Monday, December 15, 2014

What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long

I was recently looking longingly at the book list of Ms. Long (because I lurv her books, well, Pennyroyal Green anyway, there were some others I didn't totally linger over).  And since I'm all caught up with the series but I couldn't for the life of me remember if I had read What I Did for a Duke, I bought it and started reading it (again, it turned out).

I am not typically a re-reader but like many other of Ms. Long's books, even though I recognized the story once I started it, it was so funny and lovingly written (I can imagine some might call Ms. Long's prose a bit purple, but I think she walks the line pretty much perfectly) I just kept reading and reading until I had finished it in a single weekend day.  Have I mentioned my daughter who is a grammar stickler says I am a comma hater and that I write run on sentences.  What!  Never say it!

Anyway, this isn't really a review cause I love this book, but it is a recommendation.  Really, if you have liked any of Julie Anne Long's Pennyroyal Green books, read this one.  Its fabulous (despite the lame cover.)

Historical Romance 2011: 5 of 5 "horses" not whores.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Shout out to Book Smugglers for this recommendation.  If I spend too much time on their site I sometimes become overwhelmed by the awesome (so many books, so little time) and decide to never read again. But I was lucky enough to hit on Ancillary Sword's release and thus Ancillary Justice's description before my eyes started to glaze over at all the pretty covers.

I loved this book.  Loved it, I say.  But I recognize (those of you with lesser intellects) not everyone is going to be entranced by the political and military meditation on what it means to be human.  No, seriously, it has an interesting, well constructed plot, but no one is going to accuse this book of being too plot-driven.  It's a character study with some really kickass cultural and technical concepts that are deftly explored and fun to think about.

Perfect example, I encouraged, cajoled, forced my daughter (14) to read the book and she dutifully did but at a much slower pace than she reads 80% of the other books she picks up.  When she finished it she told me that it was very cool, which is high praise, and she was glad she had read it and was looking forward to reading the sequel but I noticed she had another book in hand by the next day.

But seriously this book is so good.  I mean really good.  And I don't typically read a lot of sci-fi -   I'm more of a fantasy girl myself.  Get it now. Be so happy that the sequel is already out. Don't cry too hard when you buzz through the second book and realize you, like me, have to wait an entire year or more before the third book comes out......

Science Fiction 2013: 5 out of 5 Presger vivisections.

Friday, October 24, 2014

When You Give a Duke a Diamond by Shana Galen

WTH? So random, I love it.
Wow I really am avoiding Enraptured.  Okay I picked this one up for the silly title.  It all started so well, Strong beautiful woman who has escaped an abusive relationship and is now not afraid to be known as a courtesan.  Rigid, high and mighty duke who needs to loosen up before he can truly find enjoyment in his life, also emotionally abused by his father.

Too many words.  Do you remember Amadeus the movie, when the king or emperor or someone says that Mozart's opera has too many notes.  Well, that's not a really good parallel here but I am using that sentence somewhat facetiously.  Let's see, to put it more intelligently, the bones of good characterization are there, interesting back story, interesting setting (to me at least, English ton and all that) and basically good dialogue.  But it's all words, when it comes to actions, things just seem to happen regardless of how much they each think or talk about what their next action should be, (Duke: "I will protect you no matter what! What!" then she is kidnapped off the grounds of the estate that he has hired a bunch of people to be patrolling.)  Then even with much angsty thinking and talking to friends, the character revelation moments still seem to happen in like a half of a page.  (Heroine: "I am a rock, nothing gets to me.  Except this trunk in the attic which I am now suddenly crying over.")

In the end I DNF, got so close because when I'm trying to review, I feel a responsibility to really give a book the old college try, but this one just wore me down.  Ugh.

Like many books I've been reading lately, the writing itself was fine, just plotting and characterization weren't terrific.

Regency Historical Romance 2012: 2 out of 5 glittering diamonds of the first water. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Season for Desire by Theresa Romain

I know, I know, I'm supposed to be reviewing Enraptured but while the cover is delicious I don't think I liked it that well so I'm leaving it there for your enjoyment while I review a book I liked quite a bit but which has a much less interesting cover.  Well, I suppose the material of her dress is nice but does it have to be almost puce.  (Never thought I'd get a chance to use the color puce in a review, yea!)

Ah, I do digress.  The first paragraph holds a lot of what I liked about this book: "Sunset fell early over the moorlands of northern England, and prudent men abandoned the road to the criminal, the desperate, and the mail coaches."  Clever word choice, a self deprecating tone and of course the most important thing of all, the oxford comma.

