jmc_bks: (Nadal at French 2010)
+  The grass at Wimbledon in the opening rounds is gorgeous, no brown patches yet.  I can't remember, did I ever post any of the photos I took when I visited last year?  Ironically, the tour stopped on Court 18 so we could see a court at eye level and touch the grass (no pulling) -- this was, of course, four months before the historic Isner/Mahut match.  (Which was a long match, but wouldn't necessarily be on my list of "great" matches.)  Fernando  managed to dig himself out of a hole and win in five against Radek Stepanek.  Sam Stosur seemed to have left her serve and her forehand and her entire game in Australia, and went out early.  Daveeeed won in straight sets.  \o/  
 
+  If you have a subscription to the NY Times, check out Christopher Clarey's pieces on the differences between the racquets of the top four players.  And his other writing, too, of course.  And Tignor over at tennis.com; I like his writing enough that I've got his MacEnroe/Borg book, High Strung, TBR despite the fact that I can't stand MacEnroe and have to put him on mute whenever he's commenting (read: bloviating) for a match.

+ \o/ for the IASPR conference coming up.  Must print the schedule and double check reservations and also make sure to sign up for the group dinner on Monday.

+  Ordered a retirement gift for the retiring boss.  Who is also my friend and whom I'll continue to see outside work.  But still.

+  B&N posted a net loss last quarter, despite an increase in sales.  I'll be interested in reading their SEC filings.

+  I read Josh Lanyon's Come Unto These Yellow Sands, which I really enjoyed.  The recovering addict hero may be my favorite of his narrators to date, which is a little surprising to me for a variety of reasons, mostly related to real-life issues that don't need to be rehashed here.  I pre-ordered it and then forgot about it, and it appeared on my Kindle when I turned it on the other day.  I've been sort of "off" Lanyon lately, because the last couple books I tried, historicals, didn't really work for me.  His contemporaries work much better for me.  It's a little odd, since it's the same voice and writing style.  Maybe the problem is my approach to reading the historicals and my general lack of interest in noire?  The historicals do seem noire-ish or noire-lite to me.  Or maybe I'm confusing eras and styles.

+  Attempted to read an Ellora's Cave book.  It came well-recommended by a GLBT review website that I need to just delete from my Google Reader.  But it was set in New Zealand and had professional rugby players as protagonists, which was what interested me.  Still, the price was ridiculous, the length extremely short and the plot and writing elementary.  Waste of a good potential story line.  Eh, just a reminder to myself to not attempt EC books and to completely ignore the "reviews" and use that website as a a publishing/release info resource only.
 
+  I forgot to mention:  I got a concert call last week!  Panic! playing "Carry On My Wayward Son".  It was awesome!
jmc_bks: (daffs)
Using a Groupon gift card ($10 for $20) and my B&N discount, I bought a copy of Brockmann's Breaking the Rules at lunch time today.  I ended up getting change back rather than paying any more, so counting the cost of the Groupon, the book was $9.84.  Not bad for a hardback, and less expensive than the $12.99 sticker price for the ebook.

I may reread the book and write a full review.  Or not.  I don't know.

There's nothing wrong with the writing and Brockmann knows how to keep readers turning the pages.  (Caveat: Brockmann uses the phrase, work it, hard, which I hate.  It just irritates me.)

But once I was finished?  Eh.  The utter disregard for state and federal law, Constitutional law, criminal procedure, all of it was kind of ridiculous.  And the lack of consequences for everyone who engaged in criminal behavior in pursuit of their own version of justice seemed inconsistent with the attempted realism (via some pretty ugly subplots) in other areas; everything was all wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end without any serious professional or personal ramifications for anyone.  I didn't really believe in either couple's HEA; figure one or both will be divorced before five years are up.  Frankly, at least one person in each of the couples is damaged to the point that I wouldn't wish them on anyone before significant therapy.  And the age difference in one couple (19 and 30) seriously skeeved me.

jmc_bks: (LJ Ase's LMB Imperfect)
Finished Meljean Brook's Demon Forged over the weekend as well.  

MB has established an amazingly detailed world within her Guardians series.  And, unlike certain other paranormal romance authors *coughJRWardcough*, she has managed to write five books and several novellas without imploding the constructs of that world or completely undermining her own mythology.  In this fifth book, the larger conflict is still the struggle between good and evil, but with a twist that has developed in recent books:  in addition to protecting humans' free will from the seduction of Lucifer's demons and nosferatu, the Guardians are struggling with the schism among demons:  Lucifer vs. Belial for the throne of hell, with other supernaturals taking sides.  That's a huge oversimplification of a very intricate political conflict.  For much better information, check out the primer here

The heroine and hero of Demon Forged are Irena and Alejandro.  Irena is one of the oldest remaining Guardians, once a Roman slave, and her gift is the ability to shape and control metal.  Alejandro, once a Spanish grande, has the ability to call fire.  Four hundred years ago, Irena made a bargain with a demon to save Alejandro (or Olek, as she thinks of him).  Although she survived the bargain, Irena retreated from their relationship and did not see or speak to Alejandro for two hundred years; for another two hundred years, they've had only a professional relationship...until the events of Demon Forged bring them into prolonged, close contact, forcing them to confront their emotions and communicate with each other.

The external conflict of DF?  Well, it all begins in Rome, where Irena and Alejandro are led (by a vampire acquaintance) to a church in which a fellow Guardian is being held prisoner and tortured by nosferatu.  Although the Rome action is relevant, it's really a prelude for what happens when they return to San Francisco, where the Guardians' Special Investigations office is located.  The SI action kicks off with a prophecy from an enigmatic ally of the Guardians, and Irena & Alejandro are sent to protect a human...why and from whom are not clear at the beginning, but of course it involves demons and other bad guys.

The world building/community and political machinations of the demons are my favorite parts.  All the book is well-written and well-paced, but the personal conflict - a 400 year old fialure to communicate -- frustrated me.  As much as I enjoyed Irena & Alejandro's ultimate reunion and resolution of their conflict, I wondered what would happen when the next big conflict arose -- would they communicate or close off again?

