) When I read the summary, this didn't seem like something I would normally pick up for myself, but I really loved the cover and the prospect of a beauty pageant derailed by scandal was just too great to resist.
THE NIGHT SHE WON MISS AMERICA is set in 1949. The heroine, Betty Jane, is blackmailed by her mother into signing up for the pageant. She doesn't expect to make it to finals, let alone win, but obviously...she does. It's all terribly exciting for a girl who comes from Delaware, and she is dazzled and excited to find out that the male escort selected for her is as handsome as a movie star, and falls for him instantly.
What follows is a whirlwind romance between Betty Jane and Griffin, as Betty rises higher in the ranks of the competition. There's just one small hitch in her happiness: Griffin tells her that if she wins, he won't have anything to do with her anymore: that he doesn't want to be known as "Ms. America's Boyfriend." Betty Jane doesn't take him seriously, but when she wins, and he's more than ready to call her bluff and leave, Betty Jane is forced to give up her crown and abscond with him -
The only problem? Griffin has paranoid schizophrenia.
The moment I realized what was going on, I'll admit that I held my breath. Mental illness is often demonized in thrillers and horror novels, and schizophrenia especially gets a bum rap. Callahan does treat Griffin's character with care. Yes, he's scary, but the reader feels sorry for him - especially since this was written to characterize a time when mental health treatments were still in their infancy, and what was available often fringed on cruel and unusual. Griffin is a tragic figure, instead of an evil one, and as he slips deeper into his episodes, the book winds to its devastating finish.
The end of the book is so different from the beginning of the book in tone that it's almost like two separate stories. The first story is a small town girl making friends and enemies as she competes against girls who can be catty, sneaky, encouraging, and friendly by turns, all of them knowing that only one can win. It has a fun, snarky chick-lit vibe to it that I really enjoyed. The second story is about a doomed romance founded on instant attraction between two young characters. Also, in the background, set in the modern day, is a reporter who is determined to hunt down this isolated woman who was involved in some great scandal...hmm, I wonder who that was.
Overall, I thought THE NIGHT SHE WON MISS AMERICA was a pretty good book. I can see why it has low ratings, because the story is inconsistent in tone, but I thought the writing was quite good and the story kept me entertained, and the book went by rather incredibly quickly. If you enjoy reading about beauty pageants or tragedies (or both!), I think you'll enjoy this one.
You know, I was surprised (and amused) that I was given a copy of this book to review at all considering some of the things I've said about some of this author's other books. There's a scene in here, where the main character, Helena, writes a scathing four-page letter to one of the author characters in this book, detailing every single one of the book's flaws in pedantic detail. I did something very similar with one of TORRE's earlier books, BLINDFOLDED INNOCENCE (I was perhaps harsher then than I would be now - but oh, friends and neighbors, how I despised that book). I tried HOLLYWOOD DIRT, and hated that, too. It wasn't until I read THE GIRL IN 6E that I began to thaw towards this author just a little bit. She had talent, and could tell a good story: I just hated the stories she was telling. Finally, I can say that there is at least one Torre book I liked.
Helena Ross is a best-selling romance author. She's a big-name and publishing houses fall over themselves to court her. Her agent bends over backwards for her, despite Helena's lists of rules and cold and entitled approach to dealing with other human beings. They do this because no matter how high maintenance she is, Helena's a safe bet that always pays off. It seems that, when it comes to writing, at least, Helena is the poster girl for literary achievement with her whole life ahead of her. But she doesn't.
She has terminal, inoperable cancer, and a prognosis of three months at the most.
She also has a final story to tell. That's where the title comes into play. Helena decides to hire someone, a ghost-writer, to help her tell this story before time runs out. It's a grim, awful story... one that helps to explain how she became so cold and bitter, and why, even though she starts out with a vision of the perfect family, she ended up jaded and alone in her early thirties. She isn't sure whether it will succeed or fail, and she doesn't care - she just wants it done right.
Helena Ross is probably one of the most unlikable characters I have encountered in a while. It's impressively done, I thought, especially since Torre manages to portray her sympathetically. It made me sad how she poured her whole life into her books at the cost of everything else. I felt like that was a cautionary tale - that creativity can make people selfish, blinded by their vision, and that it's important that one doesn't let work consume them or harden their heart. I found it very fitting that Helena was able to forgive herself and find release only when she finally let go of that need for control.
