Monday, November 18, 2013

Imprudent Lady by Joan Smith

Well, here's yet ANOTHER clean Regency romance. And Joan Smith has about a gazillion titles on Amazon, so I'm happy to have found yet another clean RR writer.

This book was about naive author Prudence--24 years old and pretty much on the shelf--and the poet that she practically idolizes, Lord Dammler. When they are first introduced by their publisher, Dammler finds Prudence, with her caps and her quiet manners, eminently forgettable, but when he reads her novels, he finds himself attracted to her wit and intelligence and he befriends her. She, crushing on him from before the first moment of their acquaintance (he's rather a rock star as a result of his books of adventurous poetry), embraces their friendship despite being sure that he first sees her as an older friend (not unlike his many male friends), then a sister and finally...well you'll have to read it yourself although of course you know what the ending will be, right?

The best part of this book was the witty dialogue between Prudence and Dammler. Of course, the thing that draws them together is her irreverence (theoretically she's irreverent because she's naive, but really her irreverence is a part of her character. There are  many plays on her name--she's a prude, she always acts prudently, etc, but she is really further from true prudence in her language and attitudes than I imagine the "ideal" Regency lady would dream of being) and his rakish behavior. Rather an unseemly commonality that made the whole story ring with overtones of naughtiness. I couldn't completely embrace that idea, but I was totally charmed by Uncle Clarence and, as I said before, I really liked the bright conversation between our main characters.

A fun book--I'm looking forward to reading more by Joan Smith.

Sex: aside from references to Dammler's "prime articles", there was no sex
Bad language: none

Hide in Plain Sight by Marta Perry

This is the first in a series of 3 books, each book telling the story of one of three sisters. This book tells the story of the eldest Hampton sister, Andrea. Responding to the needs of her grandmother and sister, Andrea takes a little time off from her demanding job to travel to her grandmother's Bed and Breakfast to help manage its opening while her sister recovers from a hit-and-run accident. She encounters mystery, danger, family and romance.

I like this combination in a book--the romance/mystery kind of story that I particularly enjoy. This a "Love Inspired" book, a Christian romance. The religion was not heavy-handed. The book (indeed the whole "Love Inspired" line) is published by Harlequin, I believe--the behemoth romance publisher that goes to bed (if you'll excuse the obvious metaphor) with the pornographers as well as the Christians. Of course, the decisions the heroine faces are a little simplistic, a little all-or-nothing (career or family for instance), which may be a little one-dimensional, but it's still a valid presentation of the good vs. better choices that many of us are trying to make. And a pretty suspenseful little mystery too!

It was a sweet and entertaining book that I enjoyed.

I skipped book #2, but read book #3 "Buried Sins" also, which features sister Caroline, escaping to the family home from her troubles in the big city. Her new husband has just been killed in a car accident and Caroline is starting to realize that he wasn't all he claimed to be and in fact was probably involved in something that promises danger for her as well. Local police chief Zach investigates and feel attracted to artistic Caroline, but must hold himself apart until he figures out if she's as innocent as she claims.

Pretty nice that all three sisters find their Mr. Right in the same little town. I'm sounding cynical, but I don't really mean it. "Buried Sins" was a good story too, although I enjoyed #1 more. I don't think I'll read #2. I do like Marta Perry, though, so if I run into one of her books again I won't hesitate to read it.

Sex: none
Bad language: none

Pride, Prejudice and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway

Well, this was a surprisingly fun take on Jane Austen's most famous piece of fiction! Set in the South, this story features Civil War experts Shelby Roswell and Ransom Fielding. He deeply offends her sensibilities and she is determined to dislike him. Meanwhile, he begins to find her interesting... and you know how it all turns out, don't you?

It cannot be said that this version follows closely its original (that is, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice), but I couldn't stop myself from trying to fit every scene into the Austen book that I know so well. Of course, there are few direct parallels, but it was still delightful and well worth a read. Not a perfect construction, but a lot of fun and a good story on its own. I probably enjoyed it the more because I didn't expect to like it much. Ha.

I will mention that I didn't see eye to eye with Shelby's insistence, in the end, on the importance of her career over Ransom's, but I suppose that's the traditionalist in me. Ransom rose magnificently up to a completely unselfish response. Happy sigh. One of the consequences of feminism that I do not like is the emasculation--to one degree or another--of the men in our lives. I know there's a middle ground, compromise, generosity to be found in most successful relationships between men and women, but culturally it is completely acceptable these days to slight men in the way that women have been slighted for centuries past. I guess some might say that it's about time! But I would like to imagine that equal worth for both sexes can be found without the dramatic swing of the pendulum that seems inevitable to any political or social change. Hm.

Anyway. I appreciated the thoughtful nature of our heroine. She really did try to overcome her negative feelings and responses and she allowed herself to listen to and actually learn a little from Ransom Fielding. He, of course, grew more and more attractive as the story went on, and I liked getting a glimpse into his heart--understanding why he appeared so unpleasant from time to time. The Southern setting added an extra sparkle too, of course.

Sex: none
Bad language: I don't think so

A Stranger in Wynnedower by Grace Greene

Worried about her brother who has not returned her calls, inventory specialist Rachel Sevier takes some time off from work and travels to Wynnedower, a practically abandoned mansion in Virginia to find him. She encounters instead scruffy owner Jack Wynne.