B+ from me.  

The next book, Demon Blood, is sitting on my coffee table, waiting to be picked up.
jmc_bks: (h's iris)
Was clearing off my desk when I found the notes I wrote just after finishing The Redbreast, which I intended to turn into a thoughtful review of the book.  Anyway, here they are.

Avidbookreader recommended Jo Nesbo's books; I tend to pay attention to her recommendations, because they are usually compatible with my reading tastes.  I put Nesbo on my "try someday" list.  But then his most recent translation was reviewed in the Post -- some sort of American book tour? -- which prompted me to find a print copy.  (Why a print copy, when I prefer ebooks?  Because there is no e-version available, which is a travesty.)

I struggled with The Redbreast at first, didn't feel engaged and wasn't in the mood for suspense.  Picked up the book a second time and couldn't put it down, resented having to do work and go on a planned outing -- it cut into my reading time!

Narrative style: present day threads and World War II threads; POV 3rd personal with a variety of perspectives -- Harry, Ellen, several minor characters, plus the Evil Doer.

Dangling thread: the larger suspense plot was resolved, but a small dangling thread was left behind.  Am curious about whether it will be caught/solved in future books or not.

Am curious about Harry Hole's backstory.  Want to read Nemesis now, and am interested in Norway's role in WWII, which was generally not covered in my world history survey classes in school.

As I read the sections of Big Bad's current POV, I tried to figure out who it was, based on the historical passages.  Half way through, I decided I was losing my marbles because the killer I suspected was *dead*, shown dying graphically on the page, so how could it possibly be him?  Which is exactly what Nesbo wanted, I'm guessing, based on how the book is constructed.

It was creepy in the very best of ways.

Very good red herring.  That was just not-quite-right, and led me to the final Bad Guy, although I had *NOT* guessed his history, and the how/why.

Other thoughts:  Why is this book not available in e-format?  The next book, Nemesis, is.  That makes no sense.   
jmc_bks: (Book on table)
Let's see, there were a couple of very good reads combined with some new releases that did not live up to expectations.  Of course, the expectations for one were pretty high, while the expectations for another were pretty low.


Books I loved:

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo.  Mystery/suspense.  Bought a paper copy of this book based on Avidbookreader's pimping of the author and series.  Loved it.  Harry Hole is a fascinating protagonist.  In my mind, he's a Nordic version of Stephen Rea's Lt. Burakov in Citizen X.  The threads seemed to be divergent and messy, but managed to be tied up in the end.  Was guessing about who the killer was until almost the last moment.  One thread left dangling makes me wonder -- will that last little thing be solved in the future, or be left secret?  A.

Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre.  Urban fantasy.  A-.

Books that made me think:

Generation Kill by Evan Wright.  Nonfiction account of the first months of the Iraq War, written by a reporter who was embedded with First Recon Marines.  B

One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick.  Memoir of Marine OSC and other training, written by one of the retired officers from Generation Kill.  The memoir was centered around what made him become a Marine, and what he sees as the fundamental nature of the men who comprise the Marine Corp.  Feel very ambivalent about the book.  Fick calls the Marines "the last bastion of manhood" in America, and at different points writes about how the ideal Marine is a fighter and a killer.  I guess I'm not sure I understand or agree with those as ideal or fundamental characteristics for "manhood".  

Re-reads:

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner.  YA, fantasy.  I love your eyes, I love your ears.  I love every one of your ridiculous lies.  Previously reviewed here.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner.  YA, fantasy.  Calf love doesn't usually survive amputation, Your Majesty.  Previously reviewed here.


Books that were okay:

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner.  YA, fantasy.  This book is good.  It's very good.  But it had the weight of huge expectations pressing down upon it.  Frankly, the draw to the series (for me) is Eugenides, and the relative lack of page space for him or with his POV was what I missed in this book.  Also, Sophos as ruthless king was a very hard sell given his early passive nature.  I get (I think) what MWT was doing with the theme of perception/appearance vs. reality.  Just not entirely sure I bought it.  B

Cheek to Cheek by Chris Owens.  M/m romance.  This was a sweet romance, although it wasn't all that memorable.  I'd forgotten the plot by the time I began to write this post.  Firemen who dance.  B-/C+, I guess?

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts.  Contemporary romance.  Roberts does families better than anyone writing romance out there today, IMO, and that is what worked best about this book.  This installment was better than the last one, which was DNF for me because the heroine pissed me off so much.  Enjoyed the friends-to-lovers theme.  The ending was a little bit of a let down -- felt like more of the hero's POV there would've helped.  But still good.  A few typos and one consistency error really bothered me, though.  Where is the editorial staff?  Doesn't a big name author like Nora Roberts get kid glove treatment?  B-.

Books that bored or that I couldn't be arsed to finish:

Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan.  M/m romance.  Was interested here until Randy joined the story; third just irritated me.  DNF.

Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley.  YA contemporary.  Nothing wrong, just couldn't get into the story. DNF.

It Takes Two by Elliot Mackle.  Post World War II mystery, gay fiction.  "Should of" in the text killed my interest.  DNF.