I can't say much more without spoiling the book, which I do not want to do. I think I can safely say that if you're a fan of Jodi Picoult or Jojo Moyes, you'll probably enjoy reading THE GHOST WRITER. It's emotionally manipulative in some ways, and definitely a tear-jerker (I won't lie - I teared up at the end), but it also makes some very insightful commentary on humanity, writing, family, relationships, and the importance of living one's life in the moment instead of behind a screen.
Or in a book.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
My romance group read CINDER for our Science Fiction Romance theme read, and it was such a hit that a number of us decided to go ahead and group read the sequel, SCARLET, as well. I'm always super leery when it comes to hyped-up YA books - especially retellings with shiny covers, because 9 times out of 10 I end up not liking them - but CINDER was such an unexpected delight that I, too, was eager to read the sequel.
SCARLET beings where CINDER ends, but with a new character named Scarlet taking the lead. Unlike the last book, which is set in Beijing, this book is set in the French countryside. Scarlet delivers produce while she looks for her missing grandmother, and on one of these excursions she meets a mysterious brawler named Wolf. Pretty soon, it becomes apparent that her grandmother's disappearance has some sinister implications and that Wolf, who she finds more attractive than she should, might have something to do with her disappearance in the first place.
At the same time, Cinder is breaking free from jail with a Captain (who I think is American) named Thorne. They're flying around in a spaceship that has Iko's chip in it, so picture a gabbing, gossiping, super-happy spaceship being piloted by people who are grim and on the run, and you get an idea of what that's like. Kai, meanwhile, is in Beijing, and spends his time between mooning after Cinder and making the same damn mistakes that he made in the first book. I felt sorry for him in the first book because he was naive and didn't know any better, but what do they say about fooling you twice? I no longer feel sorry for Kai. He's hot, but man, is he incompetent. Epic fail.
Part of the reason I liked CINDER was because it really let me get to know the heroine, CINDER. I wasn't sure about her in the beginning, but then I began to sympathize with her and by the end, I really admired her resourcefulness. SCARLET wasn't like that - it has way too many characters crammed into it. Just when we, the readers, finally got an opportunity to get to know Scarlet, Cinder & co. barged in to steal the limelight. The end result is that Cinder's arc is further refined, whereas Scarlet's storyline is just kind of crammed in there, so she never really graduates beyond shouty, immature dolt, and her love story comes across as super rushed and insta-lovey.
I liked Wolf, but I think that's because his conflict is so much more traumatic and apparent. It's so awful what's been done to him. In one of Levana's POVs towards the end, you really understand why he's so F'd in the head, and it's really, really sad.
I'd read further in the series, but at this point, I have to say that SCARLET is not as good as CINDER at all. CINDER shocked and delighted me, even though it was cliche and part of the reason it did this so well is because the storyline is relatively simple and easy to follow. SCARLET, on the other hand, sets out to accomplish way too much, with way too many characters, and ends up accomplishing far too little. The action doesn't even pick up until about 100 pages to the end, and while that may be acceptable in 900-page behemoths like OUTLANDER or GAME OF THRONES, it isn't at all, here.
As of 10/04/17, this book is currently only $1.99 for Kindle.
I really enjoyed this little book. Granted, my hopes were low. I'd looked through the reviews of DARKWATER and many of them were saying that DARKWATER was dull and flat, with a raging Mary Sue of a heroine who wouldn't STFU.
To my surprise, I found myself with a rather delightful Gothic romance written in the vein of such popular favorites as Victoria Holt or Patricia Maxwell (AKA, Jennifer Blake). Better yet, I got to buddy read it with one of my new Goodreads friends, Elena.
Fanny is the ward of some awful relations. Her uncle, Edgar, is an enabler to his cold and greedy wife, Louisa, and air-headed, vain daughter, Amelia. Much to the rage and annoyance of Louisa and Amelia, Fanny is far prettier than Amelia, the heiress, and is constantly turning heads despite being poor. When Edgar finds out he has two new wards to take care of, he's the only one who seems indifferent, even pleased. Louisa is annoyed and Amelia, disenchanted. Fanny is the only member of the family who truly harbors a soft spot for the young children, and despite having planned to use their pick-up as a chance to escape, voluntarily stays on in order to care for and nanny them.
