Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Making of a Duchess by Shana Galen

the making of a duchess cover

This book is pretty silly.  It's not the worst thing I've ever read, but seeing as how it doesn't have much in the way of originality, storytelling, or romance, I'm not sure why a person would want to spend their time reading it.

Sarah Smith is an orphan and a governess for the famous war hero, Sir Northrop.  What she doesn't know is that Sir Northrop is still involved in the defense of England, and after one of his spies is incapacitated, he orders her to take the woman's place as the Duc de Valère's presumed fiancée, Serafina Artois.  Her mission, whether she chooses to accept it or not, is to find evidence indicating the duc (as the author insists on spelling it) is a traitor.  But since Sarah has no idea how to be a spy, that's pretty hopeless cause, n'est-ce pas?  Oh, and the duc and Sarah are inexplicably attracted to each other.

Just so you know from the outset, I feel kind of tricked by this book.  I was expecting a story about spies, but neither of the main characters is a spy.  The style of the dress on the cover and the synopsis led me believe that it would be set during Revolutionary France, not Regency England.  And the term "game of cat and mouse" indicated to me this would be a thriller of some sort, not a comedy of errors.

So needless to say I had a lot of problems with this book.  As far as telling the story in the best way possible, the novel needs help.  The first chapter was clearly a prologue, so I skipped it.  The second chapter wasn't exactly gripping, either.  All the "plot twists" were not only predictable--which would be bad enough--but completely obvious in the first fifty pages.  I am not exaggerating, it blew me away how the author just gave everything away like it was Christmas morning and she was a shopaholic.  Not to mention there were a lot of plot holes--for example, why would a French duke who has had nearly his entire family murdered by Revolutionaries spy for Napoleon?  No one even raises this question.  There's never any doubt in the reader's mind that Julien--aka monsieur le duc--is neither a spy nor a traitor (although the whole traitor thing is a little confusing, since one doesn't know if he's become and English citizen or not), so there is absolutely no dramatic tension coming from that storyline; and his search for his brother is relegated mainly to the very end of the book, so that doesn't play a huge role in the plot, either.

As for the characters, there's not much to say about them.  They're all pretty boring and they seem to behave either by rote or without motivation.

This book isn't terrible--the writing style is good, it's a quick read, and there are some funny and sweet moments.  Plus Julien and Sarah eventually make it to Paris, which made me go, Yay!  Overall, though, this book is pretty typical.  Another Regency set in London, another brooding aristocratic hero, another virginal heroine, yawn yawn yawn.  I know it sounds jaded, but I've seen it done, and I've seen it done a lot better than this.  The underlying nail in the coffin for me was that I didn't sense any chemistry between the hero and heroine, and their attraction felt manufactured--I would have forgiven the book everything else but that.

I do have to thank Sourcebooks for providing me with an ARC of this novel--I'm sorry I didn't enjoy it more.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

jonathan strange and mr. norrell cover

I am so proud of myself for finishing this book.  Hooray! 

My friend Vicki bought this book for me.  Wasn't that nice of her?  It's supposed to be an "adult" version of Harry Potter--and if you interpret adult to mean "hang on to your granny panties, because this is going to take a loooooooong time," (rather than, "HP:  the Skinemax version") you'd be right.  This book is almost 800 pages long.  And it's small type.  And it's not 800 pages of action-packed suspense, either.  Which brings me to the point of this mini-rant:  I object to the term "Harry Potter for adults."  Like I have so much more time now that I'm an adult to read really, really long books.  Right.  Now that I have things like a job, and bills, and responsibilities, I find myself thinking, "Hey, you know what I need?  A book so thick and dense with plotlines that I will completely lose track of what the main plot is in the middle, or even wonder what the original plot was."

But in the end, I did finish it.  So it can be done!

The central idea of the book is what if--what if the Napoleonic Wars were won, not purely by military finese on the part of the English, but by magic?  The book takes place during the Late Georgian/Regency eras, and centers around two magicians who were prophecied by the Raven King (the greatest magician in English history) to bring magic back to England.  The first is Mr. Norrell, an older gentleman who sets out to help win the war against Napoleon using magic.  The second is Jonathan Strange, a younger man that Norrell takes on as his pupil.

However, the war with Napoleon isn't really the central plotline of the book.  Oh no.  The true heart of the tale lies in a deal Mr. Norrell makes with a fairy king, The Man With Thistle-Down Hair (I'm planning on naming my first-born son this, btw), to bring a young woman back from the dead.  He doesn't do this out of the goodness of his heart; he does it in order to gain the attention of her fiance, an MP, in the hopes that the war department will finally start taking magic seriously and allow him to help with the war effort.  And, like most deals made purely in self-interest, it turns out to be a deal with the devil.  The Man With Thistle-Down Hair uses the young woman, who quickly marries her fiance and becomes Lady Pole, as an entry point into the human world, where he wreaks all sorts of evil and mischief (as fairies are wont to do).

