Juliana (philippaj) - - Reviews

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The Accidental Bride (Bride, Bk 2)
The Accidental Bride (Bride, Bk 2)
Author: Jane Feather
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 235
Review Date: 7/21/2009
Helpful Score: 3


~ Second in Feather's "Brides Trilogy" and my least favorite of the three, though worth a read (3.5 stars) ~

This book is the second in Feather's "Brides Trilogy" (it follows THE HOSTAGE BRIDE, Portia's story, and precedes THE LEAST LIKELY BRIDE, Olivia's story). It is my least favorite of the three and although I really disliked it when I first read it (I looked back in my notes and apparently I only gave it one star), when I recently reread it I found that it wasn't as bad as I remembered it (or my taste has changed somewhat). It is definitely not your usual romance though (Feather's books often aren't) and some people may be put off by some of unusual aspects of the book; I've detailed them below, but some are spoilers so be forewarned.

SUMMARY:
[1646, England] Cato, Marquis of Granville, has had three wives and is now on his way to acquire a fourth - Phoebe, the somewhat awkward and clumsy younger sister of his third wife, Diana. He doesn't really have many expectations for the marriage: England is in the middle of a civil war in which Cato is playing a large role on the side of Parliament, he has never really noticed Phoebe much except as his wife's younger sister and one of his daughter's best friends, and basically his only interest aside from continuing the familial alliance is to finally get a son.

Phoebe knows exactly when she stopped seeing Cato as her brother-in-law and best friend's father and ever since that moment she has found herself unbelievably and undeniably attracted to him. She should therefore be ecstatic that her father and Cato have agreed to a marriage between them ... but she knows Cato doesn't return her feelings. After they are married, things just don't feel right - Cato doesn't seem to be treating her any differently than before and the nights they spend together in bed are far from what she imagined and her body desires. Determined to make Cato notice her, Olivia and Portia (the third in their trio and heroine of THE HOSTAGE BRIDE) help Phoebe change her clothing and hairstyle and Portia gives her some tips on how she can help Cato realize she wants him to *truly* make love to her.

Jane Feather combines a villainous subplot, a civil war backdrop, a stubbornly determined and oddly enchanting heroine, and a stern and lonely hero who against all odds finds himself falling for his surprisingly endearing new wife in her second "Brides Trilogy" book, THE ACCIDENTAL BRIDE.

PROS:
~ Phoebe is one of those great unusual heroines: awkward, clumsy, very straightforward, unsure of her appeal to the hero, very caring and loving towards all those around her (no matter their rank or lack thereof)
~ The sex scenes between Phoebe and Cato aren't very numerous or long, but those that are there are quite hot (especially the one in the military camp when they have to sleep in the barracks ;-) lol)
~ When Cato and Phoebe's relationship starts to develop, there are some really great exchanges between them: Cato starts to find Phoebe's haphazard appearance endearing, how he reacts to her love and loyalty, etc.

UNUSUAL ASPECTS OF THE BOOK: (includes *spoilers*)
For the first month of their marriage, Phoebe and Cato have a very stilted sexual relationship and their wedding night is downright awkward. Cato thinks that like his three previous wives, Phoebe is a well-bred young lady who won't enjoy the marriage bed, so he'll get the business over and done with every night ASAP, then leaving her alone, in hopes of impregnating her and finally getting an heir. Phoebe is actually very attracted to Cato (she "lusts" after him) and so with Portia's help figures out how to seduce him and make him realize that she does indeed want to be an active participant in the marriage bed. I do have to give Feather props for tackling this issue and not having their sexual relationship be amazingly steamy from the get-go, but it is very unusual for the genre.

The age difference is somewhat bothersome (though I know, it's a different time period): Cato is 35, Phoebe is 18. As others have mentioned, Phoebe is one of Olivia's (Cato's daughter) best friends and they are only two years apart, so it makes the whole romance between Cato and Phoebe odd, kind of uncomfortable, and seems almost incestuous. Cato's third wife, Diana, was Phoebe's older sister and since Phoebe moved in to live with them, she's been Olivia's companion and almost a niece to Cato, so ... yeah, I don't know, kind of bizarre.

The subplot with Brian Morse trying to get at Cato (ruin him / kill him / etc.) can get to be very trying because at times you just want to shake Phoebe for seeming so oblivious and dense. She repeatedly almost gets sucked in to his traps and subterfuge and although in the end she realizes what he's about and tells him no (thankfully! because that would have really pissed me off), it goes on for far too long IMO.

BOTTOM LINE:
If you're determined to read the whole trilogy - and the other two books are definitely worth it - then get this from the library or borrow it from a friend, don't buy it.

(http://historical-romance-heaven.blogspot.com)


After Midnight (Lords of Midnight, Bk 1)
After Midnight (Lords of Midnight, Bk 1)
Author: Teresa Medeiros
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 379
Review Date: 7/21/2009
Helpful Score: 3


~ Great paranormal historical romance - intense and mysterious hero is wonderful! (4 stars) ~

I am a huge historical romance fan but have never read any paranormal ones and didn't actually know I was until a ways into the book. I have read two Teresa Medeiros books - ONE NIGHT OF SCANDAL and YOURS UNTIL DAWN - and they were both just regular historicals, so I didn't realize she wrote anything else. The book was a great historical romance and for anyone who is put off by the paranormal/vampire aspect, don't be - AFTER MIDNIGHT is a great introduction into the genre of paranormal romances.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters are well-written and engaging, the secondary romance is sweet, the mystery subplot is an essential part of the plot and romance and so not an unnecessary addition that just drags on, and the chemistry and sexual tension between the hero and heroine are great!

MAIN CHARACTERS:
Caroline Cabot (24) is the elder of three sisters and has been taking care of her two younger siblings since their parents died eight years ago (or six years ago - it changes - note to editor). She's a strong and intelligent heroine who is easy to like; her love for her sisters is obvious and so of course she feels a great amount of guilt for the fact that she's unaccountably drawn to her sister's potential suitor (all works out very nicely though, with no resentment, hard feelings, or misunderstandings). All three of the sisters are great characters - very different, but all of them are three-dimensional and none of them flatly drawn.

Adrian Kane, Viscount Trevelyan (27) is an absolutely wonderful hero! He's dark and mysterious and seductive, but he's also kind, sensitive, has a sense of humor and feels great love and loyalty for his younger brother, Julian. Something I greatly appreciated was that Adrian is not one of those anti-love heroes who won't admit he's in love when he is - if a guy said to me the things that Adrian says to Caroline ... ::sigh::

GREAT LINE:
"I don't want to marry you. I don't want to want you," he added fiercely, taking one measured step toward her, then another. "And I sure as hell don't want to love you. But, God help me, I just can't stop myself."

SIMILAR BOOKS:
If you enjoy the older-sister-finds-her-hero premise, you might also like THE VISCOUNT WHO LOVED ME (Bridgerton Series, Bk. 2) by Julia Quinn (the whole Bridgerton series is great, so I would recommend them all) and Gayle Callen's HIS SCANDAL, which is a very light and enjoyable read, the second book in Callen's "His" Series.

BOTTOM LINE:
A great historical romance with a paranormal twist; I'm not normally a paranormal romance reader but I really enjoyed this book. The hero and heroine are great and I can't wait to read the follow-up book - AFTER MIDNIGHT is followed by THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME.

(http://historical-romance-heaven.blogspot.com)


All the Shah's Men : An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
Review Date: 6/11/2010


~ A MUST-READ FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO BE ABLE TO PUT CURRENT EVENTS INTO PERSPECTIVE (4.5 stars) ~

ALL THE SHAH'S MEN: AN AMERICAN COUP AND THE ROOTS OF MIDDLE EAST TERROR was a terrific book - a detailed and well-balanced historical non-fiction that at times reads like a spy thriller and throughout made me unbelievably angry and sad. Stephen Kinzer does a wonderful job of taking you behind the scenes of Mossadegh's overthrow and includes information from all the key players. He provides an enlightening brief history of Iran and a well-written explanation of what led up to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's problems, Mossadegh's rise to power, his nationalization of the oil industry, and the subsequent problems that eventually resulted in the end of his political career and his public life.