Lover Mine by JR Ward.  SPOILERS HERE.  Although I've been a member of BDBAA (Black Dagger Brotherhood Addicts Anonymous), I jumped off the wagon because I wanted to read John Matthew's story.  I'm a little sorry that I did so.  After the first couple of chapters, I skimmed this book.  One hundred or more pages could have been chopped without damaging the core story.  The historical thread, the haunted house, etc., could've been trimmed.  Qhuinn is an idiot.  Lash is a loser and his demise (no surprise there, right?) is absolutely ridiculous.  John Matthew and Xhex, the ostensible main characters, took up maybe 25% of the page space.  (And seriously, Xhexania?  Really?)  The Scribe Virgin's authority and power is further undermined.  Am using Amazon's trade in service, so will have paid a net $3 for this book...which is way more than the book was worth, IMO.  D


ETA:  I forgot one more book, Karina Bliss' What the Librarian Did, a Harlequin SuperRomance that was very well reviewed.  The setting was different (New Zealand) and the premise was different -- rock and roll star running away from the business for his own mental and physical health.  My thought was that 1) the book felt like it needed more page space to address all the issues it brought up and 2) it felt like a lot was skipped or glossed over, told rather than shown.  My general complaint about this line is that it is too angsty and issue-oriented, and that was the case here.  The big issue seemed to be fixed fairly easily, and I'm not sure I believe it.  B-. 
jmc_bks: (title2)
And it must be time for SBD.

My topic today is:  Duchess in Love by Eloisa James.

This book was published back in 2002, but I haven't read anything from James since her first few books, the "Pleasures" series.  They came out in hard back and got all kinds of attention.  Romance!  Written by an academic!  OMG!  Validation for genre fiction!  Eh, whatever.  They were okay but not great, and I've felt no urge to read her since then.  Why this one?  Well, she was a speaker at RWA last year, and I really enjoyed her speech, so I thought I'd give her another try.  

Blurb:

A duke in retreat
Gina was forced into marriage with the Duke of Girton at an age when she'd have been better off in a schoolroom than a ballroom.  Directly after the ceremony her handsome spouse promptly fled to the continent, leaving the marriage unconsummated and Gina
quite indignant.

A lady in the middle
Now, she is one of the most well-known ladies in London...living on the edge of scandal -- desired by many men, but resisting giving herself to any one.

A duchess in love
Finally, Camden, the Duke of Girton, has returned home, to discover that his naive bride has blossomed into the toast of the
ton.  Which leaves Cam in the most uncomfortable position of discovering that he has the bad manners to be falling in love -- with his own wife!

As usual, the blurb is pretty inaccurate.  And also, not very well written.

Gina and Camden were married as children (12 and 18, respectively) (for a trumped up reason that makes little or no sense when it is revealed) by his father, who appears to have been a right bastard.  Camden ran away and stayed away, even after his father died, leaving the estate to be managed by his estate agent.  Except there's a lot of stuff that the landlord needs to do that an agent can't, and so Gina's been doing all that stuff.  But she's now met someone she wants to marry, so she wants an annulment.  Camden comes home to give it to her, after spending twelve years living abroad, doing as he pleases.  He is purported to be a talented sculptor, known among the ton for his goddess sculptures based on his various lovers and mistresses.  He's planning on annulling his marriage, then returning to Greece and his sculpting.

Frankly, Camden as hero was a huge loser in my mind.  He ran away as a teenager, okay, fine.  But he behaved like Peter Pan for most of the book.  I can't put my finger on exactly why, but his sculpting comes across (to me) as dilettante-ish, rather than as a vocation.  He wants what he wants, and no one has ever made him grow up or think outside of himself.  The idea that the estate agent couldn't decide everything or take care of everything, or do the things traditionally done by a landlord in terms of the personal relationship with the tenants, seemed utterly alien to him, which seemed odd given his likely education and training as a young man.  (Weren't ducal heirs supposed to be brought up learning that kind of thing?)  

Plot-wise, the book felt too busy and a bit frenzied.  Readers are treated to not one but two subplots, both involving friends of Gina's who are estranged from their husbands for various reasons.  And there's series bait all over the place.

Also, when Rounton the solicitor returned to his offices in the Inns of Court, I wondered two things:  first, would he call them offices rather than chambers?  (Was "offices" even used in that sense at the time? Must look up the etymology.)  And second, which of the Inns of Court?

The cover art is pretty, if generic.

The plot was well-paced and did not lag in any spots.  The prose...well, it didn't stand out as being wonderful or terrible.

All in all, this was not a bad book, it just wasn't a great book.  Which makes me wonder where it falls on the continuum of James' work.  This alone wouldn't send me on a search for the rest of the backlist, which appears to include several books related to this one and a preponderance of duchesses.

C+ for me.
jmc_bks: (title2)
So, I read two books this weekend, and I'll share my impressions for SBD:

Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre

It’s not easy to tread lightly wearing steel-toed boots.

Sirantha Jax isn’t known for diplomatic finesse. As a “Jumper” who navigates ships through grimspace, she’s used to kicking ass first and taking names later—much later. Not exactly the obvious choice to sell the Conglomerate to the Ithtorians, a people whose opinions of humans are as hard as their exoskeletons.

And Ithiss-Tor council meetings aren’t the only place where Ambassador Jax needs to maneuver carefully. Her lover, March, is frozen in permanent “kill” mode, and his hair-trigger threatens to sabotage the talks—not to mention their relationship.

But Jax won’t give up on the man or the mission. With the Outskirts beleaguered by raiders, pirates, and the flesh-eating Morgut, an
alliance with Ithiss-Tor may be humanity’s only hope. Which has Jax wondering why a notorious troublemaker like her was given the job…
 

The Sirantha Jax series is a scifi fantasy series published by Ace, the most recent release is the third of the series so far.  I'm feeling rather ambivalent about the series, have from the start, and have a hard time figuring out just why.  I love Ms. Aguirre's writing; her Corine Solomon series is an autobuy for me now after only one book.  But I'm just not warming to Sirantha Jax.  My notes in LibraryThing for the second book of the series (Wanderlust) read, This series works much better for me as straight SFF; it works least when the narrative is focused on the relationship between Jax and March, which I just don’t buy.

I could say the same thing about this third book.  The world building is complex and layered.  The conflict is believable on the large and small scale.  I love that all of the inhabitants on this universe are NOT humanoid.  I just don't care about Sirantha Jax, which is problematic since she's the narrator.  When she stuck to the politcal things, to observations about what was going on in the negotiations, I was fine.  But I just didn't care about her relationship with March.  It's a trainwreck waiting to happen.  She walked away once, so I don't believe her as she vows not to walk away again.  More than that, I thought the way she handled homicidal March was TSTL, and wouldn't have mourned if he'd killed her when he had the chance. 