What a fun book! It was gothic romance/adventure and you know I have a weakness for that particular genre. I liked the spooky mansion, I grew to like our hero and I appreciated the commonsense approach to her troubles that Rachel took. It was an entertaining and largely charming story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sex: none
Bad language: I don't think so

The Magnificent Devices Series by Shelley Adina

This was such a happy discovery! It was on my bookbub list--a boxed set for 99 cents, and was described as "Steampunk", so I bought it for my daughter. She read it before me and really liked it, but I took my time getting to it (so many books, so little reading time!). When I did I was immediately captured and I loved the entire series!

The books follow the story of intelligent and misunderstood Lady Claire Trevelyan and her evolution from a "blood" (a member of the nobility) to a "wit"--a member of the intelligentsia. Her story is set in the alternative version of Victorian England where steam is king and steam technology is advancing dramatically.

I was engaged in these stories from the very beginning. Claire was strong, smart, determined and a woman of integrity. She accidentally became the "Lady of Devices" among the London criminal element and went on to transform nearly everything and everyone she came into contact with, always with the eventual goal of getting herself to college and furthering her education. What a fun series! I highly recommend them to you and your children, especially if you have Steampunk fan among you!

Sex: none
Bad language: none

Dans de la Folie by Sherwood Smith

I am beginning to believe that Sherwood Smith could write anything and I would love it!

This is a Regency romance a la Georgette Heyer. It features two heroines: wealthy and quiet Miss Clarissa Harlowe, and poor, adventurous Lady Kitty. Both ladies find their way to society, friendship and love.

I liked the occasional narrative comment that stepped outside of the story--the little spotlights on significant moments or people. Sherwood Smith has a...a down-to-earth tone in every one of her books that I appreciate so much. It makes me laugh and it somehow ensures a lack of uncomfortable (or laughable) melodrama.

I also liked, of course, the setting and the romance. The story was just the slightest bit forgettable, and didn't have the depth of character or dialogue that my very favorite stories do, but it was fun and very engaging, and in the thoroughly enjoyable classic Regency romance style that is such a delight to read. I really liked it. I'm so happy there are so many clean and engaging Regency romances out there! I have a friend who is sort of collecting them lately and passing on all her recommendations and I am having fun making my way through many of them.

Sex: of course not--no respectable Regency lady would think of it (despite all those sex-drenched Regency bodice rippers out there)
Bad language: none, naturally

A Hearth in Candlewood by Delia Parr

In the style of the Mitford series, this was a Christian story (the first of a trilogy, I believe), focusing on the people of a small town, peppered with references to prayer and bathed in a feel-good glow. It is historical fiction, set in a canal town in mid-19th century New York.

I liked so many things about this book. I liked the small town, I liked our main character, I liked the very subtle romantic hints, I liked everyone we met in Candlewood. I liked how pleasant--uplifting even--it was and how clean it was.

But, I found the story a little bit thin on plot. It was really a series of events loosely tied together, with promises of an overarching theme (or two) to be completed in future books. I guess the main plot in this one book would be the troubles of the run-away widow that our main character, Emma, adopts into her household. A bigger conflict having to do with her ownership of her boarding house was introduced, but obviously will be resolved in later stories. The reader, meanwhile, has to suffer through constant fearful references to this complication without enjoying even a bit of resolution. That was kind of irritating.

All in all it was a pleasant book that gently engaged my attention for a few days and left me with no interest in reading further about Emma, her suitors or her boarders. Nice, but not addicting.

Sex: none
Bad language: none

My Story by Elizabeth Smart with Chris Stewart

I don't like "my-childhood/youth-scarred-me-but-look-at-me-now" books--they're usually ugly and I can't help but cringe when it seems that so many relish rehashing the tragedies of their youth and substantively fail to truly rise above them. What are the messages of these books? Something like: my parents were awful but I'm okay. Kind of underwhelming.

This book, however, is in the spirit of or or even

Pushing Up Bluebonnets by Leann Sweeney

This is a mystery--one of a series starring adoption PI and Houston heiress Abby Rose. And I've kind of decided not to review more than one book in a series, so this is the only Abby Rose book I'll write about here.

In this one, Abby is asked by small-town police chief Cooper Boyd to identify a young woman, an unknown victim of a murderous "accident".
Abby uses her particular brand of investigation to ferret out the secrets of several families. She doesn't foolishly put herself in the way of danger, but still scrapes through some adventures in the course of her searches. I like a sensible heroine! She's down-to-earth, smart, compassionate and human. I do like our Abby.

In fact, I really like this series. It was a happy discovery! I've been reading so many e-books lately and those are such a mixed bag. Self-publishing is exciting, certainly, but some books are awful, some are just "meh" and occasionally the reader finds a really good one. I might even say that I rarely find a really good one. I feel like I've been wading through a lot of disappointing books lately. It makes the better writers really stand out.

This one, however, is not an e-book, nor is it self-published. Leann Sweeney is well into her Abby Rose series, and they're pretty dang good. The writing is clever and the dialogue is natural, the stories are fresh, and the characters are very likeable. I also like the idea of an "adoption PI". What an interesting line of work that might be! It's nice too, when the police and our main character can work together. I think I like that better than when the private detective (or the amateur) and the "official" detectives are at odd. Mostly, anyway. Depends on the writer, I suppose.