Well, actually over the years I have lost a lot of my oxford comma fervor but the book brims with humor and fun characters and witty rejoinders you wish you had thought of yourself.

Giles is an American who is helping his father on a treasure hunt of sorts, Audrina has just been abducted against her will by a suitor and her father blames her, or at least doesn't defend her quite as vociferously as she might like.  Lady Irving is the cantankerous woman of a certain age who pushes people around for their own good, insulting them while she is at it.

At first I was annoyed by the author writing sections in minor characters voices (I'm here for the primary romance, hello!) but then I came to really enjoy it.  They are fun characters and I loved that they were non-traditional voices we don't generally hear.

Terrific regency romp.

Regency Historical Romance 2014: 5 of 5 Vulgar family mottoes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Officer Says I Do by Jeanette Murray

I'm at my local library with my spawn, encouraging them to do homework instead of read manga while I surreptitiously peruse the romance novels.  And while my standards are particularly low, I grab three books off the shelf.  I am always giving the girls a hard time for checking out too many books at once so I bring these three silly romances over to them and ask which one they think I should NOT check out.  Enraptured had this awesome male torso cover and the fantasy/myth stuff appeals to my fantasy reading children.  The cowboy novel Broken appeals because, well, cowboys.  But they both agree (which never happens) that The Officer Says I Do is the worst cover and probably one of the worst titles they had ever seen and I definitely should not read that one.  I am so amused by this interaction I bring all three home and can't help but start with the cheesiest looking one.

Yes, you guessed it.  I liked it.  I will admit that it's very likely that my expectations were low.  And the basic premise is pretty far fetched but I do have a small soft spot for military romances and neither character was too stupid to live and beyond the slightly shallow characterization (our heroine is chaotic and free spirited, which is represented almost entirely by her breezy multi-hued skirts) this was an enjoyable read.  I would read this author again.  So there children!

Yet again we have proof of the truth of "Don't judge a book by its cover."  Or "Take into account the cover and lower your expectations accordingly and you won't be disappointed."  Whatever.

Contemporary Military Romance 2012: 3.5 of 5 commune living hippies.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Game and The Governess by Kate Noble

The premise was probably never going to work for me so I'm surprised I finished it.

Ned is a devil-may-care lord, he has two friends from the Napoleonic wars who have to work for their livings, and one of them, John Turner has agreed to be his secretary.  After several years John has gotten pretty sick of Ned's airs and lack of awareness of anyone else's needs but his own.  He bets Ned that if he were not an Earl he wouldn't be able to attract any female attention.  Ned believes his naturally sunny disposition is what truly makes him so popular and agrees to trade places with John for two weeks.  If Ned can attract no damsels as a lowly secretary he must pay John 5000 pounds.  If he can attract a ladylove he gets John's family's mill (which is currently shuttered after a fire and various other dratted bad luck).

The details of Ned changing places with John are quite interesting actually, and the writing is very good, but the romantic relationship had a hard time being at all central to the book.  The heroine is the governess and is smart enough to not be messing around with Ned as the secretary.  Eventually they do spend some time together through strange machinations but the consummation feels very forced given who these characters are.  No there is no actual force, just doesn't ring true to their characterization.

That's the heart of the rub, the author is talented enough at characterization to not make them do things that don't make sense, and is true enough to the time period that our heroine would never put herself in a compromising situation with our hero.  Yes, romance novels are unrealistic but the true craft of them, I suppose, is not rubbing our nose in that suspension of reality necessary for a historical romance to unfold.

Anyway, I would try this author again but this book was very meh.

Historical Romance 2014: 2 out of 5 poisoned tarts.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

Sorry, I'm going to blame my book club (which does not read romance novels I'm sad to report) for my delay in blogging but really our last book was, while long, not as time consuming as some of our others have been (Luminaries anyone?).

So Sarah MacLean won me over years ago with her ridiculously long titled Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord.  Since then there have been one or two that weren't quite up to that standard.  This one I enjoyed a lot.  I will admit that almost all of its merit rely on sexual tension. Which really, if you can pull off 374 pages on sexual tension, well, hats off.

Phillipa is a scientist in 1831 and she is to be married to a very nice simple honest gentleman in fifteen days.  She decides that since she doesn't understand sex, she must find a man to explain it all to her so she does not go into her marriage uninformed.