The arrogance of these men who thought they could play with a people and a nation as if they were playing a game of Risk . . . it's seriously abhorrent. To think of what has happened as a result of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company's greed (a company now known as BP), the British Empire's inability to let go of colonialism, and the US's obsession with stopping the spread of Communism at all cost - it boggles the mind. The covert institutions of these two countries literally played with the Iranian people and the country's future as if it was just a child's board game, disregarding not only the longterm implications of their actions, but also the unbelievable immorality of them.

So many times --- so many times! --- the Iranian people and democracy won out despite manipulations, backhand deals, palm-greasing, propaganda, and outright lies. After all that shady work by the US and Britain, the CIA's first attempt to overthrow Mossadegh on August 15, 1953 didn't even work!! And if Mossadegh hadn't been such a scrupulously honest and moral person and so devoted to the idea of democracy, freedom, and keeping his word, their second attempt on August 19 would also have failed. But it didn't, and we are all the worse off for it.

As Kinzer and other historians point out, one can trace a line from the CIA and MI6's overthrow of Mossadegh to the attacks against Americans and US institutions in Iran in the 70s, the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the embassy hostage crisis, the current (deplorable) state of democracy in the Middle East, and the emergence and strength of extremist and terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.

In the last chapter of ALL THE SHAH'S MEN, Kinzer writes: "It is not far-fetched to draw a line from Operation Ajax [the name of the operation to overthrow Mossadegh:] through the Shah's repressive regime and the Islamic Revolution to the fireballs that engulfed the World Trade Center in New York. The world has paid a heavy price for the lack of democracy in most of the Middle East. Operation Ajax taught tyrants and aspiring tyrants there that the world's most powerful governments were willing to tolerate limitless oppression as long as oppressive regimes were friendly to the West and to Western oil companies. That helped tilt the political balance in a vast region away from freedom and toward dictatorship" (p203-204).

How does the saying go? . . . Oh right: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (George Santayana, 1905). I fear that the lessons from Mossadegh's overthrow aren't ones we've forgotten, but ones we unfortunately never learned to begin with.

OTHER BOOKS BY STEPHEN KINZER:
BITTER FRUIT: THE STORY OF THE AMERICAN COUP IN GUATEMALA (1982)
CRESCENT AND STAR: TURKEY BETWEEN TOW WORLDS (2001)
OVERTHROW: AMERICA'S CENTURY OF REGIME CHANGE FROM HAWAII TO IRAQ (2006)
BLOOD OF BROTHERS: LIFE AND WAR IN NICARAGUA, with co-author Merilee S. Grindle (2007)
A THOUSAND HILLS: RWANDA'S REBIRTH AND THE MAN WHO DREAMED IT (2008)
RESET: IRAN, TURKEY, AND AMERICA'S FUTURE (2010)


Behind Closed Doors (McCloud, Bk 1)
Behind Closed Doors (McCloud, Bk 1)
Author: Shannon McKenna
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 214
Review Date: 8/7/2011
Helpful Score: 2


~ A STANDARD MCKENNA STORY; THEY'RE ENJOYABLE WHEN NOT READ ONE AFTER ANOTHER (3.5 stars) ~

I read this right after having read EXTREME DANGER, Book 5 in the series, and I definitely think that one needs to space out books by this author, because there are a lot of similarities.

You've got the ...
(some of these are kind of spoilers, but they're general and if you've read any other McKenna books, these will come as no surprise)
* crazy, psycho villain
* very weird and dangerous situation that compels the two main characters to be together
* heroine who is sweet and vulnerable, yet strong, and gives and gives and gives to the hero and takes all of his BS and mistrust and freaky stalkerish I'm-planting-tracking-devices-on-you-without-you-knowing in stride
* hero who is a total alpha with mad skills in bed and some type of law / military / security background who has always been the love 'em and leave 'em type until he met (or sketchily stalked/spied on) the heroine and then he can't help but be dazed by her beauty, sweetness, etc. etc.
* misunderstanding which makes the hero think the heroine betrayed him and so he confines / imprisons her because he wants to protect her even though he thinks she's been lying to him
* entire plot and love story that happens within the period of a few days and always ends with a wedding ring despite the unbelievably short amount of time they've known one another
... You get the picture.

They're enjoyable though, and when the heroes are sweet they're definitely swoon-worthy. Seth is the standard alpha who had a rough childhood and puts everyone off by being gruff but actually has a heart of gold underneath and is just lonely and grieving and needs the heroine to realize life can be amazing and he wants a home, a white picket fence, and children. ... Hmmm, did that sound too snarky? Sorry! ;-) Honestly, I actually did like Seth and found his complete lack of social skills quite endearing. (Quote #1 below is a perfect example of how Seth is utterly clueless but also hysterical).

I enjoyed the subplot in this one a lot more and I really liked that aside from the super-evil villain, other characters are murkier and you're not sure whether they're good or bad and kind of see they're a mix of both. In both books McKenna brings in some secondary characters' POVs and while in EXTREME DANGER I found it somewhat annoying and was a little bored by them, I liked it here and found Victor very interesting.

Raine was ... okay. I didn't dislike her, but never really got into rooting for her. It also *completely* bugged the heck out of me that she finds out Seth has been spying on her in the privacy of her own home for three weeks without her having any clue and her reaction is: "Oh, okay. Well I hope no one saw us have sex." Really?! Like ... really?!?! No: "You're kind of a psycho and really, really sketchy" or "Wow, think you could have told me that before I completely trusted you and we started sleeping together?" or even "I understand you were doing this for your undercover operation, but I'm still kind of pissed you stalked me for a few weeks and stared at me naked, so you're sleeping by yourself tonight"?!

I think I probably would have given this book 4 stars (and might still change the rating) if it hadn't been for the fact that it felt so similar to the book I had just read in this series. I'm interested in reading other McCloud books, but will be spacing them out from now on.

FAVORITE QUOTES:
"Lovers do things together! They rent videos, they ride Ferris wheels, they go out for pizza, they play Scrabble. They . . . they talk!"
"Talk?" He lifted his head and frowned, his eyes puzzled. "We talk all the time, Raine. I've never had such talkative sex."
"That's just it!" She wiggled, flailed, but couldn't budge him. "Two minutes alone with you, and I'm flat on my back. Every single time!"
A slow, knowing grin spread over his face. "Is this your way of telling me you want to be on top?"
(p. 184)

She was a fairy-tale princess out of his comic book fantasies. She glowed like a star. He hated it. It made his jaw clench [...] It made him want to wreck something, punch walls, hurl plates. He wanted to drag her into a corner and rip off her glittering veil of illusions. Remind her that she was his beautiful wild animal, not this remote, perfect being. She was earth and sweat and blood and bone, she was hunger and need and howling at the moon. Just like him. Part of him.
(p. 253)


Being Arab
Being Arab
Author: Samir Kassir
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 7/21/2009


~ Very interesting book on the current situation of the Arab world and Arab identity; a call for reflection and examination (4 stars) ~

A quick read, compelling, and very relevant. It contains an introduction by Robert Fisk with the title, "Who killed Samir Kassir?" Kassir was assassinated on June 2, 2005, presumably for his work as a journalist. He died outside his home as a result of a car bomb.

Kassir argues in this book that the Arab world is neither static and unchanging nor regressing towards fanaticism. Not only was there the Islamic civilization's flourishing between the 7th and 11th centuries that was one of the richest periods in human history, but that in more modern times the Arab world has continued to contribute to humanity in ways that should be celebrated, and that this occurred while the Arab world was also changing, adapting, and modernizing.

His book calls on the West to stop controlling and subjugating the Arab region (echoing the period of colonialism/imperialism) and on Arabs to give up a sense of victimhood and/or impending doom and instead "finally see our real history, so that we can then be true to it" (p.92). Kassir writes, "The despairing view of Arab thought and culture as permanently ensnared in conservatism and fanaticism has obscured several phenomena that could prepare a way out of the crisis" (p.87). I think he does a very good job of fairly and accurately portraying the difficulties that have led to the present situation.