I just want to pause here, and say that I often hate seeing children in fiction because they're either way too precocious and cutesy, or else used as plot points without much in the way of characterization. These children, Nolly (Olivia) and Marcus were incredibly well-written and actually acted like children (i.e. at times sweet, at other times, bratty). They added a lot of comic relief but they also stood on their own as characters. I also thought that Fanny's family was well done. Amelia was far from being the b*tchy, jealous rival... she had moments of thoughtless kindness, and even Louisa had some humanizing emotions. I felt like that made their dynamic so much more interesting.
Oh, and then there's George. Fanny's creepy, "no maybe means yes" cousin. Ew, George. Ew.
The love interest, Adam Marsh, appears mysteriously (such is the way of the gothic romance) and leaves just as mysteriously. When he returns, he seems more interested in Amelia than Fanny (much to Fanny's devastating) and he strings Fanny along while cavorting with Amelia, which I really disliked him for. Obviously there is an explanation towards the end, but I so did not buy that.
Call me slow, but I didn't guess the perpetrator(s) until the very end. I wasn't trying to figure it out, though. I was reading DARKWATER in between reading Stephen King's IT, and this cozy mystery was the perfect balm for sleepless nights inspired by psychotic, murder-happy clowns. I just sat back and let the story carry me away, and found myself pleasantly surprised by the journey.
If you enjoy Gothic novels, this is a great addition to the collection. I want to read more Eden now!
"I am Theta born. Theta bred. And when I die, I'll be Theta dead."
I find sororities fascinating because they're so paradoxical. The bond of sisterhood and friendship is very affirming, very feminist; but the upholding of stereotypical gender norms and extreme femininity is kind of the opposite of feminism. Naturally, whenever I find something fascinating, I try to read about it as much as I can. PRETTY, NASTY, LOVELY is the second sorority-themed book I've managed to get my grubby mitts on. The first was called RUSH, and it was straight-up chick-lit that captures perfectly the party culture mentality of the mid-2000s. PRETTY, NASTY, LOVELY, on the other hand, is a thriller cast in the mold of Megan Abbott's girl noir fiction.
Emma Danelski joined a sorority because she was looking for that bond of sisterhood. She sort of found it, but only with the other outcasts; her relationship with the other girls is fraught with tension and a sense of betrayal. She was courted during Rush, only to be shoved aside as soon as she began paying her dues. Not only that, but Emma quickly realizes that the other girls have problems of their own that run the gamut from eating disorders to blackmail, and have no time for her own issues. And Emma does have issues. She is guarding a terrible secret that some of the other girls lord over her, and that secret threatens to come to light when one of her sisters, a troubled girl named Lydia, is found dead.
Everyone thinks it's suicide. But is it, really?
PRETTY, NASTY, LOVELY doesn't have a lot of reviews or hype, which shocked me, because books like these - thrillers about troubled women - have become so trendy with the success of titles like THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and GONE GIRL. PRETTY, NASTY, LOVELY is more Megan Abbott than Gillian Flynn, and I was honestly shocked that the publisher didn't jump at the opportunity to tout that similarity in the blurb (even though I loathe such "If you liked X, then you'll just loooooove Y!"-type comparisons). The problem, I think, is that it has no clear audience. The parts narrated by Emma (and, occasionally, some of the other girls) are very much new adult. But then, bizarrely, some of the adults have POVs too, like Dr. Finn, who is dealing with an obsessive and emotionally manipulative wife as well as his guilt over being unable to prevent Lydia's death, and Dean Cho, who wants to create a suicide prevention task force, as well as help the cops with the investigation to the best of her ability, but whose heavy-handedness harms more than it helps.