The first half of the book is hard to get through, or at least it was for me (I'll explain more about that later).  However, the story starts to get really interesting by page 450--in fact, right around the time when Arabella Strange, Jonathan Strange's wife, is captured by The Man With Thistle-Down Hair.  After that point, I really enjoyed the book.  Here's what I liked most about it:

John Childermass

Childermass is the sexiest thing, animate or inanimate, in this book!  All right, he's the only sexy thing in this book.  But damn, rawr.  ;)  He's smart and cunning; at first he appears to be amoral, but then acts with more honor as the book progresses; he has a checkered and mysterious past, with brief stints (that we know of so far) as a pickpocket and a sailor (which I'm going to just assume means pirate, because that makes him even sexier); he can read tarot cards, which is a very attractive feature in a man; during the course of the book he is shot and stabbed; and he is the only character who ever meets the Raven King (although he immediately forgets it).  If this was Ivanhoe, Childermass would be Brian de Bois-Guilbert.  In the romance novel version follow-up to this book, which I've already written in my head, Childermass and Lady Pole fall in love and have a torrid affair that shocks all of London society.  Poor Sir Walter Pole!  But really, how can he compete against Childermass?  Not possible.  He should just give up now.

Jonathan Strange's Pupils

Jonathan Strange takes on three pupils later in the book.  Two of them are young aristocrats and absolute boneheads.  They're freaking hilarious.  It's like watching Larry and Mo trying to do magic.

The Society of York Magicians

As I mentioned before, at the beginning of the book, there is no magic in England.  There are, however, societies of magicians who research magic, hold conferences on magic, debate magic, and write articles about magic, all without ever having tried, or having any intention of trying, to do magic.  I have to admit this seemed very reminiscent of art historians to me.

And here's what I didn't like about the book:

Mr. Norrell

Mr. Norrell is the magician who opens the book.  Unfortunately for us, he's a terrible character.  From the description on the book jacket, I expected him to be a magical version of Dr. House--i.e., entertainingly grumpy, terrifyingly intelligent, and if not a good person, a person with his own code of honor.  However, Norrell is nothing like that.  He's a cautious scaredy cat who's a terrible judge of character, and who doesn't care about anyone but himself and his books!  There are no redeeming qualities to Mr. Norrell.  Part of the reason it's so hard to get into the book is that Norrell is the main character for the first third of the story, and he's completely unlikable and unsympathetic.

The Footnotes

Yes, this book has footnotes.  A lot of footnotes.  I strongly suggest you skim over them or skip them altogether, or your head may explode.

The Ending

The ending leaves many questions unanswered.  What happens to Lascelles in Fairy?  What does the new book by the Raven King say?  If The Man With Thistle-Down Hair's dead, why is Lady Pole still alive and the darkness around Strange and Norrell still intact?  These questions are kind of annoying, because hellooooo, you've just written 780 + pages, you couldn't add a few more to wrap things up???  But the most disappointing thing about the ending was the meeting between Jonathan and Arabella.  It left me, in all honesty, clusterfucked.  I don't want to say what happened, because that would spoil the ending for people who haven't read the book yet, but let me put it like this:  imagine you're having sex.  And you've been waiting a really, reaaalllllllly long time to have it.  And you're about to go O when the other person says, "Well, it's been fun," and leaves.  Like wtf--could you at least give me some emotional closure, here?!?!?!?!  Argh.

At first I thought that this was a pretty good book, overall, but I think that was just the thrill of having actually finished it and not needing to look at it again.  Now that a few months has passed since I read this book, I've decided I hate it.  The end.  Sorry, Vicki.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Lord of the Night by Susan Wiggs

lord of the night cover

Sandro Cavalli is the Lord of the Night, the leader of a group that investigates crimes in 16th-century Venice.  One day he drops by the studio of his friend, Titian (yes, that Titian), and meets the maestro's latest model, courtesan-in-training Laura Bandello.  But Laura's true ambition isn't to be a courtesan--it's to be a famous painter like Titian.  Uptight Sandro is immediately attracted to the beautiful Laura, blah blah blah, plus there are a bunch of murders.

The first part of this book was actually pretty good, even though I was bothered by how objectified Laura was.  Sandro is literally old enough to be her father (he's 39 when the story takes place, and mentioned he was 21 or thereabouts when his wife died, so his kids have to be older than 18-year-old Laura--a fact the author glosses over), but for some reason there wasn't much of an ick factor there.  The couple does have chemistry and Wiggs definitely knows how to set up anticipation for a scene and then change it up enough to keep people reading.

However, in the second half of the book, the motivations of the characters started to fall apart.  They seemed to act suddenly and with no reason other than to create conflict and drag the book out.  Sandro's uptight personality and fear of feeling any emotion is never explained, and it really should have been--the guy is Italian, for god's sake!  Did his mom drop him on his head when he was a kid, or what?  Also, the solution to the murders was painfully obvious, and that tried my patience, especially at the end.

I still enjoyed this book, though, for the hugely redeeming factor of the setting--Venice!  I have to applaud Wigg's research into the time period, and she did a decent job of bringing the city to life. 

BUT--speaking of research, I had huge issues with the art in this book.  I do have to give the author props for lifting the first scene straight from Titian's Danae (or at least one of them), but all the descriptions of the paintings sounded like they were lifted straight from an art history textbook, which was pretty jarring.  What really made me snort in disbelief, though, were Laura's paintings--Impressionism, really?  Uhhhhhhg.  Aside from the pure ridiculousness of it, anyone who'd seen an Impressionism painting and an Old Master work side by side would know that crap would never fly in the sixteenth century, when painters were actually expected to have, you know, skills (note to my boyfriend:  I use the term crap in the most affectionate way possible, haha).  But realistically I know this would bother few people other than myself, so disregard.