Some negatives: there are some swear words. The ones in this particular book were minimal, but I read one in this series that contained a few really offensive words. Also, Abby has a boyfriend whom she sleeps with. There are no love scenes. I probably won't actively seek out more of this series, but I have enjoyed the ones I've read (lent to me by my sister-in-law, who I enjoy trading books with. Thanks, D!).

Sex: It's there, but not descriptive nor titillating.
Bad language: Some, but no F-bombs in this particular book.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Phantom Lover by Elizabeth Manfield

So, I'm always looking for clean Regency Romances. What is it about this time period that so captures the imagination of the reader? There are TONS of Regency Romances out there, but very few clean ones. Which makes me laugh in a way because no self-respecting Regency heroine would let herself be ravished as portrayed in so many of these steamy novels. Of course, if we're going to talk about self-respect and its relationship to repeated illicit steamy sexual encounters....but we're not. So.

You know how in the back of a novel you've read--especially older novels--there are sometimes pages advertising other similar authors? That's where I found Elizabeth Mansfield. I ordered one of her books at random from a used book seller on Amazon so see if she was any good.

Of course, I've been very spoiled by Georgette Heyer, who made researching the Regency period a lifelong project. She had sources unique to her (journals and other documents from her own family history) and set the pattern (including dialogue, colloquialisms, clothing styles, etc) for all following Regency romances. No twentieth/twenty-first-century Regency romance author writes as well as she can or can achieve that feeling of "rightness" in the time period. Most fall far short, in fact. But Elizabeth Mansfield was not too bad.

The title implies a paranormal romance, but it's not. The story is of our heroine (who seemed like an overindulged brat at the beginning of the story) and a man who has been wounded in the war and how they come to know each other, change each other and eventually fall in love. Pretty standard romance stuff. Are there ever any "new" stories out there? I'm starting to think not, so it's a pleasure to find an old story entertainingly told, as this one is. I'll certainly read more Elizabeth Mansfield.

Sex: nope
Bad language: nope

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

This was an unusual book. It takes place in Stung Meanchey, the largest main municipal dump in Cambodia--where an entire community resides and works to survive. The story is loosely based on the information found in a documentary produced by the author's son. The documentary, titled River of Victory, produced still photos that, as Camron Wright says, "offer the reader fuller flavor and understanding of Stung Meanchey and its residents. The pictures are not an attempt to portray my characters and their particular story as factual." The pictures definitely add to the "fuller flavor" of this book, though; they made it seem more real.

Mr. Wright tells the story of Sang Ly, her husband and young son, their friends at Stung Meanchey and of the drunken, threatening and superior rent collector they derisively call "the Cow". This is a work of fiction even though it's been based on a true situation. Camron Wright says of this book,"Using the documentary as a starting point, I tried to write a novel that accurately reflected the setting, conditions, character traits, and important historical facts. Then, going beyond that, I wanted to imagine what might happen if the gift of literacy were given to a family in those circumstances. The scenario I envisioned plays out in the fictional elements of The Rent Collector."

So I've given you a hint of what this book is about. It was well worth reading. From a cynical viewpoint, it seems clear that his scenario would and could never play out in reality. Still, the glimpse into the life lived in the dump, into Cambodia itself, into the beauty and higher thinking that literacy can provide and the huge portion of hope and happy endings that Mr. Wright wrote into his book make this a novel that is both sweet, engaging, inspiring and interesting. It also made me feel renewed gratitude for my very comfortable life. A good book!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Georgette Heyer's Regency romances

An elegant lady in life, Georgette Heyer wrote a series of elegant, well-researched romances and a series of elegant mysteries. Her Regency romances are what I love best and I have read every one. She's also written some very accurate historical novels (which I don't enjoy nearly as much as her romances).

A list of all her romances:
  • The Black Moth (1921)
  • The Transformation of Philip Jettan (1923) (later republished as Powder and Patch) (1930)
  • These Old Shades (1926)
  • The Masqueraders (1928)
  • Devil's Cub (1932)
  • The Convenient Marriage (1934)
  • Regency Buck (1935)
  • The Talisman Ring (1936)
  • An Infamous Army (1937)
  • The Spanish Bride (1940)
  • The Corinthian (1940)
  • Faro's Daughter (1941)
  • Friday's Child (1944)
  • The Reluctant Widow (1946)
  • The Foundling (1948)
  • Arabella (1949)
  • The Grand Sophy (1950)
  • The Quiet Gentleman (1951)
  • Cotillion (1953)
  • The Toll-Gate (1954)
  • Bath Tangle (1955)
  • Sprig Muslin (1956)
  • April Lady (1957)
  • Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle (1957)
  •  Venetia (1958)
  • The Unknown Ajax (1959)
  • A Civil Contract (1961)
  • The Nonesuch (1962)
  • False Colours (1963)
  • Frederica (1965)
  • Black Sheep (1966)
  • Cousin Kate (1968)
  • Charity Girl (1970)
  • Lady of Quality (1972)
She is acknowledged as the creator of the Regency-style romance and has written a wide variety of stories. She's been compared to Jane Austen, although Heyer's books, I've noticed, contain a much greater wealth of period details in order to, as I suppose, firmly set her stories in the Regency and Georgian eras for her modern readers. Jane Austen had no need to include so much detail as her stories were written for readers who lived their lives just as her characters did--she wrote for her peers, of course.