There are a lot of great subjects in here, important, controversial subjects - suicide, abortion, mental health, racism, classicism, psychological disorders, family, sisterhood, friendship, marriage, etc. - and for the most part, I felt that the author handled them pretty well, which made me think of Megan Abbott again because she handles a lot of those dark, unpleasant sides of girlhood and womanhood, the grit underneath the glamor, so to speak, no matter how unpleasant it is to read about.
This book would have scored a higher rating for me, if it weren't for the fact that (1) I felt like it attempted to accomplish too much, and ended up glancing on a lot of stuff it should have fleshed out more and wallowing in material that could have been cut; (2) the predictability of the ending and the villain(s); and (3) the bad way the POV swaps were handled. They were not labeled, and sometimes occurred mid-chapter, so it could be difficult to keep track of who had the floor at the moment.
That said, I think if you enjoy Megan Abbott's work, you'll probably enjoy this. I know I did.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
When I first read the summary for this book, I thought, "Wow, this sounds a lot like WarGames." Unfortunately for this book, and for me, it was more like Spy Kids 3: Game Over. I think my biggest qualm with this book, apart from the heroine Emika, who I spent most of the beginning of this book wanting to slap, was the fact that it reads like it was written by someone who has never really played an MMORPG. I gamed pretty seriously for about fifteen years, so when I get a book about video games, I judge them based on that. I think WARCROSS desperately wanted to be like READY PLAYER ONE, but the author appeared to lack that firsthand knowledge and passion for the subject, so the NeuroLink and WarCross came off as a rather pale and weak imitation of OASIS. (God, what wouldn't I give for a real-life OASIS.)
The summary is pretty simple. Emika is a teenage hacker who is poor and uses a bootleg version of WarCross to access the site. HMM, DOES THAT SOUND LIKE READY PLAYER ONE? I THINK IT DOES. One day, she accidentally blows her cover by hacking one of the championship WarCross tournaments. The inventor of the game, Hideo Tanaka, takes an interest in Emika after that, offering her an opportunity to spy on the game to catch the perpetrator of a major security breach.
Emika ends up competing in the tournament under cover and ends up bonding with her teammates while also getting to know the elusive Tanaka more. But as she chases the evil hacker through the games, she quickly learns that morality is not as black and white as she thought - particularly not when it comes to the virtual world and, especially, technology itself. Because, you know, all books about technology have to talk about ethics. I'm not being facetious. The internet has changed a lot of rules about what is and isn't okay. It's like being in international-freaking-waters all the flim-flammed time. Emika herself is acquainted with vigilante justice because the "criminal record" she keeps bragging about happened when she doxxed a bunch of kids (and teachers) at her old school who picked on this one girl. That was actually something I took issue with, because the book kind of goes like, "Well, this isn't okay, but also isn't Emika sooooo awesome for doing it, anyway?" And I kind of side-eyed that, because no, I don't think two wrongs make a right. I don't like vigilante justice. In fact, one of the most powerful moments in this book I'm reading right now - Diana Gabaldon's DRAGONFLY IN AMBER - occurs when Claire has the opportunity to get revenge on this girl who wronged her in the previous book, but she doesn't take it - because two wrongs don't make a right.
I also didn't really buy the romantic chemistry between Emika and Hideo. I didn't understand why he liked her so much (maybe because I didn't like her). I thought Hideo was interesting - I'm a sucker for brooding intellectual types - and I'd be excited to learn more about him, but Emika was not a very good character. She changes, too. In the beginning, she's edgy and angry and desperate, and then as soon as she gets involved in the games she becomes a blushing, chipper, go-getter, and I'm just like, "I DON'T KNOW WHO SHE IS." Both literally, and also Mariah Carey style, because F U, Emika.
Now that I've gotten the complaining (mostly) out of my system, let me talk about what worked. I loved the setting. I just got back from Japan, and Marie Lu portrays Shibuya as the futuristic, commercialistic mecca that it is. I was so overwhelmed by the sights and the crowds, and remember: this is coming from someone who spends all their time in San Francisco. Shibuya is so crowded and insane that even people who are used to big cities feel properly intimidated. Such is its marvel.
I also liked Hideo, and most of the secondary characters, too. There's great rep in here - tons of people of color (including both the heroine and the love interest); LGBT characters; one of the characters is in a wheelchair; and of course, I love the fact that the heroine is in STEM. I've started collecting stories about female characters in STEM, because I think that's so important. (If you want to check out what I've got so far, check out my stem-heroines shelf on Goodreads.)