For an old-skool romance novel (it was originally published in 1993), Lord of the Night holds up pretty well.  But it could have used tighter editing, especially in the second half, and I was left with the feeling that it could have been a lot better.  That being said, if you want a mini-vacation to 16th-century Venice, this book is a guaranteed ticket.

venice button

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


funny lolcat

This week I'm pet-sitting, and you know what that means--moviepalooza!  I don't usually make time to just sit down and watch movies, unless I'm at someone else's house and bored out of my wits.  Here are some mini-reviews of movies I've watched so far:

Coco Before Chanel

As the title indicates, this movie is about Coco Chanel when she was still Gabrielle No Last Name.  It was okay--it was a little slow, but not as slow as some French films I've seen.  And I did think Audrey Tautou did a lot with the role.  However, the script was really lacking in the story-telling department, and the connection between Coco-the-mistress and Chanel-the-famous-designer was pretty tenuous.  I wasn't too hot for Alessandro Nivola, either, to be honest.  Yes, he was cute-ish, but I was constantly distracted by the fact that he was speaking French and had a very odd moustache.

Basically, the entire premise of the movie is what makes it meh for me.  Who cares what Chanel did or was before she became a famous designer?  I want to know about the designer, not about some greedy waif who slept with men for food and a roof over her head!  The whole thing feels more like sordid gossip than an example of a strong, modern woman.

An Education

I wasn't really sure what to expect from this movie--I remembered seeing the title somewhere and thinking it might be interesting, but had no inkling of what it was about.  If I had to describe it in a single sentence, I'd say it's kind of like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie mashed together with Catch Me If You Can

The setting is early 1960's Britain, and 16-year-old Jenny is a studious sort who dreams of going to Oxford.  Or are those her parents' dreams?  One day a handsome older man in a very nice car offers to give her a ride home in the rain, and the next thing Jenny knows, she's going with him to jazz clubs in London, horse races, and Paris.  Problem: this guy is totally sketchy.  But of course Jenny doesn't care because she's sixfreakingteen and wants to have fun.

This was a pretty good movie.  Considering the plot, it was surprising how much humor there was.  It really brought the sixties to life, and the performances were perfect.  I loved Carey Mulligan, who played Jenny, and despite a long string of obviously bad choices her character remains completely sympathetic.  I think this is because she's not stupid--she knows something's up with this guy, she knows their relationship isn't kosher.  But because he gives her everything she wants, she chooses to ignore the complete reality and only focus on the dream, and who hasn't done that?  Dominic Cooper (who you'll recognize if you've seen any historical movie set in Britain in the last few years) was also really, really good, as was Olivia Williams as Jenny's English teacher. 

I also liked the special features.  Lynn Barber (the woman off of whose memoir this film is based) makes a brief appearance, and the deleted scenes have some of the best lines in the entire movie. 


I rented this movie because Colleen from Bookphilia said it supported my theory (or one of my theories) on why vampires are so popular.  Ethan Hawke plays Edward, a blood doctor about ten years in the future, where everyone is a vampire and there are very few humans left--leaving the vampire population starving.  Edward is trying to come up with a blood substitute, but a chance encounter with a small group of humans on the run derails his plans.

This is another pretty good movie.  There are several great actors in it--Hawke, Sam Neill, and Willem Defoe who is kick-ass as usual.  By far my favorite character, though, was Frankie, Edward's brother, who probably goes through the biggest evolution in the film.

Vampirism is treated as a virus--the kind of virus everyone wants.  Who wouldn't want to live forever, forever young?  As it turns out in this movie, anyone with good sense.

Overall the film was pretty gruesome, but entertaining.  It definitely goes to places you don't expect and puts a great spin on the vampire myth.

I still have more movies to watch this week, so keep a look out for the next moviepalooza post!

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

cry wolf cover

I am a long-time Patricia Briggs fan, ever since The Hob's Bargain.  I think she's a brilliant story-teller and really one of the best fantasy writers out there.  That being said, I haven't read her books in a long time because... I don't really like the Mercy Thompson series at all.  I know there are people out there who love it, and I'm glad Briggs is getting a lot of attention and press with it, but ever since the first book I haven't seen the appeal at all.  Maybe it's Mercy, maybe it's the genre, but I have absolutely zero interest in continuing to read it.  I'm finally admitting it!

One of the parts I did like about the first Mercy book, however, was when she visited the Marrok's pack in Aspen Creek, Montana.  So when a book about that pack, Cry Wolf, came out, I bought it--with admittedly low expectations.  And it's been sitting on my shelf for about two years since, which is stupid because I really loved it.

Cry Wolf
is the continuation of a short story Briggs wrote for On the Prowl--which I haven't read.  Being thrust into the narrative without that background reading is a little disorienting, but the basic facts are quickly apparent:  Anna, an Omega werewolf, has been physically and sexually abused by her Chicago pack ever since she was turned against her will three years ago.  After finally calling the Marrok (the leader of every pack in the U.S.) for help, he sent his son and enforcer, Charles, to Chicago.  Charles killed the leaders of the pack and also mated with Anna.  Now they're off to Montana to live happily ever after.  But once in Aspen Creek, some interesting things start to happen.