Kassir has written a "call to arms" - but in this case, it is a call for thought and examination - on Arab identity: "It is not just the West that needs to re-examine its stance. The Arab world in particular needs to make a profound effort to eradicate the ambiguities that encourage a logic of cultural confrontation" (p.86).

A good quote: "We must not confuse terrorism with resistance, as the West confuses resistance with terrorism" (p.86)


Black Silk
Black Silk
Author: Judith Ivory
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 7/21/2009


~ Convoluted and meandering story that left me unsatisfied; hero and heroine were great together but couldn't save the book (2 stars) ~

Judith Ivory is an interesting historical romance author who writes books that are different from many of the other ones you find in the genre; she by no means follows the traditional cookie-cutter plot or character-cast. I found that though BLACK SILK had redeeming qualities - the hero and heroine characters and their relationship - they were not enough to save the book (a good romance doesn't make up for 446 pages of a book when most of those pages feel unrelated to the central love story). Note it's not a regency romance and takes place in 1858.

CONS:
I found the age gap of 43 years between Submit and her dead husband disturbing. I know relationships like that do occur and not always for gold-digging reasons, but the fact that she married Henry on her 16th birthday and they started having marital relations then ... it just didn't sit well with me. (If you're wondering, when the book takes place Submit is 28 and Graham is 38). I was also bothered by Graham's (non-existent) relationship with his two children, whom we only learn of on pg. 206 (in addition to the fact that he was previously married) and discover are 13-year-old twins on pg. 286.

The plot was convoluted and could have been so much better if there was more focus on Graham, Submit, and their developing friendship/attraction. There were random components of the book (children above being one example) - items, histories/pasts, characters - that were brought in but didn't contribute anything, were not fully explored, or were dispensed with easily and quickly while leaving you wondering why they were included to begin with. The book was like a ball of yarn full of knots that you're trying to unravel; every time you think you have it all sorted out you find another knot, every time you think you've found the beginning piece, you pull it out to find that it's just a scrap, disconnected from the rest of the skein. The last contrivance involving Gerald Schild was completely unnecessary and the ending - or rather how it was written - was not very satisfying.

PROS:
Ivory excels at writing great chemistry and this is one area in which she didn't fail here. Graham and Submit don't have their first physical encounter until close to the end of the book, but their relationship up till that point still sizzles and there is a definite rapport between them. Their developing friendship and romance is what makes me so disappointed to have to give this book such a poor rating; I looked forward to each of their interactions and found them so enjoyable - the kind that make you reread some of the lines or page back to read the scene over before continuing on with the book. There weren't enough of these scenes though, which added to the letdown. Also concerning the two main characters, I'm a sucker for books where the heroine is unusual and not necessarily beautiful, but the hero sees in her something that most others do not.

NOTE about Graham's lover:
Rosalyn Schild is Graham's (married) lover; they've been together for about 6 months and have a relationship throughout almost all of the book. I absolutely hate infidelity - in real life and reading about it - and normally don't even like to read historical romances where a character has had a happy marriage before, so it surprised me that her inclusion didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Know that the character does exist though, for any of you who might consider this a turn-off.

BOTTOM LINE:
Don't waste your time unless Ivory decides to do a rewrite. Instead, read THE PROPOSITION by Judith Ivory, which is one of my *favorite* historical romances of all time (and since I've read about 300+, that is definitely saying something)!!!

(http://historical-romance-heaven.blogspot.com)


Black Silk (Avon Romance)
Black Silk (Avon Romance)
Author: Judith Ivory
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 74
Review Date: 7/21/2009
Helpful Score: 2


~ Convoluted and meandering story that left me unsatisfied; hero and heroine were great together but couldn't save the book (2 stars) ~

Judith Ivory is an interesting historical romance author who writes books that are different from many of the other ones you find in the genre; she by no means follows the traditional cookie-cutter plot or character-cast. I found that though BLACK SILK had redeeming qualities - the hero and heroine characters and their relationship - they were not enough to save the book (a good romance doesn't make up for 446 pages of a book when most of those pages feel unrelated to the central love story). Note it's not a regency romance and takes place in 1858.

CONS:
I found the age gap of 43 years between Submit and her dead husband disturbing. I know relationships like that do occur and not always for gold-digging reasons, but the fact that she married Henry on her 16th birthday and they started having marital relations then ... it just didn't sit well with me. (If you're wondering, when the book takes place Submit is 28 and Graham is 38). I was also bothered by Graham's (non-existent) relationship with his two children, whom we only learn of on pg. 206 (in addition to the fact that he was previously married) and discover are 13-year-old twins on pg. 286.

The plot was convoluted and could have been so much better if there was more focus on Graham, Submit, and their developing friendship/attraction. There were random components of the book (children above being one example) - items, histories/pasts, characters - that were brought in but didn't contribute anything, were not fully explored, or were dispensed with easily and quickly while leaving you wondering why they were included to begin with. The book was like a ball of yarn full of knots that you're trying to unravel; every time you think you have it all sorted out you find another knot, every time you think you've found the beginning piece, you pull it out to find that it's just a scrap, disconnected from the rest of the skein. The last contrivance involving Gerald Schild was completely unnecessary and the ending - or rather how it was written - was not very satisfying.

PROS:
Ivory excels at writing great chemistry and this is one area in which she didn't fail here. Graham and Submit don't have their first physical encounter until close to the end of the book, but their relationship up till that point still sizzles and there is a definite rapport between them. Their developing friendship and romance is what makes me so disappointed to have to give this book such a poor rating; I looked forward to each of their interactions and found them so enjoyable - the kind that make you reread some of the lines or page back to read the scene over before continuing on with the book. There weren't enough of these scenes though, which added to the letdown. Also concerning the two main characters, I'm a sucker for books where the heroine is unusual and not necessarily beautiful, but the hero sees in her something that most others do not.

NOTE about Graham's lover:
Rosalyn Schild is Graham's (married) lover; they've been together for about 6 months and have a relationship throughout almost all of the book. I absolutely hate infidelity - in real life and reading about it - and normally don't even like to read historical romances where a character has had a happy marriage before, so it surprised me that her inclusion didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Know that the character does exist though, for any of you who might consider this a turn-off.

BOTTOM LINE:
Don't waste your time unless Ivory decides to do a rewrite. Instead, read THE PROPOSITION by Judith Ivory, which is one of my *favorite* historical romances of all time (and since I've read about 300+, that is definitely saying something)!!!

(http://historical-romance-heaven.blogspot.com)


The Bridal Quest (Matchmakers, Bk 2)
The Bridal Quest (Matchmakers, Bk 2)
Author: Candace Camp
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 178
Review Date: 7/21/2009
Helpful Score: 1


~ Great tension, arguing, and battle of wit and wills between main characters - definitely better than the first Matchmaker book (4 stars) ~

This book is the second in Candace Camp's Matchmaker Series and follows THE MARRIAGE WAGER. My main complaint with the first book of the series still holds true here, but it wasn't as bothersome. I don't know if this is Camp's normal writing style, but in neither book does she show the hero's POV (except for once for a total of 4 lines in this one) and I find it very disconcerting. The story is told exclusively from the heroine's narrative, with small exception - the aforementioned 4 lines and we do see Francesca's (the matchmaker of the series) POV occasionally. In all of the other historical romances I've read, the story is told in third person from **both** of the main characters' - and sometimes secondary characters' - POV (for good reason!).

Camp doesn't do this; in THE MARRIAGE WAGER it really bothered me because we didn't see enough of the hero in other ways so that at the end of the book I felt I still didn't really know him. She does a much better job of this in THE BRIDAL QUEST and I would happily have given the book 5 stars if it weren't for the fact that the hero's perspective is still needed. Other than that, this book is a charm and I will undoubtedly reread it.