Cross is an erstwhile Earl in his own right who now runs the most successful gaming hell in London. He tragically failed his family seven years ago and is now embroiled in a plot against his sister that he must subvert.

If I have complaints, it would be that the book is just a bit long. That there could have been more sex, even if not consummation which Cross refuses to engage in, of course.  But Pippa is lovely and I always enjoy the evolution of how a hero sees his heroine changes as he falls in love with her.

Historical Romance 2013: 4 out of 5 philtrums.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why do I even like this show?

Wedding pic from this coming Saturday!
OMG I am so lazy.  But at the risk of repeating myself, I couldn't help it!

What is in the water, I liked this book but I definitely thought it was silly.  And the show is bonny but it's not that good, and I don't seem to be the only one who likes it either.

Ach, lassie.  There's no accounting for taste then, is there?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Douchemaster McChest

The name's Douchemaster McChest And this is my first headshot. You're welcome. circa 2000

Hmm, maybe he could have been Jaime?  No offense, Sam.

I know I'm old because instead of being jealous of his wife, I really just want to know her, cause she has got to be totally cool too. :)

Thanks to Jezebel for the link.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kiss of Steel by Bec McMaster

Kiss of Steel is the first book in the London Steampunk series.  I actually read My Lady Quicksilver first and liked it so much I immediately bought all the other books in the series.  I think I always like the first book I read in any series (interesting topic for empirical study) but the whole series is quite enjoyable.

Honoria's father, a renowned scientist, has died and Honoria must now support herself, her younger sister and her sick younger brother.  She is forced to move into Whitechapel, the only part of London so dangerous the normal forces of societal control have no presence there.  Of course, nature abhors a vacuum so in Whitechapel, Blade, a notorious outlaw fellow, rules.

I have a soft spot for the good-hearted thief, but I think it can be tricky to write given the deeds most powerful thief-lords need to commit to get into power and to stay there.  Blade is bad-ass and an attractive character but this inherent conflict made this my third favorite book in the series (out of four so far).  Also Honoria is not bad-ass which automatically downgrades the book for me.

Good writing, terrific world building! good sexual tension, unpredictable plot resolution, lots of character interaction.  Overall, very enjoyable.

Steampunk Romance 2012: 4 of 5 CV levels.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Lazy Posting

 I just had to.  I had no choice.  The devil made me do it.

This is an awesome picture in so many ways.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Kraken King by Meljean Brook

I'm a bit of a Meljean Brook fangirl, let's get that out of the way.  I loved her first Demon (insert word) book but eventually burned out on them a bit.  There are eight books and five (?) novella's in the series and I came to the series late so I didn't take breaks in between the books, etc.  Anyway, for whatever reason I was a little worried when she embarked on the steam punk thing.  Jumping on the bandwagon, latest fad, etc.  Oh, I was soooooooooooooo wrong.  Iron Duke was spectacular.  But I digress (as usual).

The Kraken King was released in serial format which was very interesting (and becoming more common).  I will admit when I saw each of them for $1.99 on my Nook, I was annoyed.  Really, eight parts, $16?  But then I started reading and I just didn't care.  I was lucky, again, that they were all pretty much out so I didn't have to wait for each section to be published (hate that, I'm such a baby).  But after reading the book I did go to her website to see whether she had talked about why she did it this way.

It was very interesting, well, it was at that moment.  Basically what I remember is that there was a long delay between writing a whole novel and then getting it out as a print book.  But she could write it in stages, release it electronically as she wrote (I'm sure she was still ahead of us somewhat, cause if that girl is writing 20,000 words each week I am seriously impressed) and we wouldn't have to wait ten years to have the hot little book in our hands. On top of which she broke out word count and pointed out most mass market romances are 300-350 pages and the final page count was over 675, effectively we got two books for our $16.

Bottom line, I loved this book.  I really enjoyed the Kraken King himself as an a-typical character.  If I had any complaints, the plot was maybe drawn out a bit by the serial process.  And it took a while to consummate the relationship, but that fit with the characters and plot and there was very good sexual tension.

I have to say the world that Ms. Brook has built is really standing the test of time.  I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every single book she's crafted in the Iron Seas series.

Paranormal Steampunk Alternative History 2014: 4.95 of 5 letters to your brother.    