One of the things I loved about this book is that I can totally picture Aspen Creek as a real town.  The sense of place and community is so convincing that I went to bed just a wee bit paranoid about any witches that might be wandering around.  I also loved that the werewolves are more human than wolf--I'm not a big fan of werewolves in fiction, but these characters are so easy to relate to because they are basically human.  Or at the very least they have human emotions and motivations. 

The most fascinating character by far is of course Bran--the Marrok.  He appears a little bit in the Mercy Thompson books, but here we learn much more about him.  He's not what one would expect from an Alpha werewolf so strong he can control all the packs on an entire continent, at least not immediately; but that only makes him more attractive as a character study.

Finally, the way Briggs tell this story is really excellent.  At first it seems like a pretty simple plot, but then it veers in a direction I didn't expect at all.  Really the story is all about love and relationships, betrayal and trust--of others and of oneself--which are my absolute favorite themes.  Even if the book hadn't appealed to me on that level, it was such a quick, engrossing read that I would have devoured it anyway.  I easily stayed up until 5 in the morning finishing this, after working all day, and it's been a long time since a book was such a good read it made me do that.

So in case you can't tell, I loved this book and highly recommend it.  I can't wait to return to Aspen Creek and see what all the characters are up to! 

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Old Books

the book list

The Book List is a meme hosted by my lovely friend Rebecca from Lost In Books.  You just take the weekly topic and make a list out of it!  This week Rebecca wants to know what three books have been on la TBR pile the longest.  But because I can't read directions and fail at memes, I kinda changed it again, to all the books that have been on my TBR shelf more than a year--which is actually the majority of them, believe it or not.

Why do books spend so much time in my TBR pile?  To be honest, I have no idea.  A lot of them are books my mom or brother have loaned me.  There are others that I bought but can't seem to work up interesting in reading any more.  Here is an annotated list, as a full list would be ginormous:

William Nicholson
Slaves of the Mastery
(about 8 years in la TBR)

Tanith Lee
Metallic Love
Faces Under Water
(at least 5 years)

Perfume by Patrick Suskind
(pretty recent--only two years)

Sabriel by Garth Nix
(hard to say with this one--could be ten years)

A Bucket of Ashes by PB Ryan
(3 years, feels like 10)

Princess of the White by Trudi Canavan
(4 years)

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes
(2 years)

A bunch of Laurie R. King Novels
(a year-ish)

Silver Falls by Anne Stuart
(1 year, seems more like 8)

Romancing the Dead by Tate Halloway
(2 years)

The Innocent by Posie Graeme-Evans
(5 years--I hadn't realized I'd been carrying this one around so long!)

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
(8 years)

And at least a dozen other books I'm too lazy to type.

It's not that I don't want to read these books--I do.  Just not right now.  For the last 1-10 years.

So, what I would like to know is, do you think books in the TBR stack should have an expiration date?  And if so, when should I just give up and move on with my life?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh

archangel's kiss cover

Archangel's Kiss is the second book in the The Guild Hunter series, after Angel's Blood.  I feel mostly same way about it that I did about Angel's Blood--only opposite.  Read on as I attempt to make sense of that statement...

Elena has come to accept her relationship with the Archangel of New York, Raphael (not that she had much of a choice), and is now closeted away with him in the angels' super-secret Refuge.  But not everyone is happy that a mortal has become so important to an archangel, and threats from the rest of Cadre--the ruling body of angels, of which Raphael is a part--soon start to roll in.  Lijuan, who is so old she is become death; and Michaela, for whom the phrase "that bitch is psycho" was invented, are the most obvious threats--but there's another angel in the Refuge who seems to trying to pit members of the Cadre against one another, perhaps to start an angelic war.  Meeeeanwhile, Elena is trying to rebuild her strength after her near-death experience, and she and Raphael share their childhood traumas and fuck like flying bunny rabbits.

I did really like the first half of this book.  It's very well-written, drawing you into the story immediately.  I think even if you hadn't read the first book, you would have no trouble getting into the story and figuring out what's going on here.  I also liked the fact that we finally got to understand more about Elena's and Raphael's pasts.

That being said, it all started to get reeeeeally really repetitive.  By the time the plot finally got going, I didn't care that much anymore, and the big ball at Lijuan's felt anti-climatic.  I think this book could have benefited from some serious slash editing--100 pages less would have told the story just as well, if not better, and I wouldn't have lost all my patience with it by the end.

So, as with Angel's Blood, I'm not sure I can really say I enjoyed reading this book.  Unlike the previous book, however, with this one I enjoyed the beginning and was annoyed with the ending.  I'm not sure I'll be picking up the next book in this series, since the set-up so far seems predictable:  every single archangel with the exception of Raphael and Elijah are bat-shit insane, and apparently at least one of them has to die in every book.  How long is this going to go on?  Until Raphael rules the world?  Come on.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Twilight: The Completely Unnecessary Graphic Novel Edition

twilight cover

In her campaign to be the richest woman in America after Oprah, Stephenie Meyer now has a $20, hardcover, multi-volume, graphic novel of her famous book out.  The bad news is, it's not an improvement on the actual novel and feels kind of self-indulgent.  The good news is, the art is fab and Edward doesn't look or act like RPatt--he looks and acts like Edward.  Huzzah!

You probably know the premise of the story by now:  shy teen girl falls in love with brooding vamp.  Proposed alternate title:  Love Among the Tree Monkeys (ha! I kid because I love).