Much more interesting to me was the political maneuvering and the entire construct of the Ithiss-Tor world and culture.  Vel, a secondary character whose importance to the series seem to grow with each book, was in the spotlight, and I found him *much* more intriguing than March.  The sidetrack in the end to rescue March? Eh.

B- from me.

Thank You, Mrs. M. by Kate Rothwell
 

“You want honesty. An hour’s worth a day of normal speech, nothing prepared is necessary. Yeah, okay. But I’m pretty certain I’m not supposed to talk normally. No fucking way, because every other fucking word is fuck… I’ll tone it down for you, okay? I assume you’re an old lady with some style. For you, I can stop.”

I just wanted that effing college education and you said you’d pay for it…along with just about everything else. The cost—my effing life’s story jabbered into a digital recorder just for you. How screwed is that? The thing is, I wasn’t the only one telling a story. You tried to hide from me. Too bad I’m smart, Mrs. Moneybags, and I got you figured. But know what? I can keep your secrets. You and me—we made it work.

Note: A reverse take on the classic story Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster.

Okay, just to be compliant with the new FTC rule (which I guess applies to me?), I won a free copy of this ebook in a contest at Kate Rothwell's blog.  And some M&M's.  I'll share my opinion of the book, but not the M&M's 'cause I'm selfish when it comes to chocolate.  Especially since according to Jonathan Ross, the Achocolypse is upon us.

I've never read the story Daddy Long Legs, so I had no idea what to expect from this book.  Which was fine, because I selected it at random from the PDFs that Kate sent me.

TYMM is a year in the life of Ben, a slightly older student who is raising his sister and brother.  He's very rough around the edges.  He narrates a year of his life plus some of his history in one hour increments for Mrs. Moneybags, who is funding his education in exchange for his time and voice. 

I loved observing the changes in Ben as the year progressed and things changed in his life.  Changing neighborhoods, changing crowds (even though he held on to some of his old friends), changing his outlook from the the past to the future. 

The ending came too soon, because I wanted to stay a voyeur, reading Ben's monologues about his past and his present, and I wasn't ready for the wrap up.  I guessed who Mrs. M was early on, but am still confused about how/why she did what she did: random chance?  altruism?  If I take a step back and think about it, it makes me vaguely uncomfortable and I'm not entirely sure why.  Maybe because it reminds me of Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle?

There is a sweet thread of romance in the book, but it is not a traditional genre romance.  Maybe in a larger sense it is a love story?  I'm not sure.  If pressed, I would say that it was closer to lad lit than romance.

B+ from me.

Off to read more.
 

jmc_bks: (Default)

After reading Brockmann's Dark of Night back in February, I said that I would not be buying Hot Pursuit when it was released, because I wasn't interested in reading more San & Alyssa, and also because I just didn't care anymore.  Frankly, my attention span is not that vast, and the TSI series has held it remarkably, but the last few books haven't really suited me.  I wasn't abandoning Brockmann or mad about where she was going as a writer, just not interested in following any longer. 

Fast forward to July.  After attending Brockmann's chat/workshop, I felt intrigued about Hot Pursuit.  Plus, I had a gift certificate for Books on Board, so I downloaded it for MMP price rather than hardback price (cost matters).

Am not entirely certain how this book is being labeled, marketed and shelved.  Brockmann's website makes it clear that this is a Trouble Shooters book but not a straight romance.  There is a romance subplot, but the main story is suspense.  The bookflap blurb is fairly clear about the suspense, so I had no expectations on that front; in fact, I was a bit surprised by its appearance and by its hero.  In retrospect, I shouldn't have been:  SB tends to torture her romance heroes, and Gillman has been getting gradually more page space.

Over two evenings in late July, I twittered as I read, fully intending to write a post about the book.  I haven't managed to get that done, but here are the tweets.

Tweets behind the cut )
jmc_bks: (flaming june)

First let me say that Linda Howard used to be an auto-buy for me.  A couple of years ago she fell off my auto-buy list; since then the only book of hers I've read is the second Blair-Wyatt installment. 

The release of Burn tempted me, since it was on sale for $9.95 at ereader.com.  With rebates, I ended up paying mass market price for the book, which would be a bargain since it is out in hardback right now.  Except not really, because I can't pass the ebook on the way I would a paper book.

What did I think?  Well, I enjoyed Burn more than Killing Time and Cover of Night, which were both DNFs.  I've read a couple of comments in which Burn is described as more like her older stuff.  It felt a little recycled to me, but not in a greener, good for the Earth kind of way.

General observations:
  • Standard LH sex scene including immediate penetration without foreplay, but which somehow results in amazing orgasm nonetheless.
  • Mishmash of plot and characters that have been seen before
    • Morally ambiguous hero
    • Plucky, pain in the ass heroine
    • Cartoon villain who was both treasonous and crazy.  (Because one possible suspense issue was not enough? Or is the implicit message there than only the crazy can be treasonous?)
    • Bomb on a boat?  (Speed 2)
    • Boat evacuation and rush? (Titanic) 
Stuff I liked:
  • Heroine's relationship with her friend Syd
  • Secondary characters (not in a series bait kind of way, but the way they interacted)
  • Early chapters of the book, in which the heroine's life changes immensely and she negotiates those changes fairly wisely
Stuff I didn't like:
  • If prologue had been the excerpt I read, I would not have bought this book.  If I had realized that the hero was the mastermind of a kidnap plot of two other characters in the book, I would not have been interested.  Kidnapping is kidnapping, regardless of "good cause".
  • Also, using "money laundering" in the hero's mental meanderings about himself?  Off-putting since it is fraud. 
  • Lesbian financial planner felt like a huge stereotype, tossed in to be politically correct.  How was her sexuality relevant?
  • Heroine with trust issues (harped on) immediately drops trusts issues, bonding with her kidnapper and deciding he must be a Good Guy. (Because she couldn't want to do a Bad Guy?)
  • Hot sexxoring turns to True Love at the moment lives were threatened, no mention of emotion/feelings other than physical attraction til that point, even in the character's internal monologues.  (Did they even say the words?  I can't remember.  It's okay if they don't, but it hadn't really been shown either IMO.)
Afterthought:  the heroine moves to the South.  Is Palm Beach the South?  I mean, yes, geographically speaking, but is it Southern in the full sense of the word? 
jmc_bks: (Book on table)

