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.