I did like this adaptation better than the movie version, but it stayed very close to the book--too close, actually.  It tended to get a little jumpy, and if I hadn't been familiar with the story already, I would have been lost in certain places.  But really, is anyone not familiar with the original novel going to pick this up?  Not likely. 

dr cullen, edward, and bella in the hospital

The art for the most part is gorgeous and makes this book actually kind of a joy to read.  The only thing I didn't like is where the artist, Young Kim, mixes photography with drawings--you can kind of see that in the example above, in the hospital corridor.  For some reason that made me really nauseous, especially the food in the restaurant scene.  Blech.

The best part of the whole book, though, is Young Kim's dedication at the back.  Here's my favorite part:  "When the story started out, neither Bella nor Edward believed they could find happiness because they were different from others.  But now, we are learning to see glimpses that they may indeed be able to find happiness together.  To the reader, I sincerely hope that your own unique nature is loved, particularly by yourself."  Aw!  That gets me all teary-eyed.

Overall I would say the book is not worth the list price, but if you're a Twi-hard you'll want to read it.  So get it from the library or buy it used online.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The House on Tradd Street by Karen White

the house on tradd street

I'm not exactly sure how to review this book objectively--it is a very quick, easy read.  But I never connected with the characters, and the mystery was pretty lame.

Melanie is a Realtor (why is that word capitalized, btw?) who specializes in historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina, even though she hates them and thinks they would be better razed and turned into parking lots or strip malls.  Part of the reason she's a hater is because she can see ghosts; another is because girl's got Issues.  Then an old guy deeds his famous house on Tradd Street to her, and she finds herself burdened with the task of living in and restoring one of these loathed historical houses for at least a year.  Fortunately for her, there is a cast of motley fools more than willing to assist her with this monumental task, including her bestie (who just happens to be an art history professor whose specialty is historic homes), and Jack, a charming history writer.

As I mentioned before, this is a light, quick read.  My problems with it started when I couldn't read it as fast as it was meant to be because of work--that's when I started noticing all the holes in the plot.  Melanie sees ghosts, but this point isn't really effectively utilized in the story.  There's also a love triangle in which all the motivations of the male characters are completely obvious to everyone except Melanie, and a mystery where the clues are painfully obvious.  And speaking of the mystery, that isn't even mentioned until the book is almost 2/3rds over (one of my pet peeves). 

But by far the biggest annoyance in this book is the characters themselves, in particular Melanie.  As I said before, girl's got Issues-with-a-capital-I, and it's played way over the top, to point where she is completely unlikable.  I was prejudiced against her as I read of her love of strip malls to replace historic homes, but it gets worse than that.  She doesn't even want the cute little dog!  I seriously question her judgment, as well as the idea that anyone could ever be attracted to her.  Around page 170, I realized I didn't care about any of these characters at all, and really wanted to just put the book aside and move on to something else.  But I couldn't because my mom loaned it to me and I knew she would give me the sad face if I didn't finish it, so I soldiered (re: skimmed) on, and wound up disliking the book a lot more than I would have otherwise. 

In truth, I don't think this is a terrible book, and I don't hate it.  I do resent it for taking up my time and being dumb; however, this book isn't meant to be read slowly and picked apart.  It's meant to be consumed swiftly like an M&M and quickly forgotten about.  So if that sounds like something that would appeal to you, I definitely recommend this book.

RRA button

Want more review?  I read this book with Colette from A Buckeye Girl Reads for our book club, Romance Readers Anonymous.  While discussing the books, we pretended to be ghosts on Tradd Street, giving Melanie advice.  Go to Colette's blog to read the discussion!

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev

perchance to dream

I adored Lisa Mantchev's first book, Eyes Like Stars, and was SO happy when Pam from generously offered to let me borrow an ARC of the next book in the series, Perchance to Dream (a gigantic thank-you to her, by the way:).  Although I didn't think it was quite as good as Eyes Like Stars, it was still a fast, fun story that left me feeling like I'd barely caught my breath before something else happened.  And isn't the cover gorgeous?

Perchance to Dream starts shortly after Beatrice, Ariel--the air spirit from The Tempest--and the fairies who are Bertie's best friends leave the Théâtre Illuminata, and it begins with a bang.  Both Nate (Bertie's kind-of boyfriend who is a pirate and has a single line in the The Little Mermaid) and Bertie's long-lost father make an appearance well before page fifty, and things keeping moving at a breathless pace for most of the book.  Although Bertie is out of the Théâtre and in "the real world," it's a world that is just as magical and fantastic as the one she left, and she still has the power to change it by writing her stories.  This only seems to complicate things, however, as Beatrice is constantly pulled from place to place in her search for Nate, her father, the Sea Witch, and cake for the fairies.

The novel starts to slow down after Bertie and her troupe of players run into a traveling circus, however, and the ending was simply a mess.  Of course, I was completely exhausted while I was trying to read through it, so that might have been why it seemed so nonsensical--but it was also the exact same type of climax that was in Eyes Like Stars.  Not only did I not think that was appropriate to the story (seeing as how they're no longer in a theater, hellooooo), it's quite frankly starting to get formulaic.  In fact, the whole fantasy world of this book didn't feel as cool or believable in "the real world" as it did in the Théâtre Illuminata--I still have no idea what the rules or boundaries of this world are, and it seems to have even less of a connection to the real real world than the Théâtre did.