Cutting Loose by Susan Andersen (2008), appears to the be the first of a trilogy

Jane thinks nothing can make her lose her cool

But the princess of propriety blows a gasket the night she meets the contactor restoring the Wolcott
mansion. Devlin Kavanagh;s rugged sex appeal may buckle her knees, but the man is out of control! 
Jane had to deal with theatrics growing up – she won’t tolerate them in someone hired to work on the
house she and her two best friends have just inherited. 

Dev could renovate the mansion in his sleep. But ever since the prissy owner spotted him jet-lagged,
exhausted and hit hard by a couple of welcome-home drinks, she’s been on his case. Yet there’s
something about her. Jane hides behind conservative clothes and a frosty manner, but her seductive
blue eyes and leopard-print heels hint at a woman just dying to cut loose.

I enjoyed this book a lot, although there were some things that just rubbed me wrong, mostly from a professional perspective. B/B-.

Okay, here are the things I liked:

  • Straight contemporary (dying breed?)
  • Great chemistry between h/h

Things I didn’t like:

  • Judgmental and downright bitchy Jane, when bitchiness is based on her misjudgments
  • Categorization of museum quality assets being done after probate has been cleared/closed. How could the value of the estate have been properly fixed if the assets hadn’t been inventoried earlier? Add the throwaway comment from Jane that the appraisal of the vintage clothing collection was low because the appraiser thought they were rags, and I was cringing. The estate is obliged to provide an accurate assessment of the value of the estate; having someone whose expertise is real estate appraise vintage clothing is a Bad Idea.
  • Failure of the estate administrator to properly secure the assets of the estate. All those collections in an old, unoccupied home with a crappy security system…again, the administrator has an obligation to maximize and protect the assets.  
  • Ava bitching about paying estate taxes. None of that money was hers to begin with; and the alternative could have been much worse worse. (In the 1930s through the 70s, the estate tax rate was nearly 80%; the whole point of it was to prevent vast amounts of capital being locked up in the hands of a few wealthy families. Beyond that, it is a tax on one’s right to control the disposition of assets after death: getting your money where you want it to go isn’t free. )
The second book of the trilogy, Bending the Rules, featuring one of Jane's co-owners and a character introduced in Cutting Loose was released on June 30, 2009.
jmc_bks: (daffs)

Beyond Heaving Bosoms:  The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels.  
 
Enjoyed the analysis of genre romance, which was critical but not written in academic-ese.  I think this is a valuable resource both for romance readers and for anyone interested in popular culture and/or lit studies.  Content-wise, the contemporary romance got very little attention in comparison to historicals and paranormals, which sort of makes sense given current publishing trends, but makes less so when looking at the broader picture of genre romance.  My biggest quibble:  the selection of The Flame and the Flower in 1972 as predecessor of the modern romance novel ignores the Mills & Boon/Harlequin romances were published decades before, with tropes and formulae that can still be found in modern romance.  Mills&Boon/Hqn got relatively little page space, which was suprising given their influence in the genre, historically speaking. 

On a personal level, I loved the Old/New Skool flowchart and other tables, but occasionally found the formatting (flowing over mulitple pages and non-facing pages) a little distracting.  And the voice/tone that entertains for a blog post grew wearing after 100 pages or so.  Appreciated the Bujold/Miles love when talking about the appeal of paranormal/fantasy romance for cross-over audiences, although I'm not sure that the Vorkosigan series really fits either category.  YMMV, though.  B/B+.



Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James.  

I like James's voice.  This was a funny, well-paced book.  Wasn't sure about the heroine at first, but she grew on me; the hero began to -- he seemed like an immature jerk for most of the book, edged toward being likeable, then turned into a total asshat.  The Big Gesture at the end?  Too late (for me, obviously not for the heroine or a lot of other readers). 

It was interesting that Payton supposedly could be quite a bitch, at least according to herself and to JD, but she never actually was -- maybe she had been in the past, but not so on these pages.  Any bitchery plotted or planned was always forestalled by the needs of a disinterested third party (can't let an innocent be harmed!) or a lameass apology from JD.  Because romance heroines can't be bitchy?  They aren't allowed to intentionally do truly nasty things?  Because heroines aren't supposed to be anything but nice?  Can't have her do something mean without provocation and with premeditation, even if it is retaliatory?  Only heroes can? 

Despite the fact that I never warmed to JD, the book was a B until almost the end; the ending gets a solid D, which averages out to a C, I guess. 
 

Unrelated:  Does someone on Nole's team think the smurf shoes are flattering?  Blue shoes should be left to Elvis. 

Edited -- holy SpellCheck, Batman, what a lot of typos I found!
jmc_bks: (h's iris)
+ The Biochemist sent me info about their trip to town for Thanksgiving week. Yay! We don't usually do really exciting stuff, mostly watch football, go to the movies, eat out, hang out. Which leads to two more happy things...

+ Petit Louis has returned cassoulet to the menu. Mmmm. Does anyone really *need* sausage, duck, butter, and beans all in one dish? No, but it isn't about need, it's about want and the occasional indulgence.

+ Montgomery Alehouse & Cinema has opened. Planning a test run before TB & TC visit.

+ At my local Target, the Sony Reader and Esus minicomputer were set up on adjacent endcaps. The reader was pretty, but with such similar price points, I would go for the multifunctional device.

