My IRL book club generally leans toward lit-fic & quirky nonfiction, but the selector for this next round decided to shake things up by offering aMy IRL book club generally leans toward lit-fic & quirky nonfiction, but the selector for this next round decided to shake things up by offering a truly eclectic selection of books themed around "romance." I'd already read and loved about half of the stack, and declared I'd be reading the shit out of all of them, and on a lark pounced on the single item that could be classified as a legit romance novel. Now, it's been a good while since I read a bit of trash, and if the oil-painting lady's hands & jewel box on the front cover isn't enough of a tip-off as to the type of ride you're in for, well, the magnificently 70s flavored excess of the flyleaf painting is truly epic(flowing auburn tresses, glossy lipstick, smoky-eyed dude, and a makeout scene on horseback). YES.
What was utterly unexpected, though, was the delicious wit of McNaught's pen. This is clearly no formulaic Harlequin fluff, and her reputation as a powerhouse romance writer back in the day is obviously well-earned. Within the first couple of chapters, she establishes both the tropes of the genre and the fact that she means to poke fun at them ("he's so old!" laments the young heroine, "30 or nearly 40!"). Instead of the overwrought seriousness of most historical romance or the snarky modern sarcasm of PNR, we're treated to a pair of richly realized people utterly convinced they're each doing what's right, creating a believably human dilemma to overcome. I completely enjoyed time spent with the plucky Scots clan daughter at war with her English knight, and this was the first case of really serious one-more-chapter-itis I've had in a very, very long time. Romance isn't my usual go-to (strong preferences for AIs & wizardry here), but wow was this worth stepping off my beaten path for....more
most romance novels rely on utterly absurd contrivances and miscommunication to create a plot. Quick has come up with a way to make the contrivance acmost romance novels rely on utterly absurd contrivances and miscommunication to create a plot. Quick has come up with a way to make the contrivance actually BE the plot, and that bit of built-in sensibility works beautifully.
Elenora is a young woman of decent family (because, hell yes regency romance where things like "the ton" are important and all) that's gotten the short end of the stick after her parents die. Arthur is an overly responsible (and, of course, overly rich and overly handsome) gentlemen trying to figure out who murdered his uncle. he figures his sleuthing among society will be far less disturbed by the marriage brokers of the peerage if he already has a fiancee, so he hires Elenora to pose as such during all the big parties one goes to while hunting for murderers. turns out she's quite clever, and really good at digging up the things he's missed, so they make a dynamic duo. also, they're of course swoonily attracted to each other and there's some sex, because this is a romance novel.
romance isn't my typical genre - i just can't turn my brain off enough to enjoy stupid failures of communication, the threat of rape by a dastardly villain, or the reliance on a timidly virginal heroine that so many of them rely on. finding a book that subverts or avoids all the usual pitfalls and is a snappy-paced read to boot? pure fluffy fun....more
Morris is an extremely average guy - wife & 2 kids, stable middle-of-the-road job, and a firm policy against making waves. so naturally,2.5 stars
Morris is an extremely average guy - wife & 2 kids, stable middle-of-the-road job, and a firm policy against making waves. so naturally, in the height of the Bush-era patriot act freak-out, he becomes a high value terrorist suspect.
this keystone kops version of g-men alphabet soup had potential to be an incisive satire, but 'Morris' feels more than a little like a vanity project. the author is a senator, so presumably his name and "insider info" got this little smidge of winking humor to sail on through a slush pile to publication. even though i agree with this sort of politics (e.g., Cheney was in fact the evil overlord of the Bush administration), it suffers from being a few clever moments sandwiched in a blandness of plot (kinda hard to get excited about a character whose defining trait is inertia). ...more
despite being sprinkled with moments of laugh-out-loud humor (well, if you're in the mood for some juvenile chuckles), this book is ultimately a jumbldespite being sprinkled with moments of laugh-out-loud humor (well, if you're in the mood for some juvenile chuckles), this book is ultimately a jumbled mess with a tediously boring middle section. the spectacular premise only sorta comes to fruition in the final chapter, but the rest of the slog to get there just isn't worth it....more
beware any reviews giving more than the merest outline of the plot: this novel in the best part of the penny-dreadful tradition needs to be suffered tbeware any reviews giving more than the merest outline of the plot: this novel in the best part of the penny-dreadful tradition needs to be suffered through unspoiled.
once upon a Victorian somewhen, a clever little guttersnipe is offered a chance to help out in a long con. in return for acting as a lady's maid to a reclusive heiress, and convincing her to marry, she'll get a cut of the girl's fortune. what follows is a tale part 'dangerous liasons,' part Dickens, and part Bronte - it's full of genteel madwomen, nefarious plots, dastardly rakes, crumbling derelict mansions, tricksy identity, and a dash of clandestine lady-love, all ratcheted up to the most delicious tension. there's a few too many pat circumstances, but it's far more fun than you'd expect "lit fic" to be. ...more
once upon a time in 1845, 129 men set sail in two aging but well-proven exploration ships to try and discover the northwest passage up & over theonce upon a time in 1845, 129 men set sail in two aging but well-proven exploration ships to try and discover the northwest passage up & over the top of canada, thereby connecting the sea route from europe to asia. they spent 3 years locked in the ice of the arctic seas with dwindling supplies and morale, and then...
Simmons spends a leisurely 900+ pages ruminating on the what-might-have-been of that expedition. the monotony of months spent on the unmoving ship trapped by an endless, sterile, frozen forest of razor-edged ice peaks; the primal afraid-of-the-dark fear of seasons without the sun; the depths to which men will sink, trapped like overcrowded rats - make no mistake, this is a horror tale, not a salty Patrick O'Brian sea adventure. the voyage conditions themselves are certainly bad enough, and then the polar bears, scurvy, Esquimaux magic, and food poisoning show up.
'the terror' is wonderfully atmospheric - i felt actually physically guilty when i had enough to eat and a place to read warmer than -75F - at times approaching too much description of the seracs and ice ridges. sprinkled very occasionally throughout are some spectacularly bravura WTF action sequences, utterly memorable whether or not you'd like those particular images lingering in your dreams. yes, it's long, but it's definitely not a slog.