Lastly, despite rolling my eyes at this interpretation of a cyber-world - I mean, she literally has the "dark net" in this book set up like an actual pirate bazaar LOL, with drugs just set out on tables like a frigging roadside stand and people betting on illegal things in virtual bars like they're picking out racehorses - the action sequences are very engaging. I wish this book was more reminiscent of typical MMORPGs...but oh, wait, I'm complaining again and this is supposed to be the "positive" section, ha. So yes, the action sequences were great, and despite my hang-ups, the pages went by pretty quickly once I got past that awful beginning. If the game parts themselves are like something out of Spy Kids, I'd say the rest of the book is 1/3 The Matrix, 1/3 The Hunger Games, and 1/3 Ready Player One.
It wasn't bad, and I'd read the sequel when it comes out. I guessed one of those twists (the big one), but not the more sweeping one in scope that came right before that. How Orwellian.
I've had several people recommend Jodi Ellen Malpas's work to me, so reading THE PROTECTOR felt like common sense. Plus, that cover looks just like the iconic carrying scene from The Bodyguard. I can practically hear Whitney Houston singing...
No, not "I Will Always Love You" but "Why Does It Hurt So Bad?" And by "it" I mean my brain, because reading this book gave me one mean mother of a headache.
The plot is pretty simple because there isn't much of one. Cami(lle) is the daughter of a rich magnate-type who is getting blackmailed. When Cami becomes the focus of the threats, her father hires Jake, an ex-Sniper from the SAS, to guard her body. This being a bodyguard romance novel, pretty soon he's doing far more to her body than guarding it. Also, since this is a bodyguard romance novel, Jake is naturally hiding something from Cami about his past. And naturally, she finds out about it in the worst way.
Cami is kind of like a cross between Paris Hilton and Tiffany Trump. She comes across as spoiled, but she has a business acumen as well (she wants to start her own fashion line). She also has moments of kindness, even if she's blinded by privilege. I liked her at first, because I like reading about feminine women who don't feel apologetic or ashamed by their femininity (one of the reasons Elle Woods from Legally Blonde and Cher from Clueless are my faves). Then Jake hopped on the scene and literally all she could think about was "Jake, Jake, Jake, Jake, Jake."
Jake, on the other hand, reminds me of those heroes from the Harlequin Desire line - alphahole, controlling, creepy, possessive, and manipulative. Cases in point: Using the word p*ssy and what I think is a British gay slur ("ponce"?) to refer to feminine things or emotional things and getting so jealous of the male model posing with Cami during one of her photoshoots that he shouts a curse word, disrupting the set, while thinking something like "that man has his hands on MY breasts." Because Cami's breasts are apparently his breasts. He owns them. Ew. Later in the book, he decides he loves her, so he controls her eating habits (forcing her to eat fatty food she doesn't want), and then an instant later, proposes to her and draws a wedding ring on her finger in pen. Ew. I didn't like him from the beginning and I liked him even less when I found out what his secret was.
Between the bad sex scenes, bad characterization, last-ditch attempt at conflict in the third act, and the insta-love that is utterly without basis or substance, I can't say that there's much to speak in this book's favor. I guess I liked Cami's mom a lot, and I learned a new phrase: "cunny funt."
Apart from that, I'd give this book a miss - unless you find men who think of women's bodies as Monopoly boards attractive.
I missed out on V.C. Andrews as a teen, so I'm accumulating as many of them as I can now. You know, for science. So far, I've mostly been reading the ones that were originally written by V.C. herself and not her ghostwriter, Andrew Neiderman. The Dollanganger series was excellent and so was her one standalone book, MY SWEET AUDRINA. HIDDEN JEWEL was a Neiderman effort, but I thought that one was reasonably okay, even if it lacked that special brand of spiciness that the Dollanganger books had. DAWN is one of Neiderman's earlier efforts, published just four years after the real V.C. Andrews died. I expected it to be even better than the Landry book I read, since it was published earlier and - I figured - he'd probably be working extra hard to do her justice.