+ There's an article on transgender children over at The Atlantic that is worth checking out, if you're interested.

+ The book that KristieJ adores, Broken Wing? Bought a copy after reading her review, finished it last night. Very good book, an epic historical that seems a bit like a throw back to older historical romances. My admiration was not quite as unreserved as Kristie's, though, because there was a lot of telling rather than showing. Also, I thought Sarah was a bit of a Mary Sue, which normally would bother me, but I was fascinated by Gabriel and didn't mind how unbalanced the story was in that respect.
jmc_bks: (jediowl's LMB bafflement)
While updating LibraryThing last night**, I looked at the month's reading, and had an epiphany about why one particular book did not work for me.

Here are my private comments for JL Langley's My Fair Captain, a m/m space regency that got rave reviews from some readers:

Not bad, hot/sweet romance but generally forgetable. Space regency -- hard to measure up to the template, which is LMB for me, A Civil Campaign. Part of the lack of world building (or explanation, at least): foundation for male chastity on Regelence. In M/F cultures, could argue double standard for modern society, and reproductive issues/control for older, especially if patriarchal rather than matriarchal. Neither works here because M/M and because reproduction is entirely asexual. Also, does it apply to everyone or just to potential "consorts"? (As in, if you are higher on the social scale, is it less strictly enforced?) And why do consorts get nuptial preparation -- not everyone? Cony v. Da. So premarital sexual experience was okay for Da but not Cony? Or is that an assumption about roles that will be taken in terms of their sexual behavior? Top v. bottom as a function of social role?


The more I think about the book, which had slipped from my mind after reading until I skimmed my notes last night, the more I compare it to Bujold's Vorkosigan world...and the worse it fares in comparison, at least in terms of the underpinings of the fictional universe. Frankly, the more I think about it, the uglier it gets.

More here. Not completely coherent. )
jmc_bks: (Default)
I read HeartSick today while lounging on the beach.

Wendy and Keishon both loved this book, which is why I added it to the TBR list. Must admit that I borrowed it from the library once before and returned it unread because I didn't feel up to reading about graphic murder at the time. But it called to me, siren-like, last time I was at the library, so I borrowed it again.

From the book flap:
Damaged Portland detective Archie Sheridan spent ten years tracking Gretchen Lowell, a beuatiful serial killer, but in the end she was the one who caught him. Two years ago, Gretchen kidnapped Archie and tortured him for ten days, but instead of killing him, she mysteriously decided to let him go. She turned herself in, and now Gretchen has been locked away for the rest of her life, while Archie is in a prison of another kind -- addicted to pain pills, unable to return to his old life, powerless to get those ten horrific days off his mind. Archie's a different person, his estranged wife says, and he knows she's right. He continues to visit Gretchen in prison once a week, saying that only he can get her to confess as to the whereabouts of more of her victims, but even he knows the truth -- he can't stay away.

When another killer begins snatching teenage girls off the streets of Portland, Archie has to pull himself together enough to lead the new task force investigating the murders. A hungry young newspaper reporter, Susan Ward, begins profiling Archie and the investigation, which sparks a deadly game between Archie, Susan, the new killer, and even Gretchen. They need to catch a killer, and maybe somehow then Archie can free himself from Gretchen, once and for all.


The book is fascinating, mostly because of the train wreck of humanity that it details. The prose? I couldn't tell you anything about it. But the characters? All damaged to one degree or another. Except Gretchen Lowell, the serial killer, who seems the most in control of all of the characters, despite the fact that she's behind bars...and a psychopath. Archie Sheridan is completely fucked up. And he knows it. Lowell began the mind fuck years ago with her serial killing and just upped the ante when she kidnapped and tortured him for days, killing then reviving him, then turning herself in.

While the mystery of this particular serial killer of teenaged girls is wrapped up neatly, there are all kinds of questions remaining. I'm looking forward to reading Ms. Cain's next book, Sweetheart, to see what happens with Archie and Gretchen next. (That's kind of sick, pairing them that way, as if they were some sort of couple. And maybe they are, some sort of twisted duo.)

My reaction to this book was similar to that of the first Dexter book -- it's macabre and disturbing, yet I felt compelled to keep reading. Whatever that means.
jmc_bks: (star fort kinsale)

Since Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave won a RiTA (TM), I thought I would dig out the notes I wrote back when I read the follow up to SitG, Silent in the Sanctuary.  SitS was released back in January, so a bit of time has passed.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find those notes, so I'll have to reread and then reconstruct.  I did, however, find several paragraphs of notes about Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites and Magic Burns.  They don’t comprise a review per se, but I’m posting them anyway, since I’ve been quiet on the book front lately.

Warning:  my spoiler speculations are included.

I read Magic Bites and liked it but didn’t love it.  Not that there was anything wrong with it, I was just urban fantasy-ed out.  I liked the world building, which seemed very distinct from other urban fantasy/vampire hunter series I’d read recently.  What I appreciated most, though, was how it was being marketed – clearly marked as urban fantasy, so there were not romance genre expectations.  At the time, I had just read several paranormal romances that were not romances.  That is, there was no HEA; maybe there would be one eventually, but not for several books, at least, which felt like false advertising.  Genre romance = HEA.  Killing off a lover or spouse?  No HEA.  Anyway, at the time that I first read Magic Bites, I enjoyed the world building and Kate and the adventure, but mostly I appreciated that the book was marketed and labeled properly. 

There was a bit of hype preceding Magic Burns, which prompted me to reread Magic Bites.  Upon rereading, I enjoyed the book even more and began to look forward to the second book (and further books of the series, of course).  But I had some questions, too.

Kate Daniels is an interesting narrator and protagonist.  I wasn't entirely sure about her as character.  The overarching impression I got was of anger and aggression, a barely restrained belligerence.  These qualities in a heroine do not bother me; in fact, these qualities in some ways define my favorite protagonist, Eve Dallas.  But for Kate, context for the violence was missing.  Eve Dallas is a cop, an abuse survivor, and her aggression is a response to her life experiences, which have been revealed to the reader.  Kate’s violent tendencies may be a result of her life experiences, but her backstory had not revealed that yet.  She seemed like a child whistling through a cemetery in a lot of ways, wearing her anger and violence on the outside to intimidate others.