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I Had Such a Hard Day

I am so exhausted.  I had such a rough day.  I had to get up at 7am.  I went to two classes (1.75hrs) I picked up two kids (1.75hrs) and bought three dinners.  Wiped out.  I tell you.

Why can't I live here?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Don't Tempt Me by Loretta Chase

You know that feeling when your hair gets just long enough to put it back in a ponytail and it feels so nice to get it all off your neck and face so you get all excited.  Then three hours later you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or window and thank your lucky stars you didn't leave the house like that.

Well, no. That doesn't have anything to do with this book. Just digressing, sorry.

Um, let's see.  Young English Miss is kidnapped away from her family while they are traveling in the Mediterranean and is sold into a pasha's harem at the age of 13. Twelve years later she returns to England having escaped from said harem (A VIRGIN!) and her family attempts to launch her back into society.  Her father took a friend's son under his wing when said friend died and the now Duke decides to repay his un-payable debt to the English Miss's father by making sure this actually happens.  That was a complicated sentence, you may want to read it more than once.

This folks is the perfect example of a ridiculous plot and situation put into the hands of a terrific author resulting in an almost astoundingly good book.  Loretta Chase at her best is one of the best romance novelists in existence.  Seriously.  This is not her best, but it is not her worst either.

I really did not think even Ms. Chase could pull off this plot but by 3/4 through we were working on a 4.5 or 5 out of 5.  Unfortunately the above plot premise wasn't quite enough to fill out all requisite 350 pages so some silly evil things get thrown in at the end.  It's still very enjoyable.

Historical Regency Romance 2009: 4 out of 5 membrum viriles.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pure Heat by M. L. Buchman

Apropos of my last post, here is a military offshoot; wild fire fighters book.  How do you describe fire fighters who fight wild fires?  This is just ripe for misplaced modifiers and I ain't no English teacher.

I like this book.  Carly is third generation forest firefighter and is down right prescient about how a forest fire is going to burn.  Steve was a smoke jumper who got injured and is returning to fire fighting in a new role. They are both amazingly capable and beautiful and they get together, what's not to like.  Also I feel like I am genuinely learning about an job/industry that I don't know a lot about and it's interesting.

Back to the trope discussion.  Normally in my romance I expect some sort of character or relationship arch to be a major part of the book but in this one the relationship arch is minor, (but not too stupid), and is replaced (in my opinion) by cool gadgets, death defying situations and amazingly able (in almost believable ways) characters saving lives.  I'm okay with this.  Which is clearly a bias because in almost any other setting (other than military-like) I wouldn't be.

I routinely dislike FBI/mafia/drug cartel books where the hero and heroine are on the run because the relationship isn't central enough.  Ugh.  What can I say, I guess I'm not a perfect reviewer.

Contemporary Militaryish Romance 2014: 4.5 out of 5 fixed wing spotters.

PS.  I was re-reading a bit of the book and to be fair, yes, I like the trope but this writing is also really good. "What the hell was he doing?  He didn't rescue women, and especially avoided weeping women.  But a rocking motion came from somewhere inside, like the motion of the living trees in a breeze."  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Full Disclosure (Oh, that should totally be a Romance Title)

One of the things I've been pondering lately is the place of tropes in romance novel reviews.  This is part of a larger discussion about how you deal with being an "out" romance novel reader.  Do you grin and act sheepish and go "its my embarrassing pleasure but I know its tripe?"  Are you dismissive, "I just need something completely mindless sometimes?"  Or do you defend the genre and insist that there is merit in good romance novels?  I've always been the defending type and have argued to friends that there are good romances and bad romances like any other genre.

Which is a lot of the reason why I review them.  I do have expectations for decent writing, well characterized protagonists (where do you think the phrase "too stupid to live" comes from), plotting with a good pace and avoidance of too much exposition.  But I've long realized that reviewing romance is not always straight forward because similar to our sex drives, our romance drives do have individual likes and dislikes that are somewhat unique.

This is where tropes come into play for me.  By trope I mean a particular theme or event that drives a book. In the day (can you say Kathleen E. Woodiwiss?) when sex was rarely explicitly consensual and heroines needed to be rescued, I really really liked the "she runs away from him for his own good and has his baby but he never knew until he finds her again and its revealed" trope.  I know, even in the day, that other smart romance readers hated this trope.  HATED IT.  What can I say.

So, I have recently discovered that I really enjoy the military trope.  And if a book has a trope that particularly appeals to me, I do think I am less discerning when reviewing it.