SUMMARY:
Lady Irene Wyngate (25) is a sharp-tongued witty young woman (known by the ton as a shrew) who is very unusual for a lady of her class - she has absolutely no interest in *ever* getting married. Watching her drunk lout of a father wreak havoc in everyone's life with his whoring, gambling, and frightful rages and tempers convinced her long ago that she wanted to be under no man's rule and would remain as independent as possible for the rest of her life. She has never questioned her decision until she meets Gideon, Earl of Radbourne, for although she tries to cling to logic and remember what a boorish, arrogant, and rude man he is ... every interaction with Gideon excites her, her body comes alive when he's around, and she can't help but want to see more of his rare smiles and almost-never-heard laughs.

Gideon, Earl of Radbourne (31) was kidnapped at the age of four and grew up in the tough East End of London instead of living in comfort among the English aristocracy. He was recently restored to his family and they are anxious for him to get married; though Gideon is determined to decide on the lady himself, he is amenable to the idea and so agrees. His family asks for Lady Francesca Haughston's help, however, for they fear that it will be difficult to find a proper, young lady who is willing to marry Gideon, since despite his wealth, title, and handsome looks, he's rough around the edges, his hair is too long, he continues his involvement in his business affairs (a tradesman ::gasp::), he is far too direct, he doesn't dance well, and the list goes on. A country house party is organized and although Irene insists that she is attending in order to get her and her mother away from her horrible sister-in-law for awhile and NOT to be one of Gideon's prospective brides, Gideon is determined to change her mind ...

COMMENTS:
The relationship between Irene and Gideon is wonderful - a clash between two opinionated and strong-minded people. It's highly entertaining watching their attraction develop, despite both of their attempts to fight the undeniable chemistry between them (her caustic remarks are priceless and it's so funny when despite his anger he can't bring himself to write her off). There were several laugh-out-loud moments for me and I love the scenes when Irene finds herself defending Gideon against rude criticism despite herself and that she slaps him - not once, but twice!! This book was wonderful and the hero and heroine were perfect for each other - they're both strong, honest, intelligent, loyal, kind, and straight-forward and blunt to the point of rudeness.

Candace Camp combines a completely lovable hero and heroine (with wonderfully antagonistic - but humorous - interactions and great chemistry and dialogue), both friendly and horrible relatives, a family mystery (was Gideon really kidnapped? what happened all those years ago?), and the continually entertaining and curious relationship between Francesca and the Duke of Rochford (which will finally be resolved in the fourth and final book of the Matchmaker Series, THE COURTSHIP DANCE, out February 1, 2009!!) to create a delightful historical romance.

(http://historical-romance-heaven.blogspot.com)


By Love Undone
By Love Undone
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 38
Review Date: 7/21/2009
Helpful Score: 1


~ Wonderful romance with witty dialogue, great verbal sparring, and well-written chemistry (5 stars) ~

Suzanne Enoch is an extremely talented writer and I absolutely loved BY LOVE UNDONE, the first of the Bancroft Brothers books (followed by TAMING RAFE). Maddie and Quin are wonderful characters and their romance is so enjoyable to read. The witty dialogue and verbal sparring is highly entertaining and Maddie is a great heroine, a real spitfire who is not afraid to stand up for herself. It was also a wonderful change to have the hero be unafraid to declare that he's in love (in this book, it's the heroine who is reluctant to admit her feelings out loud). The secondary characters were well-written and three dimensional; the Duke and Duchess (Quin's parents) were both complex characters and neither of them was portrayed as being simply "good" or "bad," making them very realistic. I loved Rafe, Quin's younger brother, and cannot wait to read his story.

SUMMARY:
Madeleine Willits was 18 years old when she was ruined after being caught kissing a young man who was not her fiance (the guy was actually drunk and forcing himself on her). Her friends and fiance abandon her and her parents lock her in her room; she escapes and decides to create a new life for herself, leaving London behind and vowing to have nothing more to do with London society or the nobility. When we meet Maddie, she is 23 years old and has been been the companion to an elderly gentleman, Mr. Malcolm Bancroft, for four years. Malcolm receives a letter from his brother, the Duke of Highbarrow, telling him that Malcolm's nephew Quinlan Bancroft, Marquis of Warefield (30), is coming to visit. Although Maddie has promised her employer she will be on her best behavior, she can barely control her antipathy and antagonism towards Quin (she pretends to cover it by being sickeningly sweet).

Quin is the upstanding and obedient elder son who has always fulfilled his obligations and taken care of his responsibilities, yet he is confounded by the immediate hostility he encounters upon meeting his uncle's companion - whom he assumes is actually Malcolm's mistress. When Malcolm (a great secondary character!) catches Maddie and Quin kissing, he insists that Quin help reintroduce Maddie to society to make up for it. The battle of wits that ensues is highly entertaining and you will greatly enjoy seeing Quin and Maddie getting to know, like, and eventually love one another.

There is a subplot involving characters who are trying to stop Quin and Maddie from getting their HEA and although I don't usually like contrived obstacles that get in the way of the hero and heroine's love story, there were none of those major misunderstandings/mix-ups between the main characters that sometimes ensue, so it didn't really detract from the book.

MAIN CHARACTERS:
Maddie is a strong and independent heroine; she's very likable and admirably overcomes a painful past and creates a new life for herself. Like I said before, she's a spitfire who sticks up for herself and it's fun to watch her clash with Quin (and the Duke!!). Quin is a terrific hero; a lot of times the guys are rakes whom the heroine tames, so it was a nice change to have the hero be a man who is normally Mr. Respectable Nice Guy and who meets in the heroine a woman who makes him want to let passion and his heart guide him.

BOTTOM LINE:
A must-read that I would recommend buying; classified as a keeper and definite re-read in my library. Other Enoch books that I have read and enjoyed include A MATTER OF SCANDAL and LONDON'S PERFECT SCOUNDREL, as well as TAMING RAFE which is this book's sequel.

(http://historical-romance-heaven.blogspot.com)


By Love Undone (Bancroft Brothers, Bk 1)
By Love Undone (Bancroft Brothers, Bk 1)
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 96
Review Date: 7/21/2009
Helpful Score: 3


~ Wonderful romance with witty dialogue, great verbal sparring, and well-written chemistry (5 stars) ~

Suzanne Enoch is an extremely talented writer and I absolutely loved BY LOVE UNDONE, the first of the Bancroft Brothers books (followed by TAMING RAFE). Maddie and Quin are wonderful characters and their romance is so enjoyable to read. The witty dialogue and verbal sparring is highly entertaining and Maddie is a great heroine, a real spitfire who is not afraid to stand up for herself. It was also a wonderful change to have the hero be unafraid to declare that he's in love (in this book, it's the heroine who is reluctant to admit her feelings out loud). The secondary characters were well-written and three dimensional; the Duke and Duchess (Quin's parents) were both complex characters and neither of them was portrayed as being simply "good" or "bad," making them very realistic. I loved Rafe, Quin's younger brother, and cannot wait to read his story.

SUMMARY:
Madeleine Willits was 18 years old when she was ruined after being caught kissing a young man who was not her fiance (the guy was actually drunk and forcing himself on her). Her friends and fiance abandon her and her parents lock her in her room; she escapes and decides to create a new life for herself, leaving London behind and vowing to have nothing more to do with London society or the nobility. When we meet Maddie, she is 23 years old and has been been the companion to an elderly gentleman, Mr. Malcolm Bancroft, for four years. Malcolm receives a letter from his brother, the Duke of Highbarrow, telling him that Malcolm's nephew Quinlan Bancroft, Marquis of Warefield (30), is coming to visit. Although Maddie has promised her employer she will be on her best behavior, she can barely control her antipathy and antagonism towards Quin (she pretends to cover it by being sickeningly sweet).

Quin is the upstanding and obedient elder son who has always fulfilled his obligations and taken care of his responsibilities, yet he is confounded by the immediate hostility he encounters upon meeting his uncle's companion - whom he assumes is actually Malcolm's mistress. When Malcolm (a great secondary character!) catches Maddie and Quin kissing, he insists that Quin help reintroduce Maddie to society to make up for it. The battle of wits that ensues is highly entertaining and you will greatly enjoy seeing Quin and Maddie getting to know, like, and eventually love one another.