Ha - nope!
DAWN is one weird book. Parts of it are just boring and badly written, with words repeated over and over again (especially "quickly", for some reason, which seemed to appear at least once per page), and emotions being told instead of shown via dialogue tags. "Don't be so obvious," she yelled angrily. "Be subtle!"
Plus, we get gems like these:
Good-bye to my first and what I thought would be my most wonderful romantic love, I thought. Good-bye to being swept off my feet and floating alongside warm, soft white clouds. Our passionate kisses shattered and fell with the raindrops, and no one could tell which were my tears and which were the drops of rain (227).
Sounds like she's confusing an acid trip with love, don't you think?
The plot is one part THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON, one part MY SWEET AUDRINA, and one part FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC. Dawn and Jimmy Longchamp have always been on the move but now their dad is determined to bring some stability to their lives: he's taken a job as janitor at a private school, which means that both kiddos get free tuition as a bonus.
Obviously the rich kiddos do not take kindly to poverty in their midst, and begin hazing like it's rush week at a d-baggy party college. People mock and laugh at Jimmy, but it's Dawn who really bears the brunt of the bullying - they stop just short of parading her through the streets with a shorn head while screaming SHAME! SHAME! The only rich kiddo who's actually nice to her is the brother of Clara Sue, the mean Queen Bee who has a rage-boner for Dawn: Philip Cutler.
"Nice guys" in V.C. Andrews books can never be trusted and Philip is no exception. He quickly begins pushing Dawn to go all the way with him, fondling her in his car, kissing her passionately in public, etc. Jimmy is, of course, super jealous, even though he's her brother. And oh, by the way - did I mention that the Longchamp parents seem to think it's cool to not only have their teen children share a bedroom, but also have them both sleep in the same bed? Also, he watches her get dressed.
Anyway, Dawn thinks she's finally gotten the better of her bullies and her evil headmaster... but then her mother dies and makes a cryptic statement about forgiveness and the police come to take her father and siblings away - and Dawn finds out that she isn't Dawn Longchamp. She's Dawn Cutler. The Longchamps kidnapped her from their employers when she was just a baby to replace a stillborn.
Dawn is pulled out of school and whisked away to the elite Cutler Cove hotel, where the grandmother matriarch (who seems to be inspired by the grandma in FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC) runs a tight ship. Think Dunstin Checks In (1996) without the orangutan-provided comic relief. While there, Dawn experiences even more bullying... this time at the hands of her new relatives: Psycho Grandma and Queen Bee Mean Girl. Psycho Grandma forces Dawn into what is basically child slave labor, forcing her to work as a maid free of charge; steals and destroys some of Dawn's belongings; gives her a new name (Eugenia) and then starves her when she doesn't use it; and when someone (*cough* Clara Sue) steals a necklace from one of the guests, she basically gives Dawn a cavity search looking for it.
Philip is at the hotel, too, and at first he seems nice, but then it turns out that he's still not over that heavy petting they did together before they realized they were brother and sis. Towards the end of the book, he rapes her, saying that it's important that he "teaches" her how sex works and that it's her fault for leading him on, etc. Dawn is so upset, because she doesn't want to have sex with this brother - she wants to have sex with her other brother now that she knows that they're not related, and even takes a moment later on to wish how Jimmy was the one who got her v-card instead of Philip.
But wait - there's more!
Dawn tracks down the maid who was responsible for her and finds out that she's the product of an affair that Mama Cutler had with a musician. Angry, Grandma Psycho had arranged for a kidnap by paying the Longchamps to take her away. She had second thoughts later, but was willing to let the Longchamps take the fall for it rather than have scandal befall the family. What a betch, right? So Dawn whips out the blackmail, and Grandma Psycho admires her balls and decides that maybe Dawn and her can reach an "agreement." Dawn gets send to NYC to study music and bought all manner of expensive clothes while Philip and Clara seethe, dreaming of the day when she and Jimmy can reunite and have it's-not-incest-anymore-let's-party style sexings.
This left such a bad taste in my mouth. It might actually be worst than the time that I ate a piece of dark chocolate for dessert after having kimchee for dinner (although that was pretty bad, too).