There are a few of the books above that I haven't liked very much--A Civil Contract seems unromantic to me and I pity our female main character's (initially) loveless marriage. An Infamous Army and The Spanish Bride are too historically based for my enjoyment--An Infamous Army, especially, about war and loss and suffering is NOT my idea of romance. All three are good books, but since I tend to read Georgette Heyer for escape, I do not feel drawn to the more "realistic" of her books. My favorite of the above books is Venetia, although I also really, really like Lady of Quality, Black Sheep, Frederica, False Colours, The Nonesuch, The Unknown Ajax, Sylvester, April Lady, Sprig Muslin, Bath Tangle, The Toll-Gate (I especially like that one!), Cotillion, Arabella, The Reluctant Widow, Faro's Daughter (I especially like this one too!), The Corinthian, The Talisman Ring (my daughter's favorite), Regency Buck, Devil's Cub, The Masqueraders (such an unbelievable premise, but Georgette Heyer makes it convincing!), and The Black Moth (her first).

I'm posting this list today because I've been "chain reading" Georgette Heyers recently and I do not want to review every single one. I think I have reviewed one or two on this blog--The Black Moth, These Old Shades, Devil's Cub, and The Convenient Marriage, in fact--but I won't review any of her other romances. Suffice it so say that if you like historical romances (and Jane Austen), you will very likely love Georgette Heyer. I purchased my collection online, from Barnes and Noble (some of these stories have been re-released by Harlequin) and in England (where I paid way too much for them, but cannot regret it) in new and used book stores there (I got a first edition of Black Sheep! Happy sigh). If you're looking for escape, you can find it in Georgette Heyer's clever, witty, detailed, romantic and often adventurous tales.

Sex: none (although many of her male characters are the classic reformed rake. Hm.)
Bad language: none

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

This was another fairy tale retelling, and you know how well I like those. I also generally like Gail Carson Levine.

However. I didn't particularly like this one. Well, I didn't dislike it either. So...

In this re-telling of Snow White, our heroine Aza is a misfit in the kingdom of Ayortha. Despite having great and unusual vocal talents (highly regarded in this kingdom), Aza is large, white and considered very ugly. She's spent her life working at her (loving) family's inn, hiding her face and being reassured and unconditionally loved by her adoptive parents and siblings. One day she has an opportunity to go to court as a lady-in-waiting to a demanding but not unkind duchess. Perhaps Aza will get the chance to sing for the royal family? She does indeed, and finds that her singing talents entangle her in the biggest knot of trouble that she's ever encountered. Will she ever be free again?

The reasons I liked this book: Well, it's a fairy tale. Love those. And I loved the dwarves--who were not really dwarves in this book. And I was so glad that Aza had a loving family. I liked the badness of the bad guy. Why does it often seem that bad guys are more real than the good guys in fairy tales? Is evil so easy to illustrate? Finally, I am always amazed when a familiar story can be so uniquely re-imagined as this one is! So creative!

What I didn't like: Unfortunately, I didn't like Aza much. I liked her best in her most assertive moments, but those were few and far between. I didn't find her love story very believable. WHY did he fall in love with her? Their connection was not built on anything substantial so didn't feel very well developed. The wicked queen usurped her power all too easily. It felt like the conflict needed more teeth. In fact, the whole book needed more teeth. I know this is a YA book, but so many of those do have depth and substance so when I encounter one that has a suitably rich storyline, but doesn't quite develop, I am sorry. Of course, Gail Carson Levine is a master storyteller and so many of her books are so lovely, engaging and entertaining. But this one (loosely connected to Ella Enchanted, by the way) was not one of her best.

Sex: nope!
Bad language: none

Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson

Well, I officially love Julianne Donaldson. I LOVED Edenbrooke and eagerly awaited Ms. Donaldson's next. This one was quite different and just as enjoyable.

Kate Worthington has always dreamed of being included in an invitation to Blackmoore, the estate that her best friend's brother  (someone she works hard at not loving, by the way) is heir to. But when he finally invites her to Blackmoore, her experience is different from what she had imagined it would be. Charged by her difficult mother with the task of receiving and rejecting 3 marriage proposals before Kate will be allowed to go with her aunt to India (as she has been dreaming of for the last 2 years), Kate will discover at Blackmoore that she cannot play at love without injury to herself and others.

I so dislike writing summaries.

I also dislike books that mire the reader in the protagonist's hopeless situation, which this book seemed to be doing at the beginning. But I soon became totally caught up in Kate's relationship with her family and the Delafield family and waited rather breathlessly for the resolution of Kate's love story (well, actually I didn't wait breathlessly at all for very long because I am a person who reads ahead to the ending just to make sure it's all going to come out well. Because if it doesn't come out well, then why bother reading such an unsatisfying tale? And if it DOES come out well, then I have the pleasure of reading a good ending twice AND enjoying the story, secure in my assurance of a satisfying resolution. People always get all kerfluffled if I happen to mention my predilection for reading the endings first, but I stand firm in my claim that not EVERYONE needs to enjoy books the same way. Hmph.). I do feel just slightest bit, hm... dissatisfied? disappointed? cheated? I don't know just the right word for it, but I do feel just the slightest bit that way when the plot hinges on a highly dysfunctional family as this one does. That's kind of the Disney method, you know--the dysfunctional/incomplete/abusive family creates the conflict that the hero and heroine must resolve. Almost it feels like a lazy conflict. Give me an interesting conflict where the family is intact (many of Georgette Heyer's novels have this) and I'll show you a highly creative and gifted author.