There is a subplot involving characters who are trying to stop Quin and Maddie from getting their HEA and although I don't usually like contrived obstacles that get in the way of the hero and heroine's love story, there were none of those major misunderstandings/mix-ups between the main characters that sometimes ensue, so it didn't really detract from the book.

MAIN CHARACTERS:
Maddie is a strong and independent heroine; she's very likable and admirably overcomes a painful past and creates a new life for herself. Like I said before, she's a spitfire who sticks up for herself and it's fun to watch her clash with Quin (and the Duke!!). Quin is a terrific hero; a lot of times the guys are rakes whom the heroine tames, so it was a nice change to have the hero be a man who is normally Mr. Respectable Nice Guy and who meets in the heroine a woman who makes him want to let passion and his heart guide him.

BOTTOM LINE:
A must-read that I would recommend buying; classified as a keeper and definite re-read in my library. Other Enoch books that I have read and enjoyed include A MATTER OF SCANDAL and LONDON'S PERFECT SCOUNDREL, as well as TAMING RAFE which is this book's sequel.

(http://historical-romance-heaven.blogspot.com)


The Care and Taming of a Rogue (Adventurers' Club, Bk 1)
The Care and Taming of a Rogue (Adventurers' Club, Bk 1)
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 143
Review Date: 11/1/2009
Helpful Score: 5


~ CAN'T BELIEVE I'M SAYING THIS ABOUT AN ENOCH BOOK . . . BUT IT WASN'T THAT GREAT ~

Suzanne Enoch is a fabulous writer and some of my absolute favorite historical romances have been written by her, namely LONDON'S PERFECT SCOUNDREL and ALWAYS A SCOUNDREL, with close second favorites being ENGLAND'S PERFECT HERO, BY LOVE UNDONE, and AFTER THE KISS. Needless to say, I was ecstatic about this book coming out and expected it to join my "all-time favorite" bookshelf --- it won't, and frankly, I'm considering whether to post it on PaperBack Swap right away, because I doubt that I will want to reread this.

THE CARE AND TAMING OF A ROGUE (The Adventurers Club, Book 1) wasn't bad in the sense that I didn't actively dislike it, but in almost every aspect it either fell short or just didn't click; it was boring and I was at times somewhat tempted to just put it down and forget about it. The premise was an interesting one and quite original, and I'm always a huge fan of books where the heroine is overlooked, shy, bookish, unusual, whatever. Plus, taking into account it's written by Enoch, it should be a natural five-star book, right? Wrong: THE CARE AND TAMING OF A ROGUE did not live up to my expectations. Both of the main characters were pretty forgettable, their relationship is not compelling and I never really understood how they got together or why they felt (or even THAT they felt) so strongly about one another, and the chemistry just wasn't there (which starkly contrasts with some of Enoch's other books).

~ SPECIFIC CRITICISMS ~
Both Bennett (29) and Phillipa (20) felt somewhat flat and one-dimensional. Bennett is supposed to be this "uncivilized explorer" who won't obey any of London society's "rules" and wants to drag his woman back to his cave . . . and although we're told this repeatedly and other characters constantly describe him this way, it didn't really ring true. Yes, he was blustery and aggressive, but it ended up just being annoying and not at all endearing, adventurous, bad-boy-attractive, or any other positive thing; he wasn't as unconventional as he was made out to be (an example of where that type of unconventional adventurer-hero was well done and *did* work is Christina Dodd's RULES OF SURRENDER).

Phillipa is a nice heroine, but nothing to write home about. We're told that she's practical and logical . . . but I didn't see that emphasized very much (there was no resemblance to someone like Dr. Brennan from the TV show "Bones," who is definitely an extreme of those two adjectives). She's also supposed to be unconventional in her own way --- embracing her "bluestocking" tendencies, completely bookish and somewhat anti-social (though friendly) --- yet she insists on Bennett courting her according to the rules and keeps placing emphasis on teaching him how to behave in London society (no such teaching really occurs) . . . while then going in broad daylight to the house he's staying in and making love for the first time with him in a kitchen larder (umm, can you say unromantic?).

Then there is their relationship, which seemed completely unsubstantiated to me and so was hard to believe. Basically he hears her voice - is attracted to her, sees her face - likes how she looks, remarks on her smelling of lemons - oh how nice, and bam! they're off. We know that Phillipa already has a little thing for Bennett in that she has been an admirer of his travel/adventure books, but why this romantic interest in Phillipa in particular? We're never really shown why he is THE ONE for her and she is THE ONE for him. [Sidenote: Why is it that aside from our heroines (and whatever friends they may have) almost all the other women in these novels are nitwit chits who only giggle, simper, and are catty when it comes to men??? Even Flip's sister, Olivia, kind of falls into this category --- at least for the first two adjectives.] Bennett and Phillipa are both nice people, sure, but I just don't see why their relationship takes off so quickly, with no trouble going from hello to kisses to making love to declaring love to talking about marriage (though actually that happens before some of those other ones) . . . which brings me to another point . . .

There are no obstacles in their romantic relationship!!! Well save one, to be fair, which was in fact a good one: she likes to stay at home and read, he's Mr. Adventure, so how is a real, lasting relationship (i.e. marriage) going to work for them? This was an interesting twist because it was a real consideration that is similar to the problems that nowaday long-distance relationships face. However during the book it isn't really dissected, just mentioned repeatedly and put aside; then in the end, it's resolved very nicely and quickly (TOO nicely and quickly). Other than that though, which wasn't even fully explored, any hurdles placed by themselves or other characters were either completely missing or not very substantial. I *HATE* books that have those big misunderstandings or throw obstacle after obstacle in front of the main characters for no apparent reason, but can't there be a happy balance between those two extremes??

Finally, the whole "Adventurers' Club" was a little ridiculous and when that's first introduced in the beginning of the book my reaction was "What? This seems very contrived . . . Maybe it's going to be made into a series?" . . . Which I then discovered it is. I don't understand the purpose of the club, don't see it's use or understand how it works or why it exists, etc. --- basically it's all a huge contrivance.

~ BOTTOM LINE ~
I feel very bad about giving such a negative review about a Suzanne Enoch book, but I was so disappointed! She has such talent and has written other novels that literally have me going to sleep with a smile on my face and waking up the next morning wanting to read the book all over again; THE CARE AND TAMING OF A ROGUE in no way compares to those books. There were some funny moments, some sweet ones, Kero (Bennett's pet monkey) was a great addition, but check it out from the library if you're set on reading it, don't buy it.

(http://romancebook-heaven.blogspot.com/)


Charlie All Night
Charlie All Night
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 495
Review Date: 1/8/2010


[3.5 stars]
~ SUMMARY (from back cover) ~
Dumped by her boyfriend and demoted from WBBB's prime-time spot, radio producer Allie McGuffey has nowhere to go but up. She plans to make her comeback by turning temporary DJ Charlie Tenniel into a household name. And if he's willing to help her cure her breakup blues with a rebound fling, that's an added bonus.

Charlie just wants to kick back, play good tunes and eat Chinese food. He's not interested in becoming famous. But he is interested in Allie. And after all, what harm is a little chemistry between friends?

But suddenly their one-night stand has become a four-week addiction. Night after night on the airwaves, his voice seduces her ... and all the other women in town. He's a hit. It looks as if Charlie's solved all Allie's problems ... except one. What is she going to do when he leaves?

~ MY OPINION ~
CHARLIE ALL NIGHT is not my favorite Jennifer Crusie book and like a few of her other earlier ones feels more like a novella than a full-length novel. Regardless, it is an enjoyable read and very entertaining. The chemistry between Allie and Charlie is great and they have some fantastic dialogue, there are several humorous scenes, and the secondary characters are wonderful - especially Joe, Allie's gay roommate. All in all, the book is definitely worth checking out from the library (which is what I did).

In Charlie All Night, like in ANYONE BUT YOU, Crusie features a heroine who is both older than usually found in the genre (Allie is 36) and than the hero (though only by two years here - not the ten that separates the hero and heroine of Anyone But You).