Spring forward to Magic Burns, and a chunk of that context has been provided.   Spoiler:  I’m assuming Roland is her biological father.  It’s all rather like a Greek tragedy, that he kills his children for fear of their power, and that she’s biding her time and nurturing her power for the day when she can confront him.  I’d say it was Oedipal, except she’s not a he.

But even as some information was revealed, I find more questions.  How did her parents know Greg?  Where is this Roland, geographically speaking?  How did her father manage to hide from Roland, who seems all-powerful?  How did her father die?

After reading Magic Burns, I wondered if Kate was going to be the next Anita Blake in the sense of gaining power and being a man-magnet.  Except the power gains are through power words only, which was introduced in the first book.  So no, okay there.  The men?  Mmm, still a little worried about that, but less so when I reason it out this way:  Big Bad #1 was interested in her power; Crane was an aberration due to grief; Saiman is interested because she isn’t (this was obvious based on their very first encounter on the page in Magic Bites -- a subsequent snippet posted by IA on KristieJ’s blog make this even more clear);  Morrigan's hound is a hound; and Curran…who is abrasive and adversarial, but listens to her.  I’m kind of interesting to see where this goes.  Given that Kate will eventually have to confront Roland (I assume), I’m not expecting an HEA with anyone, but I am interested in seeing how Kate has to negotiate personal relationships going forward.

Which brings me to the next thing:  personal relationships generally.  Kate is a very alone protagonist at the beginning.  Yeah, yeah, traditional hero journeys are all about a lone boy going off and slaying the Big Bad and becoming a man, so Kate’s essential aloneness shouldn’t be a surprise or a big deal.  But she’s set up in such a way that her aloneness isn’t going to work.  First there’s Derek, who makes a fascinating sidekick.  I’m hoping we get to see more of him, and hoping that the hints about his alpha potential are realized at some point in the future.  Then there’s Andrea:  Kate says that she has no friends when describing her life, but at the same time she calls Andrea her friend when defending her.  And Julie is “my kid” in less than 24 hours.  Kate has been drilled not to trust anyone, but she seems to be ignoring that training, drawing about her a family of sorts.  Will she ultimately regret this, when her confrontation draws near and they are weaknesses or liabilities, or will it be the thing that saves her?

Other random questions:  why is Curran striped?  And why did a character in Magic Bites call him a half-breed? 

In book #1, the use of power words exhausted Kate.  How did she use them in book #2, then go on to fight a battle?  Was it a result of the magic flare?

Other observations:  there’s some clunky language and some copy/typesetting errors.  For example, using emphatic when empathic makes more sense in context; jutted vs. jotted.  And one continuity thing (pet peeve, sorry):  at the pack meeting in book #1, Kate was wearing a leather jacket and tank top when she left for the meeting, but once at the meeting, she pushes up her sweatshirt. 

All in all, I’m interesting in seeing where Ilona Andrews takes Kate and her version of Atlanta, post-magical flare.

jmc_bks: (title2)
I keep seeing reviews for Loretta Chase's Your Scandalous Ways. It seems to be fairly uniformly well-liked. The heroine, Francesca, is a courtesan. Not a fake whore who is actually a virgin, but an actual courtesan, a woman who has sex for money and makes no excuses for it. Which is not a common thing in Romancelandia. So on one hand, I'm interested in reading it.

But on the other hand, Ms. Chase is an author other readers love but who has never really worked for me. Lord of Scoundrels? Eh -- the heroine seemed kind of Mary Sueish to me, and the hero was a jerk pretty much all the way through the book. Miss Wonderful? More eh. Again with the Mary Sue heroine. Mr. Impossible? I liked the heroine, Daphne, but was unimpressed by Rupert, the hero. The next one (Lord Perfect was a DNF, and I couldn't be arsed to even borrow Not Quite A Lady from the library. But I'm trying to decide if I should disregard the ~meh~ and give her one more try.

Opinions, anyone?
jmc_bks: (Default)
This month I read two Julia Spencer-Fleming books for Keishon's TBR challenge. It seemed appropriate, since I bought the books at a library sale after reading Keishon's recommendation of the series and a couple of reviews.

The two books I read were Out of the Deep I Cry and To Darkness and To Death, which are the third and fourth books of the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series.

Clare Fergusson is an Episcopal priest in Millers Kill, New York, a small Adirondack town. Russ Van Alstyne is the local chief of police. Since I haven't read the first two books of the series, I missed out on the set up of their relationship, but the heart of the matter is this: they are soul mates, but Russ is married, so they struggle to remain friends and avoid acknowledging their attraction. Of course, in a small town, their companionship is noted and gossiped about.

In Out of the Deep I Cry, a leaking church roof is the catalyst for a disappearance and for the stirring up of an old mystery, the disappearance of a local back in 1930. The story is set primarily in the present, but includes flashbacks to the earlier decades, when Jonathan Ketchum disappeared.

In To Darkness and To Death, the sale of a local estate with 250,000 acres of timber to a foreign MNC with an environmental easement is the prompt for a kidnapping. The economic impact of the sale also has unforeseen consequences for individuals and the town of Millers Kill.

The thing I like best about these mysteries is that they are subtle, for lack of a better word. There isn't a huge amount of gore, nor are there theatrics. The whodunit is all about human nature, and the close relationship of all the residents of a small town -- how one little thing sets off an unintended chain reaction with consequences that extend beyond the individual.

Now I need to read the first two books of the series. And check out the next couple as well.
jmc_bks: (title2)
Tis SBD. Share and then go tell Beth.

I finished From Dead to Worse late last week and have been pondering it ever since. While I enjoyed the book, parts of it also made me uncomfortable and I had a hard time figuring out why.