However, I mean to cast no aspersions on this book, nor on Julianne Donaldson, because I have loved both of her books so far and I highly recommend them both!

Sex: none
Bad language: none

A Fine and Dangerous Season by Keith Raffel

I like political thrillers. This one mixes history with fiction and tells the story of how Jack Kennedy's friend Nate Michaels saves the world from WWIII during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

This was less thrill and more political, I think. Nate Michaels, a California businessman and an estranged college friend of President Kennedy, is unexpectedly summoned to the president's assistance with the delicate business between America and Russia. Nate is completely unofficial, yet his friendship with a Russian diplomat could help avert a war.

I really enjoyed this book. For one thing, I could enjoy the journey more since I did know the ultimate ending--the Cuban Missile Crisis was (obviously) resolved and war averted. I also enjoyed the (largely fictional, of course, but still interesting) glimpse into Kennedy's presidency. I really liked our main character, Nate, and I was captured by the little retrospectives into his past that showed how his relationship with Jack was damaged and why he (Nate) felt it could never be mended.

It also prompted me to ask a question that I've asked before: can an unfaithful husband be a good man? If he breaks that important promise--even at the risk of negative public opinion--can he be trusted to keep any other promise? My short answer is NO. John F. Kennedy was never faithful to any woman and his whole character must be compromised by such a deep and constant failure of personal integrity. On the other hand, all of us make mistakes, right? We can be sorry for those mistakes and resolve never to make them again. And hopefully we can be forgiven, right? So are we to be forever condemned by our mistakes? I hope not, although even today a "politically incorrect" mistake can dash a career (a la Paula Deen). Ironically, sexual pecadillos (pick any celebrity) and even criminal convictions (e.g. Martha Stewart) don't seem to be reputation breakers/career enders. But! Sexual dalliance can still founder a political career. And Kennedy's sexual exploits were ongoing--he never redeemed himself from infidelity--he was sexually promiscuous from the onset of his sexual life until his death. Can this persistent infidelity indicate a basic character weakness? I thought about this as I read about this portrait of Kennedy and this particular time in his presidency.

Anyway, it was a good book that I enjoyed.

Sex: Several recountings of Kennedy's sexual adventures in college, some a little bit graphic, although not portrayed in a titillating fashion.This book was not about Kennedy's sex life, but about the relationship between Kennedy and Nate AND about the Washington scene during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Bad language: a few swear words, not many

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Last Queen of England by Steve Robinson

 As you can see from the title, this book is a Jefferson Tate Genealogical Crime Mystery (that's kind of a mouthful!). And I've never read a genealogical mystery before! I liked it! I liked the slightly overweight, but very intelligent Mr. Tate, I liked the genealogical information that he was an expert in, and I was very interested in the outcome of the mystery as well!

Did I like it well enough to read more Jefferson Tate mysteries? Hmm. Maybe.

Sex: Nope
Bad language: A bit. There were some bad guys, you know, and it seems like bad guys must use bad language. Or something.

P.S. I don't have to summarize because you can just read the back of the book down here, right? Zoom in!

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

I bought and watched this movie (Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, Rupert Everett, Julianne Moore, Jeremy Northam) and liked it well enough to want to read the play and see the differences between the two.

I generally like Oscar Wilde, although I feel wary of what seems to be a deep streak of cynicism in most of his rather fluffy plays. He reminds me of Jane Austin in some ways too, as he writes social commentaries that contain romance, comedy and commentary.

In this play, an ideal husband is found to have feet of clay. Can he leave the past behind him and act with integrity even though it may cost him his relationship with his wife and his reputation in society? Can his wife forgive him?

There are other elements here too, of course. A rake who is really a philosopher, a romance, a designing woman...lots of good stories happening.

It was significantly different from the movie in some pretty substantial ways. This doesn't surprise me when I'm watching a screen adaptation of a book, but it did surprise me a little bit in this movie since this is a screen adaptation of a stage play. Why the plot substitutions, I wonder? It's a play, not a book, after all. Anyway, they're both enjoyable.

Sex: No--although the movie inserts some provocative scenes (including a glimpse of a totally nude lady, btw--to earn that PG-13 rating, perhaps?), but this is a review of the play, not the movie, right?
Bad Language: No

Old Money by Heather Horrocks

This book was cute. It's subtitled "A Wild West Romantic Comedy" and I don't generally feel interested in westerns, but I know I like Heather Horrocks, so I picked up this little romance.

Summary: Jennie and Bryce broke up several years ago amid misunderstandings and deeply hurt feelings and both went their own ways. Now it is Bryce's wedding day and Jennie finds herself in disguise at his wedding (yeah, there's a backstory here, clearly). In a magical twist of fate, they are both transported 100 years back in time to old town Abilene Texas, right in the middle of a bank robbery. Can they overcome their hurts and mistrust of each other to survive being hunted by the law and the robbers AND to find their way back to the 21st century?