My favorite Crusie books so far are: BET ME (5 stars - amazing!!), MANHUNTING (4 stars), and GETTING RID OF BRADLEY (4 stars). They are all both read- and buy-worthy!

(http://romancebook-heaven.blogspot.com/)


Cloudy With A Chance Of Marriage (Impossible Bachelors, Bk 3)
Cloudy With A Chance Of Marriage (Impossible Bachelors, Bk 3)
Author: Kieran Kramer
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 77
Review Date: 4/27/2011
Helpful Score: 1


~ COULD BARELY FINISH - READS LIKE A PARODY (1/2 star) ~

With six new romance books having come out yesterday, I went out in the morning and bought the three I thought I would like the best and was so excited to get started ... Ms. Kramer's was the first one I read and I was unbelievably disappointed. Stopped at p22 yesterday and then decided to pick it up and quickly finish it today so I could PBSwap it. I honestly could barely finish the book and had to skim through parts, which is something I rarely, rarely ever do.

The characters - supporting and main - seemed more like caricatures of themselves than anything approaching three-dimensional people. Everything - their gestures, words, actions, feelings - seem exaggerated and the book ends up reading like a parody. This was especially true for the secondary characters, with Otis in particular driving me *absolutely* crazy.

I didn't find Jilly and Stephen at all engaging, but rather flat. Within the first two pages we're told by the heroine how unbelievably handsome and desirable the hero is - though she will of course resist, unlike every other female in the galaxy, because she's made of sterner stuff - and within the first six pages the hero has the hots for the heroine and has decided to pursue her. Surprise, surprise, Jilly doesn't resist very well and by p20 is wanting to "eat him up" because he's so delicious looking. Way to stand your ground Jilly! Despite the numerous mentions of the other's hotness and physical attraction, the chemistry between the two of them is negligible and the romance scenes are lackluster.

Some standard HR-type components are thrown in: Stephen's family/betrayal issues, Jilly's big bad secret that she's running away from, annoying distant relatives that require Stephen to "pretend" to pursue her with matrimonial intentions, a community that is about to be screwed over until Jilly steps in to save the day, a coup encounter with Prinny, and an unbelievably convenient reveal that solves all of Jilly's secret problems - with a few misunderstandings and upsets between hero and heroine in between.

Jilly's big bad secret is revealed on p22 so I don't feel like I'm ruining anything when I tell you what it is - if you don't want to know, skip this paragraph. Turns out she is married to her distant relative, Hector, who is a cruel and horrible man and a thief to boot. She's run away but is still married to him, yet does all this dallying with Stephen (always saying 'oh no, i can't' and then giving in about 3 lines later). And, conveniences of conveniences, she is still a virgin because Hector couldn't perform, so Stephen gets to do the deed.

This rating is so low that I was questioning myself as I wrote this review. I had originally decided not to write anything, because I didn't really have anything positive to say. I will tell you that I have been reading historical romances for ten years now, so I have read almost all the HRs already published that I am going to want to read. This leaves me to reread my favorites and wait for these new release days. The buildup is therefore great and my expectations are high - had I read this book five years ago, I might have given it 2 or 3 stars. But I didn't read it then, I read it now.

I really am sorry I so disliked the book - believe me, I would *MUCH* rather have had a new one to add to my HR favorites and rereads shelf - but this is my honest opinion. Kramer is very nice: she had a contest on her Facebook Page to name the fourth heroine in the series and commented back to me about my suggestions, which I thought was lovely. I also love her titles - makes for a nice change when you have a title you can say to a bookstore staff member without blushing. But sadly the book was a chore to read and one I wouldn't recommend.

THE IMPOSSIBLE BACHELORS:
Book 1 - When Harry Met Molly (3.5 stars)
Book 2 - Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right (didn't read)
Book 3 - Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage
Book 4 - If You Give A Girl A Viscount (coming out Nov 1, 2011)


The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story
The Company We Keep: A Husband-and-Wife True-Life Spy Story
Author: Robert Baer, Dayna Baer
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 4/13/2011


~ Interesting, but not what I expected (3.5 stars) ~

THE COMPANY WE KEEP was by no means a bad book, but I think my expectations were such that I was bound to be a little disappointed. I didn't really know what to expect, but an action, spy, historical/political, and love story - or some combination of the four - was what I had in mind when I started the book, and it ended up being relatively light on all four.

It's an interesting read and I liked how Dayna and Bob each wrote their separate (short) chapters, which are at first completely separate and then start to overlap more and more until they're intertwined and covering the same period and time together. Some pieces seem random and/or not fully explored, both things having to do with their personal lives (felt very piecemeal to me and really not complete) and with their professional ones. I think one thing the book brought home to me was that being in the CIA is not as exciting as it may seem in TV and movies (big shocker, I know!), and that nothing in that world is black and white.

I have a great deal of admiration for Dayna and Bob - their sense of adventure and ability to just pickup and go or be in completely unknown situations was really awe-inspiring to me, who likes to know everything beforehand, have all contingencies planned out, and is basically not the most spur-of-the-moment type person (putting it lightly).

BOTTOM LINE:
All in all, the book was quieter than I thought it would be, but worth the read.
[This review is of an advanced copy format of the book]


Confessions at Midnight (Mayhem in Mayfair, Bk 2)
Confessions at Midnight (Mayhem in Mayfair, Bk 2)
Author: Jacquie D'Alessandro
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 120
Review Date: 7/21/2009


~ Not trying to be unique here ... but unlike almost everyone else (and to my surprise), I did not like this book (2 stars) ~

I'm obviously in the minority, but I disliked this book. Normally I'm a fan of Jacquie D'Alessandro's novels, but I found this one and NEVER A LADY pretty horrible. It took me 11 days to read this book (the *longest* - by many days! - it has ever taken me to read a historical romance) and I literally had to force myself to finish it so I could just write my review and put it away. The frequent appearance of the three other heroines and heroes from the Mayfair Series was nice and I'm looking forward to reading Books 2 and 3 - and hopefully enjoying them more than this one! Random detail: Carolyn is 32 years old and Daniel is 33.

"MAYHEM IN MAYFAIR" SERIES:
(Book 1) SLEEPLESS AT MIDNIGHT - Miss Sarah Moorehouse and Matthew Devenport, Marquess Langston [***1/2, reviewed]
(Book 2) CONFESSIONS AT MIDNIGHT - Carolyn Turner, Viscountess Wingate (Sarah's older sister) and Daniel Sutton, Lord Surbrooke [**]
(Book 3) SEDUCED AT MIDNIGHT - Lady Julianne Bradley and Gideon Mayne
(Book 4) TEMPTED AT MIDNIGHT - Lady Emily Stapleford and Logan Jennsen

CRITICISM:
D'Alessandro is skilled at writing steamy scenes and great sexual tension, however it is usually all the more enjoyable to read because there is such a strong non-physical relationship that is developing at the same time, or has already developed, between the two main characters ... and I just did not feel that here! There was no witty or tongue-in-cheek dialogue, no humorous or particularly memorable encounters, and the emotional/intellectual connection was, I'm sorry to say, almost *completely* absent for me.

Daniel has lusted after Carolyn for ten years ever since he saw her for the first time on the eve of her engagement to Edward - now I have problems with the "love/lust-at-first-sight" premises, but let's put that aside since that encounter is not the core of the book ... what is the core of the book is basically them just lusting after one another and talking about an every-level connection of which I saw no actual evidence and could not really believe in (ex: they love talking with each other ... yet we read few/any actually meaningful previous conversations upon which they can base this feeling, and so on).

Regarding Carolyn's desiring Daniel: the progression of her feelings (or lusting) for him felt choppy to me because she goes from feeling ashamed and guilty for wanting him to being quite forward in their first sexual encounter: she decides to surprise him, have him shown into her private sitting room, and then comes in wearing just a negligee (with the whole open-mouth-jaw-dropping going on for Daniel and etc. - you think she's beautiful: we get it, move on already!). It was quite a leap forward and one that left me floundering when trying to connect with her character). Oh - and Daniel *repeatedly* going on about how the sight of her hand on his arm (and her hand in his / her knee near his / etc.) moved him so much one thought he wanted to tattoo the image on his forehead ... yeah, was too excessive for me.