I think as you read reviews of romance novels around the interwebs you need to be aware that yes, there are criteria that separate terrific books from horrible gag inducing tripe.  But part of the review process is biased; is unique to the reviewer. A reviewer who doesn't acknowledge that is claiming an objectivity that is only really possible when giving an opinion on politics.

(Did you see that clever use of sarcasm?  Huh, huh?  See what I did there?)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Pride and Pleasure by Sylvia Day

Jasper is a thief taker and alpha hero par excellance.  Eliza is (for want of a more subtle term) almost an aspberger'ish heir to an Earl in a family of eccentrics.  She hires Jasper to protect her from coincidental accidents that are occurring with increasing frequency and for that he must pretend to be her suitor.  When she meets him she attempts to NOT hire him because he is clearly too beautiful and muscle bound to be the sort of man she would allow to court her.  But he insists.

The plot gets dragged out just a little too long but I hardly cared with these two beautifully written characters to pass the time.  The sex is terrific.

I had not read Sylvia Day before so it's always a pleasure to find a new terrific author.

Regency Historical 2012: 4.5 of 5 horticultural experiments.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Mad About the Earl

This is the second book I've tried by Christina Brooke; both were part of the Ministry of Marriage series. Yawn.

A Rout not a Ball.

Has it just been too long since I reviewed books, that I'm struggling to put my finger on what I didn't like?  Too much exposition?

I think the heart of the matter may be the premise of the series. I will admit that I did not read the first book in the series (maybe). So the principle supporting characters, if you follow me, may have been more engagingly developed that they have been in the books I've read (I doubt it).

Basically there is a cold Duke who seems to have twenty or thirty wards and he meets with other controlling English types to scheme marriage alliances.

If I had any interest in these people's power plays this might be okay, but I don't. Beyond that you are left with two people who have been betrothed by someone else and they accidentally fall madly in love. Again in the hands of an amazing characterizer, maybe this could work.

The writing is fine, the sex is fine, the plots are okay. You get the picture. Meh.

Historical Romance 2012: 2 of 5 terrible nicknames.

Blogger has seemingly stopped being completely possessed and allowed me to re-create this post from scratch.  My time tested "I'll let it rest" method with computers works again!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

So despite being in a "smart" book group I still manage to avoid non-romance books, not quite like the plague, but maybe like changing my sheets.  I read "real" books when my mind gets too sweaty and grungy and I have trouble sleeping.  Oh, maybe that was too much personal information.  (Seriously, how do people change their sheets more than once a month?  It's so much work.)

But I did just finish a book that I picked up solely for the cover. The Thousand Names.  By reading the cover I know it is flintlock fantasy.  I didn't know that was a thing but apparently it is.  A thing.  Basically it's vaguely based on earth history, around Napoleon time frame with accompanying technology but it's a fantasy world with different country names and religions and some magic thrown in for fun.

It's quite long and if you don't think you will enjoy military campaigns, it's not for you.  We follow several characters jumping between them with each chapter and like most of those types of books the coincidences as the threads of the story begin to intertwine did once make me roll my eyes.  But beyond that the characters are great, there were several plot twists that I did not see coming and the strategy of the military campaign was pretty fascinating.  Big thumbs up from me.

Flintlock Fantasy 2013: 4.5 of 5 form square evolutions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Blogging Again

I might be back.  I recently read a blog post by Jessica at RRR about taking a hiatus from blogging.  She has always amazed me with her ability to read for pleasure, blog intelligently, have a family life and hold a job all at the same time.  When I was blogging I was a stay at home mom with school age kids and while that is not the bon bon eating life it sounds, it's also not the same as being a neurosurgeon and a parent and the mayor of a small Alaskan town either.

Where was I.  Oh, blogging took a lot of my time and my life in the last few years needed all my attention.  I returned to school, my daughter had cancer (twice), I got divorced.  You know, had a couple of things going on.  But right now I am putting in time in a not awesome job with promise of a better one in the future.  My daughter finished her (second) treatment for leukemia and both my kids are old enough to only need intermittent yelling at, not continuous.  So....

And the reason I started blogging still exists.  I have a really hard time when I am standing in book stores remembering if that author whose name I've seen a ton falls into the "Bleck!  Run Away." category or the "Oh yeah, that book had promise" category.

So now that I have found the password to my account :) I'll see if I can't throw a couple reviews and things up here.
Image result for kitten
Why a kitten?  Cause they're cute.  Duh.