Well, I imagine I'm not really giving too much away to hint that, yes, this book has a happy ending. And a fun beginning and middle too. It was an entertaining book with a nice little taste of what history has told us about Jesse James and his gang. Plus, it's squeaky clean. I love that.

Sex: Plenty of chemistry between our main characters, but no sex before marriage (and even after marriage, sex is only indicated, not described).
Bad language: Nope

The Girl With No Name by Marina Chapman...

This book is subtitled, "The Incredible Story of a Child Raised By Monkeys" and is co-written by Vanessa James and Lynne Barrett-Lee, and is a true story.

This was a very interesting story that captured my imagination and stayed on my mind for days. Short summary: after being kidnapped and abandoned in the jungle at age 5, this young girl spends 6 years living in the jungle with the monkeys before she's taken again and sold to a brothel in a little town in Columbia. When she escapes the brothel, she lives on the streets as a thief and adventurer. Of course, this is only part one of this girl's story. Part two, the ghostwriter promises, has been written, but is yet to come.

It's hard to believe that anyone could survive this life and actually enter Western culture, transition into a "normal" life and then write a book about it all! It reminded me that the worst things in life don't happen to us because of acts of God or terrible diseases or other accidents, but happen as a result of the depraved behavior of other PEOPLE LIKE US. Never ceases to amaze me and motivates me to look inside myself to see if any corner of my soul is hiding potential for this kind of inhuman behavior. What people do to each other is too often absolutely unspeakable.

I remembered the question that I have often heard asked: how can a good God allow such bad things to happen to innocents (or to good people). Because it happens all the time. Bad things happen to good people. The author of this book questions the existence of a God that would allow these things to happen to children. I understand the question. I thought again about the two-edged sword that is our agency. People can choose what they do--God doesn't really stop anyone from behaving contrary to His will. We each get to choose. It's the ultimate freedom--our own ability to choose in any situation. Other people can limit our choices, but what choices exist in every situation are ours to make. It's a great gift that comes as part and parcel of being a person born on this earth. But. On the other hand, because we aren't the puppets of God and because I guess we all have the choice to choose depravity as easily as we can choose good, there are way too many people that choose that ugly behavior that is the hallmark of this lady's story. People are just as free to choose to be monsters as they are free to be saints. Why do so many people choose to be so awful? That was one of the things I found myself turning over in my mind after reading this very interesting and engaging story.

The book was fascinating and easy to read--Marina Chapman and her writers don't make it too gritty and unpalatable an account, for which I was grateful. I felt a deep sympathy for animals (as Marina herself clearly feels) and a gratitude for my own very nice childhood. I really would like to read the rest of Marina's story. How did she get from the jungle to secure married life in Britain? Seems like a pretty amazing leap. Anyway, it was a good read.

Sex: Nope. Well, except from what was observed by a very naive child while living at the brothel.
Bad Language: none

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Awakening Colors by Ritu K. Gupta

I was asked by the author to read and review this book.

I'm not sure exactly what to say about Awakening Colors. It was not at all what I expected. What I expected was more action, more fantasy, a plot that moved ahead more actively. What I found was a lot of philosophy. The plot, in fact, was less of what drove the story than it was a vehicle for the author's expression of her philosophy. Which was lovely, if you like that sort of thing.

The book takes place in Canada and the main characters are Indian. The book feels very Eastern, with its long flights into purple prose and its mystics and mysteries. It was well written--it felt to me as though English were not the author's first language, yet still her command of the language was good enough for her to build some lovely metaphors.

The plot was promising: after being in a coma for 6 months, Pari awakens to find that she can read the auras that surround people. She seeks more knowledge about this new power--she reads journals left to her from a mystic and she wonders if it is safe to seek advice from the mysterious and powerful Arche. Even bigger than this, the prologue implies that Pari's new ability has a purpose, that it will provide balance to the world (the universe?). There is certainly a lot of promise for a good story here. I was especially intrigued by Pari's ability to read people and, if she intervenes, to change their lives. I liked reading about the few times she did that.

So. The plot is promising. The philosophy is plentiful but not painful. The main characters are relatively likeable. My real complaint is that the plot is barely advanced at all! I was so disappointed! I read some reviews on Amazon that implied that this book is the first in a projected series? If so, then I suppose the total lack of any conclusions in this book is understandable, although frustrating. Some specific problems: Pari seems to make progress all on her own and you wonder why she bothers with Arche at all. Arche's powers are unclear anyway. There is foreshadowing of a battle between Pari and Arche, but when that battle comes it is....a bit of a letdown. All that philosophizing--from the journals and from Arche--doesn't really seem to contribute anything to the plot. The "magic" that is at the center of the book is vaguely explained--one can sense a system somewhere, but it's never clear. It's all very wordy and mystical and vague and not at all what I expect a work of fiction to be. There are elements that seem to promise a story that just doesn't really develop.

Altogether, I didn't like the book, although I can see that it could well be a personal taste thing. I think if the book had been billed as a philosophical novel, then it would have been less disappointing because I'd have known what I was getting into--a philosophy book with the beginnings of a story attached. Because that's what this book feels like to me. If a reader enjoys Eastern philosophy, then this book may be transporting. But if a reader is looking for a story of magic, mystery, adventure and action...well that's not quite what is to be found in Awakening Colors.