CAROLYN'S PREVIOUS MARRIAGE:
I'm ashamed to admit that I don't usually like it when a hero or heroine was strongly in love before (and still has feelings for the person or it didn't end badly and they have fond memories) - horrible, I know!! However, if you're like me and want to know the details about Carolyn's previous marriage: she was married to Edward for ten years; they were very happy and she was heartbroken over his death; one gets the sense that her relationship with Daniel is more passionate than the one she had with Edward, so she is a little surprised by this aspect of his whole "I-can't-get-enough-of-you" reaction to her (but she likes it).

Although Carolyn really did love Edward, this was actually a part of the book that (surprisingly) didn't bother me and I thought D'Alessandro dealt with it really well: when Carolyn first starts to realize she's attracted to Daniel, she feels understandably guilty, conflicted, and confused, however she doesn't spend the whole book that way and realizes (not two pages after moping, but a reasonable amount of time into the book) that being with another person or loving another man won't diminish what she had with Edward, that he would want her to happy, and that she didn't die along with him. It was all very sensitively and realistically written and I think worked really well.

BOTTOM LINE:
Skip CONFESSIONS AT MIDNIGHT - it being part of a series still doesn't warrant even taking it out of the library IMHO (which, I know, obviously *many* people disagree with! LOL) - and instead read THE BRIDE THIEF or RED ROSES MEAN LOVE - two of my favorite D'Alessandro romances and favorite overall historicals also.


Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Author: Tom Franklin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 12
Review Date: 4/17/2011


~ Highly recommend; a book of quiet strength, about the choices we make and the indelible effect they have (4 stars) ~

This book was often heartbreakingly sad, but a wonderful read that I highly recommend. While CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER took me awhile to get into, I read the last 250 pages in one sitting late into the night. From the beginning there are certain things the reader pretty much knows, but there is still a great deal of mystery in the story. Franklin does a good job of achieving a nice balance between the two and of drawing you steadily in until you feel that a need to know the truth about these characters and what happened.

Silas and Larry seem to be relatively clear and simple characters at the beginning, but their complexities and dimensions are subtly revealed as the story progresses, the book being mainly about these two men and how their lives intertwined and connected. The book flashes between the past and the present until they eventually converge, but the transitions are done smoothly and there is not so much back and forth as to leave the reader feeling lost - several chapters go by before you return to the other time period.

The book is a difficult read emotionally due to the overwhelming sadness woven throughout the story. The characters and their lives often border on the tragic, though in simple and real ways. Loneliness, exclusion, isolation, loss, regret, longing, guilt - these things seem to define the characters' lives, but there is also a strength that we see in many of them and in their ability to continue and survive. You sense Larry's shame and longing to belong when he is made fun of or tries to fit in with the kids at school and you feel his loneliness as he sits in his auto shop everyday without a single customer or anyone to even talk to. Ina (Larry's mom) and Alice (Silas') were also very tragic characters and though seemingly small in the context of the overall plot, the boys' relationships with their mothers (both past and present) were very well-crafted and added a certain depth to all four characters.

One of the biggest dilemmas with these types of stories is how to finish them - at least that's how I feel as a reader - and as I approached the end of the book I was torn between whether I wanted a tragically poetic end or one of resolution and closure - which has the additional danger of bordering on the corny and overly sentimental. I obviously don't want to give anything away, so I will just say that the ending Franklin gives us was, in my view, absolutely perfect.

BOTTOM LINE:
I definitely recommend CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER and also think it would be ideal for a book group, providing a wealth of topics and issues to discuss and debate. The plot draws you in and the story was well-done; it makes you think about the different choices one makes and how certain decisions can impact other people's lives, sometimes indelibly. In my opinion, the characters are the book's greatest strength: you end up truly caring about them and feeling invested in their lives. Without some type of connection to a book's characters, its story can only affect you so much and take you so far, so I think that when an author is able to create both characters that pull at some part of you and a story that makes you debate and think and feel, he or she has done what they are supposed to do as writers.
[This review is of an advanced copy format of the book]

(Note: There were more than several typos throughout the book, however since this was an advanced reader copy, I am assuming/hoping they were fixed in the final edition.)


Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Author: Tom Franklin
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 61
Review Date: 4/17/2011


~ Highly recommend; a book of quiet strength, about the choices we make and the indelible effect they have (4 stars) ~

This book was often heartbreakingly sad, but a wonderful read that I highly recommend. While CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER took me awhile to get into, I read the last 250 pages in one sitting late into the night. From the beginning there are certain things the reader pretty much knows, but there is still a great deal of mystery in the story. Franklin does a good job of achieving a nice balance between the two and of drawing you steadily in until you feel that a need to know the truth about these characters and what happened.

Silas and Larry seem to be relatively clear and simple characters at the beginning, but their complexities and dimensions are subtly revealed as the story progresses, the book being mainly about these two men and how their lives intertwined and connected. The book flashes between the past and the present until they eventually converge, but the transitions are done smoothly and there is not so much back and forth as to leave the reader feeling lost - several chapters go by before you return to the other time period.

The book is a difficult read emotionally due to the overwhelming sadness woven throughout the story. The characters and their lives often border on the tragic, though in simple and real ways. Loneliness, exclusion, isolation, loss, regret, longing, guilt - these things seem to define the characters' lives, but there is also a strength that we see in many of them and in their ability to continue and survive. You sense Larry's shame and longing to belong when he is made fun of or tries to fit in with the kids at school and you feel his loneliness as he sits in his auto shop everyday without a single customer or anyone to even talk to. Ina (Larry's mom) and Alice (Silas') were also very tragic characters and though seemingly small in the context of the overall plot, the boys' relationships with their mothers (both past and present) were very well-crafted and added a certain depth to all four characters.

One of the biggest dilemmas with these types of stories is how to finish them - at least that's how I feel as a reader - and as I approached the end of the book I was torn between whether I wanted a tragically poetic end or one of resolution and closure - which has the additional danger of bordering on the corny and overly sentimental. I obviously don't want to give anything away, so I will just say that the ending Franklin gives us was, in my view, absolutely perfect.

BOTTOM LINE:
I definitely recommend CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER and also think it would be ideal for a book group, providing a wealth of topics and issues to discuss and debate. The plot draws you in and the story was well-done; it makes you think about the different choices one makes and how certain decisions can impact other people's lives, sometimes indelibly. In my opinion, the characters are the book's greatest strength: you end up truly caring about them and feeling invested in their lives. Without some type of connection to a book's characters, its story can only affect you so much and take you so far, so I think that when an author is able to create both characters that pull at some part of you and a story that makes you debate and think and feel, he or she has done what they are supposed to do as writers.
[This review is of an advanced copy format of the book]

(Note: There were more than several typos throughout the book, however since this was an advanced reader copy, I am assuming/hoping they were fixed in the final edition.)


Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (P.S.)
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (P.S.)
Author: Tom Franklin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 97
Review Date: 4/17/2011
Helpful Score: 2


~ Highly recommend; a book of quiet strength, about the choices we make and the indelible effect they have (4 stars) ~

This book was often heartbreakingly sad, but a wonderful read that I highly recommend. While CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER took me awhile to get into, I read the last 250 pages in one sitting late into the night. From the beginning there are certain things the reader pretty much knows, but there is still a great deal of mystery in the story. Franklin does a good job of achieving a nice balance between the two and of drawing you steadily in until you feel that a need to know the truth about these characters and what happened.

Silas and Larry seem to be relatively clear and simple characters at the beginning, but their complexities and dimensions are subtly revealed as the story progresses, the book being mainly about these two men and how their lives intertwined and connected. The book flashes between the past and the present until they eventually converge, but the transitions are done smoothly and there is not so much back and forth as to leave the reader feeling lost - several chapters go by before you return to the other time period.