I liked the book; it was better than the last book of the series, at least. Am I going to keep reading? Maybe, although I stopped buying the books in any format three books ago. Several questions and story threads were wrapped up in FDTW, while new ones were established. My biggest criticism is that the book was crammed too full of characters and events. Harris must’ve used a shoehorn to get them all in.

I’ve mentioned before that Harris tends to place her protagonists in very vulnerable positions, more overtly vulnerable than a lot of romance and fantasy authors do. Their security – physical, financial, etc. – is tenuous, and the threat against it is often a key to the storyline. In Sookie’s case, she is balancing her humanity with the appeal of the no-longer-completely human. Yes, the supernaturals accept her “disability” and value it in a way that the human cohort does not, but she runs a much greater risk of violence as she negotiates the supernatural community. And she recognizes this, as well as the toll it takes on her.

I was a poor Christian and a decent survivalist.

As we drove through the dark, I pondered the chasm yawning right in front of me, waiting for me to take that extra step. I felt stranded right on the brink. I found it harder and hard to stick to what was right, when what was expedient made better sense.
(p 92)


Here’s the thing: while I find her struggle to remain human fascinating, Sookie’s constant appraisal of herself on the “Christian” scale makes me uncomfortable. The evaluation of good and evil on a Christian scale seems exclusionary in terms of every other religious or ethical/moral code. And frankly, because she is the narrator, considering herself Christian and struggling to be “good”, whatever good is, casts the behavior of others who aren’t interested in her same scale or measure automatically into a not “good” category that strikes me as ugly and judgmental.

I know Sookie is a small town Southern character. I am aware that my discomfort stems from the fact that my experience of self-proclaimed Christians has not been good -- hypocrisy, pettiness, and intolerance have been my experience of them. But framing her ethical dilemma with that adjective still bothers me.

Afterthought: If you find yourself considering who to take for a lover because of his ability to defend you, you’re getting pretty close to selecting a mate because you think he has desirable traits to pass along to future generations. (p 92 again) Are we not doing this subconsciously when we select mates? Aren’t we conditioned to do so by thousands of years of socialization and biology?
jmc_bks: (seagull)
The Cab's Whisper War was released yesterday. I thought since I bought it directly from Fueled by Ramen online, I could download a copy. No? Okay, I'll wait for the disc. Except the USPS tracking information says it was "accepted" at my local mail center on 4/27. Hello, 4/30, still not in my mailbox. /feels antsy

Oh, decisions. The Bamboozle Road Show (Saves the Day, Armor for Sleep, Metro Station, Lydia) is at Ramshead Live tonight. The Honda Civic Tour (Panic at the Disco, Motion City Soundtrack, The Hush Sound, Phantom Planet) is at Constitution Hall. Which do I want to see? Opinions?

Check out The Daily Coyote for gorgeous photos and a fascinating account of the adoption of an orphaned coyote. With links to the blogger's other blog detailing her cross-country trip on a Vespa. I really want a copy of this print.

Are eight glasses of water per day really better for us? Probably better than eight glasses of cola or eight cups of coffee.

Syphilis originated in South America as a skin disease, and became an STD after transmission to Europe, then was reintroduced to the Americas? The rest of the article is about disease evolution, but that opening really caught my attention.

Cover Cafe (no longer AAR?) Annual Cover Contest is going on. Have you voted? I was surprised to see the cover for Beyond Breathless was on the ballot for worst cover. While it wasn't all that great, artistically speaking, it matched the content of the book very well and wasn't bad, I thought. I've seen much, much worse covers. In fact, the ballot for worst covers was surprisingly not bad; maybe they didn't check out enough ebook cover art.

I think that Sharon and Tom Curtis are authors that others love but who are not to my taste. Thoughts behind the cut. ) [livejournal.com profile] sarahf, would you like another Curtis book to try?

ETA: It is National Poetry Month. (Yes, I'm late, I know.) I finally ordered a copy of Sarah Cortez's How to Undress A Cop. It's been on my wish list since last June -- how did it come to my attention? I have no idea. But it was mentioned in Eric Selinger's critique (linked to via Romancing the Blog), which stirred my memory. Fabulous, fabulous stuff. Not a huge poetry fan here -- I can recognize the skill it takes to write it, but prefer other narrative forms -- but this little volume rocks. Especially the title poem. And the ode to kevlar. And After Shift. And Dream Man. Well, the entire volume. Really.
jmc_bks: (meninas)
I told myself that I wasn't going to read any more of Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation spy series. Not because it was bad, but because it didn't seem original any longer. Yes, my attention span is diminishing.

But a copy of The Seduction of the Crimson Rose was standing on the library's new book shelf, so I checked it out. Overall, the suspense/spy plot seemed sluggish. I liked that the Eloise/academic plot advanced, along with the Eloise/Colin relationship, and found it much more believable than the relationship between Lord Vaughn and Mary. Felt like I was told they were attracted and then in love, rather than being shown. I don't actively doubt their HEA, but I can imagining it turning into the sort of unhappy union that Mary's parents are described as enduring.

Having said that, I loved their declarations to one another. Vaughn's in particular reminded me of Rhett's to Scarlett -- he loves and wants her because of all of her "unladylike" characteristics, not despite them.

"It wasn't your appearance that caught me. It was the way you put me down in the gallery at Sibley Court." Vaughn's lips curved in a reminiscent smile. "And the way you tried to bargain with me after."

"Successfully bargained," Mary corrected.

"That," replied Lord Vaughn, "is exactly what I mean. Has anyone ever told you that you haggle divinely? That the simple beauty of your self-interest is enough to bring a man to his knees?"

Mary couldn't in honesty say that anyone had.

Vaughn's eyes were as hard and bright as silver coins. "Those are the reasons I want you. I want you for your cunning mind and your hard heart, for your indomitable spirit and your scheming soul, for they're more honest by far than any of the so-called virtues."

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