By far my biggest frustration with the book, however, was the so-called love triangle between Bertie, Ariel, and Nate.  Ariel is the more interesting character, for certain, but I started to lose interest in both him and Nate during the course of this novel.  Bertie doesn't seem to feel much for either of her beaus, and I have to wonder why they're even included in the story at this point.  Plus, I felt really bad for Ariel because Bertie treats him like shit and he still comes back for more--all I wanted was for the poor guy to be put out of his misery.  At the end of the book, absolutely nothing is resolved on the romance front other than the fact that Bertie is bad news--we don't learn anything more about Ariel, who was very mysterious and independent in Eyes Like Stars, or Nate (who doesn't have any deep dark secrets anyway).

Overall this book was good--I was so happy to read it, and I do recommend it.  But I can see the series getting old pretty fast, and Mantchev really needs to start upping her game and shaking things around if she's going to keep it fresh and interesting.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Author Fan Letter Blog Crawl

Thanks to a great idea from Kassa, this month we're celebrating our favorite authors with a Fan Letter to Author Blog Crawl.  For a complete list of the participants, click on the button above.  Smokin' Hot Books posted her fan letter to Josh Lanyon yesterday, and be sure to check out Rain on the Roof's letter tomorrow.  But, for today, I decided to kick it a little old school with an author I wish was still writing...

how to kiss a hero cover

Dear Sandy Hingston,

It's rare that I read several books by an author and they all consistently draw me in, make me care about the characters, make me laugh, and make me swoon, but nearly every book by you that I've ever read has done so.

The first book by you that I read was How To Kiss a Hero, which a was delightful!  I instantly identified with Nicola, and "Bollocksing Brown" was an awesome hero.  The novel was more of a coming-of-age tale for Nicola than anything else, with her learning to be independent and accepting of herself through fencing.  But the setting--a girls' school in the Scottish Highlands--and the characters were fantastic, and the romance between Brian and Nicola felt so organic, that it easily became one of the best romance novels I'd ever read.

Then I waited years--YEARS--for the series to continue, which it finally did with The Suitor.  At first I wasn't too sure about this one, as stuck-up Katherine wasn't exactly my favorite character out of the four who girls who shared a room in How To Kiss a Hero.  I was (and still am) hoping to see the other two girls' stories.  Be that as it may, this book was completely different from How To Kiss a Hero, but still drew me in with the frothy romanticism of Alain's attempts to woo Katherine.  I loved his poems!  And I loved when she ran away to France to be with him!  Again, I thought this book was about adventure and finding oneself, even though Katherine did it in a very different way from Nicola.

After The Affair, I hoped you were back to publishing regularly, but instead I was saddened to find out on the intrawebz you were dropped by your publisher.  Yet I still expected you to get another publishing contract--instead, you seem to have given up writing all together.

I understand how an experience like that would have turned you off of publishing for good, but I think it's a shame to lose such a gifted writer just because a few people in a whole industry were assholes.  To me your books were what every historical romance should be--the past coming to life with a great story and a unique point of view, with adventure and romance and comedy and sadness all included.

And just so you know, if you ever do decide to publish again, I will be waiting for the next book--even it takes another ten years.


Tasha B.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

TSS-The Evolution of a Reader

reading statue Image by takomabibelot

There's a large diversity in the world of book blogging, and I'm not just talking about culture or taste--I'm talking about how long we've been reading.  Some of us have been reading since we were kids, but other book bloggers have only recently started enjoying books. 

When I read some blogs, it reminds me of how I used to read.  I've always loved it, but not always in the same way--which is why I try not to judge anyone for their attitude toward reading or book reviewing.

When I was a little kid, I never disliked any book.  I'm not sure it's accurate to say I particularly liked them, either--I just consumed them, one after the other, endlessly.  I would read two or three books a day during summers, and sometimes I would hit a dud; but for the most part I liked every book equally.

Then something happened when I became a teenager.  I started to definitely like and dislike books.  Or perhaps love and hate would be better terms.  The books I loved transported me to another place, made my heart pound and made me feel the heights of love or the depths of sorrow.  The books I hated were ones where I said to myself, "I could write a better book than this!"

As for the type of books I like, I've always been attracted to stories with romance and the supernatural.  I went through about a ten-year phase when all I read were romance novels, but I think I'm starting to hit the wall on that one.  Now I'm more laissez-faire, reading whatever comes my way.

I think some part of myself is always that teenager, though, searching for a book that will rock my world the way they did when I was hormonally imbalanced.  Because they haven't done that for a while.  Right now, most books are just okay--entertaining, momentary diversions.  I might believe that I've reverted to my childhood, when I didn't particularly like or dislike any book--except there are quite a few books I really don't like nowadays.  There are even times when I wonder if I will stop reading all together someday.  I hope that never happens--I don't know who I would be without books.  But it could happen.

But enough about me--has your reading gone through an evolution?  Where are you at right now?

The Sunday

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Musical Notes: The many weeks' worth edition

musical notes

It's been a while since I did a Musical Notes post, mainly because I've been working 50+ hours a week.  This not only slowed down my blogging, but my reading--meaning I didn't have many books to talk about.  But now I've managed to collect several songs to go with my reading, so enjoy a few week's worth of musical notes!