The book is a difficult read emotionally due to the overwhelming sadness woven throughout the story. The characters and their lives often border on the tragic, though in simple and real ways. Loneliness, exclusion, isolation, loss, regret, longing, guilt - these things seem to define the characters' lives, but there is also a strength that we see in many of them and in their ability to continue and survive. You sense Larry's shame and longing to belong when he is made fun of or tries to fit in with the kids at school and you feel his loneliness as he sits in his auto shop everyday without a single customer or anyone to even talk to. Ina (Larry's mom) and Alice (Silas') were also very tragic characters and though seemingly small in the context of the overall plot, the boys' relationships with their mothers (both past and present) were very well-crafted and added a certain depth to all four characters.

One of the biggest dilemmas with these types of stories is how to finish them - at least that's how I feel as a reader - and as I approached the end of the book I was torn between whether I wanted a tragically poetic end or one of resolution and closure - which has the additional danger of bordering on the corny and overly sentimental. I obviously don't want to give anything away, so I will just say that the ending Franklin gives us was, in my view, absolutely perfect.

BOTTOM LINE:
I definitely recommend CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER and also think it would be ideal for a book group, providing a wealth of topics and issues to discuss and debate. The plot draws you in and the story was well-done; it makes you think about the different choices one makes and how certain decisions can impact other people's lives, sometimes indelibly. In my opinion, the characters are the book's greatest strength: you end up truly caring about them and feeling invested in their lives. Without some type of connection to a book's characters, its story can only affect you so much and take you so far, so I think that when an author is able to create both characters that pull at some part of you and a story that makes you debate and think and feel, he or she has done what they are supposed to do as writers.
[This review is of an advanced copy format of the book]

(Note: There were more than several typos throughout the book, however since this was an advanced reader copy, I am assuming/hoping they were fixed in the final edition.)


The Debba
The Debba
Author: Avner Mandelman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 6/25/2010


~ THE CHARACTERS WERE INTRIGUING, COMPLEX, AND WELL-WRITTEN, BUT THE CONVOLUTED PLOT SOMETIMES GOT IN THE WAY (3.5 stars) ~

Mandelman's first full-length novel is well-written and the author is a gifted storyteller with a talent for creating intriguing, complex, and vastly different characters. As much as the plot is intricately woven and propels the book, I truly think the characters are the stars, for they are all very carefully and thoughtfully drawn and their portrayal feels honest and truthful. Even as he shows us their darkest side, Mandelman displays an affection for and understanding of each of them, and in so doing he evokes complicated and conflicting feelings in the reader. This being said, THE DEBBA was at times an uneven read for me, with the plot seeming so thick and convoluted - blindingly so - that I had to force myself to continue.

The summary of the book had attracted me and being Jewish and having studied the Conflict, I was very much looking forward to reading it. If I like a book and I'm intrigued enough, I don't start and finish other ones during the time I'm reading it (which in this case I did), and I usually read it in either one big sitting or at least a few large chunks. THE DEBBA's beginning went very easily and I found myself quickly drawn in, but as the story got increasingly complex and the mysteries seemed to multiply exponentially, my attention began to wane.

The middle of the book feels very stop-and-go-ish and throughout, everything is shrouded in mystery. In part, this is well done, because David, the narrator, is himself confused, tangled, and unsure of what is true and what is not - however as the reader, I felt myself to be even more so. As the plot unfolded, so many things seemed murky and riddled with unspoken things. The underlying mystery of who killed David's father grabs your interest, but there are many other mysteries, secrets, and surprises that at first we don't even realize are being alluded to or slowly uncovered. I must say that the secrets that do exist and are slowly each exposed were well done and not necessarily de trop, but that their unraveling was at times too meandering and messy.

The summary provided for the book is comprehensive enough that I won't give my own, though I will disagree with two phrases. The first is that David "decides to stick around to fulfill his father's request" - this implies a conscious thought and decision on his part and instead, he really ends up staying in spite of himself. Mandelman has crafted a very interesting and, as I said before, complex main character. David is both known to us, as a narrator should be to his or her reader, and unknown to us, as we all essentially are to one another. Like real human beings, he does both good and bad things and cannot be pinned down as being one thing. Some of his actions are abhorrent and though he thinks the same, he is unable to stop himself. At other times, he displays a very believable and authentic purity and desire to do what is right. He is both self-aware and self-deceiving, naive and cynical, sympathetic and pitiful, accessible and elusive.

Additionally, to say that David experiences "opposition from those who believe the play is subversive" is a definite oversimplification of the matter. At times, it seems like there are many different groups and factions opposing him for just as many different reasons - that even every individual within each of those groups and factions has his or her own obscure reasons for doing so. At the end, this feeling still rings true, though so does the assertion that the essential "truth" is a simple and singular one.

In conclusion, I would feel no compunction about recommending this book and am glad that I read it myself. Although I had definite criticisms, there is no doubt that Mandelman is extremely talented and I look forward to searching out his published short stories and reading the next book that he writes.

P.S. (1) Since I feel like with most books covering this issue - fiction or non - this invariably comes up, I want to say that in my opinion the book was very even-handed and that people on either "side" would really have to stretch themselves to be offended. (2) To classify THE DEBBA as a thriller is not very accurate - it is more intricate and careful than I think the term implies. (3) I was familiar with much of the historic references, but if you're not it is easy to get lost and confused, so I think reading even just a little historical background beforehand will be helpful. (4) The epilogue was not very satisfying and it had one phrase about one of the characters that really bothered me.
[This review is of an advanced copy format of the book]


The Devotion of Suspect X
Review Date: 4/29/2011


~ Superbly crafted psychological suspense novel - simple, yet genius (4 stars) ~

This story was superbly crafted and a really wonderful, highly recommended read. The truth is I didn't actually like it very much at the beginning, however I quickly got pulled into the story and in the end could only admire the simple but genius quality of the plot.

There are essentially four main characters in this novel: Yasuko, the single-mother who commits the unplanned murder; Ishigami, a math teacher and her neighbor, who helps her cover it up; Kusanagi, the main detective investigating the case; and Yukawa, a physics professor who is friends with Kusanagi and often assists him on cases. Yukawa and Ishigami used to be friends when they were both university students, but had since lost touch.

For much of the beginning, Yasuko and Ishigami are the central of the book and the reason I wasn't getting wrapped up in the story was mainly because neither one of them really drew me in at first. While I sympathized with Yasuko, she appeared to me a somewhat boring character. Ishigami, on the other hand, seemed like he was probably very complex, but so placid and emotionless on the surface that I couldn't really get a feel for him. When Kusanagi and Yukawa become further integrated into the story, they were the ones whom I actually became most interested in and who really started to pull me in. The more I read, the more I ended up liking and understanding all four characters. The one who remained the weakest was our heroine, Yasuko, but Kusanagi, Ishigami, and Yukawa are wonderfully written, with the last two being the most complex and thoroughly developed/explored characters of the four.

The plot itself is nothing short of superb. Very skillfully crafted and just when you think you know what's going on and are ahead of characters x, y, and z, things take a surprising turn. There were also several cases of reverse dramatic irony (if that's an actual term - and if not, now it is!). What I loved most about the mystery was that it was as mystery stories should be: there are enough clues that the reader could actually figure things out, but the truth of the matter is that you're not going to (or at least I didn't) because it's so carefully interwoven and hidden.

Another thing that was absolutely fabulous - and also superb in a mystery/suspense - is that I truly did not know how the book was going to end. You have all of these opposing forces and teams - Yasuko and Ishigami, the accomplices; Kusanagi and Yukawa, the investigators; Yukawa and Ishigami, the math and science geniuses and reacquainted friends - and are somewhat confounded as to who you should be rooting for. So not only do you not know how the book is going to end, but you also are not sure how you even *want* it to end!

This was the first I had heard of this book and this author, but after finishing THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X, it is clear to see why it is an award-winning book and why Higashino is Japan's biggest bestselling novelist. I am already looking forward to reading more of his work.
[This review is of an advanced copy format of the book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers]


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