Sex: references to extra-marital sex, some sensual references, no sex
Bad language: surprisingly for a spiritual/intellectual book, there is a little bit of swearing, including a slap-the-reader-in-the-face f-word about 2/3 of the way into the story. I didn't expect that one at all and it seemed oddly out of place. In fact, that whole scene, where Pari and her friend Navina discuss the sexual abilities of Arche and Navina lets that f-word fly, seemed out of keeping with the shape of the novel in general. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Introvert's Way by Sophia Dembling

I recently figured out that I am an introvert! I've never been shy and I love people (mostly), but as I've gotten older and have kind of grown into myself, I have noticed that I really like to be alone, I prefer reading a book to most other activities, I hate talking on the phone, I dread parties...and so on. I've felt guilty about these preferences and dislikes as well, and have felt pressure from others to feel differently. So figuring out that at least 50% of the human population is like me and that introverts have a whole set of strengths that are different from those of extroverts....well, it's been very cool to figure this all out about myself (I love figuring things out about myself!) and I am eager to read more about this whole extrovert thing.

So I had high hopes for this book. What I THOUGHT I was going to read was a description of what it is to be an introvert and some "practical ideas for dealing with others and feeling fine about [myself]", as the blurb on the front cover promises.

But that's not quite what this book delivers. I actually learned more about being an introvert from this list than I did from this book. There were a few interesting studies that the author extrapolated from to make some informed guesses about introverts, but most of this book was gleaned from her own opinion and experiences and from blog posts from other self-proclaimed introverts. All interesting enough... but NOT interesting enough to actually fill a WHOLE BOOK.

The book was repetitive and fluffy and a disappointment. Admittedly, there is not very much out there about introverts as "normal" people and for years folks have equated introversion with shyness or even neuroticism, but it seems like more thought and organization could have been brought to bear on an actual BOOK claiming to be all about the introvert. Hm. Oh, PLUS, this author has no children (she has a husband, though) so she leaves out a huge component of an introvert's life. She made no effort to include any information about what seems like possibly the most important thing in an introverted mother's life: her children. Strange. She makes some guesses about what an introvert might feel about his/her children, but this book is mainly about parties. Why to go to a party, when to leave a party, how to work a party, why one shouldn't have to go to a party, how to take a break from a party.. and on and on. There's also some slamming of extraverts, a lot of "yay for us!" about introverts and some pretty uncharitable and self-centered mantras. It was all very casual and chatty, just like an article in a magazine. But for a book claiming this:

"For the 70 percent of highly sensitive people who are introverts, The Introvert's Way will give them practical ideas for dealing with others and for feeling fine about themselves, just as they are--loving quiet, solitude, and deep conversation."

it was way too lightweight. I felt that I had wasted a lot of my time reading an entire book when there were probably only about 3 chapters that actually provided any interesting information. Sigh.

Sex: no
Bad language: surprisingly, there was a little bad language. It always surprises me when a "science"/information book has bad language in it. Somehow that kind of language doesn't seem to be consistent with a person who thinks and studies and stuff. Or maybe I just have different ideas about grown ups than other people do. Boy, I'm kind of grumpy this afternoon, aren't I? Hm.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Few E-books

"The Accidental Movie Star" by Emily Evans
Pros: I liked the common-sense approach and down-to-earth voice of the female main character (Ashley)
Cons: There were LOTS of make-out scenes. Keep in mind that Ashley is a 17-year-old and her actor friend is only 18. Their make-outs are theoretically "acting", getting into his role--silly and contrived, to my mind. I really didn't like all the sexual scenes between teenagers that were in this book. And the ending was kind of depressingly modern: they became boyfriend and girlfriend. Now that's true love for you. A real commitment. Yeah.

The Gatekeeper's Sons by Eva Pohler (#1 in a trilogy, fyi)
Pros: A very interesting premise--Hades' two sons pursue one earthly girl who has recently witnessed the murder of her parents. Why her? Because she's a good dreamer and because she vigorously seeks reunion with her dead parents. Anyway, one son pursues only a playful romance, but the other son pursues a much more serious relationship. No sex, no bad language.
Cons: ANOTHER Greek mythology series. Need I say more about that? Another teenage romance, complete with early commitment (does she REALLY want to marry him?) and Twilightesque bedroom scenes and a perfect, god-like boyfriend. Sigh. Again? Also, the ending was really contrived. The happy ending had to be manipulated away from in order to make possible the rest of the trilogy. The reader feels the manipulation. And why did Therese take it so lightly? I thought she had committed to an eternal relationship with the god that she loved!

"Heartsight" by Kay Springsteen
Pros: A sweet, heart-warming love story with lovable main characters and a story of substance. No sex, no swearing.
Cons: Can't think of any, really. It was a sweet book about a former marine, blinded in the line of duty and floundering, seeking to find substance and purpose in his life. One day on the beach he meets a little girl who captures his heart almost immediately. She is followed by her mother, a little panicky because she's temporarily lost her Downs Syndrome daughter, and a lot lonely. You know what happens next. I liked this story quite a lot.