The House on Tradd Street

This book takes place in Charleston, and when the characters went out to eat I kept imagining this being played by a band in the restaurant:

Was Pocahontas really Southern? I don't think so, Tim!  Moving on...


This song immediately started running through my head when I picked up Faefever.  Bonus reason to post this: I found this video where Bob Dylan looks like Adam Sandler!

Perchance To Dream

The lovely Pam from let me borrow this book.  I think the drama of Arcade Fire goes perfectly with Beatrice's troupe of players.

Archangel's Kiss

Maybe it's just because I downloaded OK GO's new album this week, but I think this is a very good soundtrack to this book.  It's a little too perky, admittedly, but it seems to capture the same themes... right?  Hmmm.

Priceless line from this song: "Nothing ever doesn't change, but nothing changes much."  Deep, man, deeeep.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Repeated Rereadings

book list button

The question for this week's Book List (hosted by Rebecca at Lost In Books) is, What are some books you're read over and over?

I'm actually a fan of rereading, which is one of the reasons a huge TBR pile stresses me out--then I feel like I can't reread the books I want to!  Here are some books I've worn thin with rereads:

book list grid
book list grid 2

Night Train to Memphis by Barbara Michaels--This isn't the best book in the Vicky Bliss series, but it took me a loooong time to realize that.  It is the first book in the series I read, though, and continues to be my favorite.  Vicky is an art historian who has an awesome job in a Munich art museum, where she's the curator of the medieval art collection.  However, her job is so plush, she spends most of her time writing trashy romance novels and traveling about chasing after her art thief boyfriend, the dashing Sir John Smythe.  In Night Train, she signs up for a cruise up the Nile, expecting to meet John, but not in the condition she finds him.  I was hooked on this book as soon as Vicky meets John boarding the ship, and in a complete swoon over Sir John for the rest of the book!  I think I read it five times within the first year it was published, and multiple times after that.

And in case you're wondering, yes, this book might have had something to do with me becoming an art historian.

The Vampire Diaries & The Secret Circle--I've reread these books so many times I actually can't read them read them anymore.  The Vampire Diaries about two vampire brothers from Renaissance Italy (so romantic!) who fall in love with the same girl, Elena--but I'm sure you're familiar with that from the TV show.  The Secret Circle takes place near Salem, Mass., and is about a colony of witches that dates back to colonial times.  Cassie, the new girl in town, is inducted into the coven and falls in love with Adam, the do-gooder boyfriend of the even more goody-goody coven leader, Diana.  They're both by LJ Smith and were published when I was between 13 and 14, a very impressionable age for me.  I was absolutely obsessed with them.  I'm not sure exactly how many times I've read these, but it's a lot.

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart--Back when I was a kid, I would run out of books quickly in the summer, so I started on my mom's stack.  The Ivy Tree is one that I've read literally on a yearly basis ever since I can remember.  It was the first Mary Stewart book I read, has a great mystery, and a hidden romance.

Twilight--I've only read this three times, to be honest.  It's very romantic and good at sweeping me away from my problems.  I was thankful to have this book with me when I went to my grandfather's funeral a few years ago.

Charmed and Dangerous by Jane Ashford--This is a historical romance that takes place in the Napoleonic era and has settings in Italy, England, and Vienna.  The first time I read it, I thought it was awesome--the second time was even better!  It's one of those novels you don't expect to work, but it keeps surprising you.  The historical detail and characters are fabulous, too.

Here Comes the Sun! by Emilie Loring--Yes, the exclamation mark is part of the title.  I have a really odd obsession liking for this book.  It's honestly not very good.  Anyway, this is one of those books my mom owned that I glommed onto during summers, and I read it every year.  A 19-year-old ingenue chases a dachshund off a train and is pursued by a handsome, older (like 35, which is reeeeally super-old by 19 standards) stranger who gives her a lame excuse that he thought he could help her or something.  The dog doesn't belong to either of them, in case you were wondering.  Meanwhile, they get caught in a rain storm and have to hole up in an empty cabin for the night.  BUT THEN, the stranger's political rival happens by (also in the rain???) and discovers them en dishabille together.  Naturally, the political rival is going to use this knowledge to tell everyone that the stranger/politician is having a torrid affair!  Soooo, long story short (too late), they decide to pretend they're married, only to live in different houses and not have sex.  WTF?  There's more, but I think I'll leave the recitation of the plot there.

What are some of your favorite rereads?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Listed: New Orleans

nola alley Image by treyevan

Last week, I listed a few books in one of my favorite cities, Venice.  This week, I'm moving on to another favorite setting, New Orleans.

Las Vegas might aspire to calling itself Sin City, but the hold New Orleans has on the American imagination makes it much more likely to lay claim to that title.  Because of its history, NOLA is unique--romantic, fun, and curious, but also dangerous.  Fictionally speaking, it's a place where anything might happen, and it seems writers definitely take advantage of that.  Here are a few books I remember reading that are set in New Orleans:

Be My Baby by Susan Andersen--This is one of my favorite contemporary romances of all time!  It's one of those typical cop-meets-uptight-broad stories (which I confess I have a fondness for), but the setting makes it ten times more fun than average.

The Dark Hunters series by Sherrilyn Kenyon--A good portion of the Dark Hunters books--a series about old guys with fangs who kill vampires--are set in New Orleans, although not all of them are. 

Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole--This is another series with vampires, although it's Valkyries who have a compound near New Orleans.  I wouldn't say the setting plays a big part in the books, however.

More Than Magic by Kathleen Nance--Another romance novel.  This one is about a djinn who is summoned by a woman... I forget why.  It's actually pretty good, despite the cheesy cover.

Pelican Brief by John Grisham
--The only parts of this book I remember take place in New Orleans.

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
--The original New Orleans vampire book! 

Thigh High by Christina Dodd--I really liked this book about a bank robber who's working with an uptight woman to create a more secure bank.  Or something like that.  To be honest I totally forgot this book was set in New Orleans until I did a keyword search, or even what it's about.  But I do remember liking it, I swear!

Ruined by Paula Morris--This is a book I didn't like.  But if you're into NOLA, there are a lot of fun descriptions of the city and the culture.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams--I haven't read this play, but I saw the movie.  Does that count?

Do you have any favorite novels set in New Orleans?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Faefever by Karen Marie Moning

faefever cover

This is the third book in Moning's -Fever series.  Colette from A Buckeye Girl Reads likes to say that every series has that one book where you feel like the author is just killing time and nothing much happens--well, for me that was this book.

Basically everything of any significance that occurs in this book happens during the last 50-ish pages, so I can't really give you a summary.  Mac is still searching for the Sinsar Dubh and still fighting with V'lane, Barrons, the other sidhe-seers, and Inspector Jayne.

Mac's relationship with Barrons and V'lane develops more in this book, but at this point I'm thinking her and Barrons are never going to get together.  Seriously, those two have got way too many issues.  And V'lane is still pretty boring.

This novel wasn't really bad--it's just that not much happens during it.  The only character I really care about is Barrons, so when he's not in the book I get pretty impatient with it.  That was actually true in the other books, too, but in Faefever it was exacerbated by the opening line, "I'd die for him."  Naturally, I was hoping the him in this scenario was Barrons.

Mac, meanwhile, annoyed the crap out of me.  I find her distrust of Barrons unreasonable, and the way she tries to play everyone off one another is not only distasteful, but incompetent.  If you're going to be a manipulative bitch, at least know what the heck you're doing.  And don't even get me started on the jars of Unseelie.  Gross!  No wonder Barrons doesn't want to kiss that mouth.

That being said, there were parts like I liked--the MacHalo was hilarious, and Barrons' birthday scene was priceless.  But most of the book was watching MacKayla dig herself deeper and deeper into a hole.  And the ending was just depressing.

I am of course looking forward to book four. :)

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Life of Emile Zola

life of emile zola cover

Have you ever heard of this 1937 biographical film?  Did you know it won the Oscar for best picture and was a box office and critical success?  I hadn't--and now that I've seen it, I know why.

This movie is basically a mess.  All of the people in it need to sign up for Overacting Anonymous, and the director needs to remember that people shouldn't hesitate in their lines when they're supposed to be impetuously interrupted by another actor.

Anyway, here's the summary:  it's the life of famous French writer, Emile Zola.  The film opens with Zola and boyhood friend, Paul Cézanne, living in a crappy apartement and dreaming of being great artistes while espousing the bohemian idéals of truth, beauty, freedom, and love.  Then they meet a prostitute and Zola writes Nana, has great success, but sacrifices it all to write J'Accuse and stand up for justice.

First, the narrative of this movie is incomprehensible and boring.  If I didn't already know about events like the Franco-Prussian War and The Dreyfus Affair, I would have been utterly confuzzled.  Even though it's supposed to be about Zola, we learn really next to nothing about him or his life.  I didn't see his kids in the movie at all, his wife is only mentioned by name once (although she does get a good ten minutes of screen time staring at him devotedly while he rambles on about something-or-other), and his infamous row with Cézanne over The Masterpiece never happens.  Instead, they remain friends.  Like okay?  Even more annoying is that during the whole course of the Dreyfus Affair--which is what this movie is really about--no one once mentions that Dreyfus was Jewish and the whole thing was underpinned by antisemitism.  Nor do they show Zola dying, or mention that he was probably assassinated for political reasons.  Since that's really interesting and dramatic, and would fit into the message the movie appeared to be trying to deliver, I really have to wonder why it was never even alluded to.  If the interwebz hadn't been invented yet, I would have sworn the script writers did all their research by reading wikipedia.

Now for the acting, which is ridonkulous.  By far the most annoying actor in the entire movie was Gale Sondergaard, who played Madame Dreyfus.  She. Was. TERRIBLE!  Like the worst thing I've ever seen in my entire life.  Whenever she came on screen I just had to groan.  Paul Muni was okay--he did manage to look like Zola, although he didn't behave at all the way I imagine Zola would.  He also spent the entire courtroom scene looking like he was either bored or sleeping.  Honestly, I'm pretty sure I saw him with his eyes closed for about ten minutes during cross-examination. 

Surprisingly, the only part of the movie I liked was Vladimir Sokoloff as Paul Cézanne.  Usually I hate Cézanne, but Sokoloff's version of him was pretty awesome.  And his acting was so much better than everyone else's--much more naturalistic and believable.

Overall, I'd say this movie is a big fat skip.  It's neither entertaining nor informative, and I will never get those two hours of my life back.

Powered by ScribeFire.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...