A Proper Companion by Candice Hern

     Have you ever noticed that when life is tough or particularly emotional or stressful or whatever, that a girl will often immerse herself in "fluff"? It's escapism, of course. And I particularly like romance when I want to "escape". However, I do NOT like the highly sexualized romances that are so abundant these days. Therefore, I do not check out (at the library) or buy, willy-nilly, any romance that catches my eye, because the LAST thing I want is to be seared by some graphic sex scene. I like to read about ROMANCE (with good chemistry, of course), not SEX. So, I get so happy when I find a series of sweet, sex-free romances. Yay!!

     This is a regency romance about modest, beautiful and dirt-poor Emily Townsend, recently become companion to a spunky dowager countess who is grandmother to handsome rake Lord Robert Bradleigh. Ah yes, you can probably guess the eventual outcome of this little situation. Along the way, however, Emily has to outwit the malicious intentions of some distant relatives and Lord Robert has to shed one unloved fiancee. How it all happens is entertaining and fun and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it all. I plan to read all the rest of Candice Hern's regency romances!

Sex: nope. Well, except for the fact that our hero is the stereotypical rake who has had various previous lovers while our heroine is squeaky clean. Yup. Classic. Hm.
Bad language: none

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

     This was another of those free ebooks from bookbub! Yay! I'm collecting such a queue of e-books. And, as you book lovers certainly know, there is very little more satisfying in life than shelves (and virtual shelves) full of books to read! I can't even remember the days when I used to read a book and then need to go back to the library or the bookstore to get another one. Now I have hundreds just waiting for me. Delicious! (Of course, that doesn't stop me from visiting the bookstore and the library and adding to the queue!)

     This book was charming! It was also a Christian book, which I didn't know when I bought it. It was the perfect kind of Christian book in that the evangelizing message was not particularly heavy-handed, nor was it distracting from the story line. Nice!

     Our main character, Ivy Malone, is a 70-something LOL (as she calls herself--a Little Old Lady) who has found that she seems to be virtually invisible to many of those younger people around herself. I loved this concept because, even though I am far from my 70s, I have noticed that the older I get, the less "visible" I feel. I've heard my mom complain about this same thing. It's like our youth culture makes the non-youths sort of....disappear. Of course, that's overstating it :), but I love the way that Ivy Malone embraces this idea and uses it to her advantage as she snoops in the affairs of her young friend and neighbor who has been murdered.

     Of course, I don't usually like amateur investigators, and adorable Ivy has not changed my mind. I always think it's strange when a "normal" person actually solves a criminal mystery and gets in life-threatening situations along the way. Hm. So I probably won't read any more of these. But! Ivy was so sweet and I liked all the supporting characters as well. Ivy's voice was vibrant and clever and honest and I loved reading all about her life and feelings. I'm not sure if I've read a book from quite this kind of point of view before. I really liked it!

Sex: none
Bad language: nope!

An Amiable Charlatan by E. Phillips Oppenheim

I so enjoy E. Phillips Oppenheim! And, even better, ALL of his books are free on the e-reader because they are so old. I really like them and intend to plow through them all.

In this tale, ordinary (British) Paul Walmsley is sitting at dinner in Stephano's (in London, of course), at which he is a regular, when he is suddenly joined by a stranger who asks a particular favor of him. This favor launches him into love and adventure.

The other books by E. Phillips Oppenheim that I have read have a political flavor to them. This one absolutely did not. It did have a sweet little twist, though.

I particularly liked the intrepid nature of our hero, Paul Walmsley. He remained lovingly convinced of the pure nature of his lady, Eve Parker (an American), no matter what she seemed to be doing. Her father, by the way, is our titular amiable charlatan.

It was a fun, squeaky clean book that I enjoyed.

Sex: none
Swearing: none

Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson

     A friend from one of my book clubs recommended I join bookbub and I did! So I've been getting emails every day with book "deals", meaning e-books for 99 cents, books for free, and books that cost just a few dollars. Fun! I already discovered that if I buy just ONE 99 cent book a day, then I'll be spending $30 on ebooks every month! Mind you, that's just the e-books from bookbub. That doesn't count the other e-books I buy, or the paper books I buy. Ahem. So I am trying to be choosy.
     Anyway, this book is one of the books from bookbub. It wasn't free and I wanted to read it but, mindful of my book budget, I checked it out from the library. And I'm glad that I didn't buy it.
     Because...although this book was cute, it wasn't as good as I had hoped. I was hoping for stories of search-and-rescue experiences. And there were some of those, yes. But I was disappointed that almost none of those stories included a resolution of the searches! I wondered if that is the reality for these volunteer searches--grueling work with very few answers. Seems pretty frustrating for them. And passing on that frustration to the reader doesn't make for a very satisfying book.
    The good parts of this book were all about the dogs, their training and all that very cool information about how a handler learns to interpret the messages from his/her searching dog. I liked that part. I also enjoyed reading about Ms. Charleson's other dogs--her pomeranians.
     It was an inoffensive book that was interesting, but not gripping. I was disappointed, but not disenchanted enough to quit reading. I'd like to know more about these dogs and how they work. I'd also like to hear more stories of search-and-rescue successes!

Sex: none
Bad language: I think there were a few swear words, but not more than 2 or 3.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Excavation by James Rollins

     I really like James Rollins. I am starting to really like this genre--adventure--even though I have already found that the quality of the writing and originality of the stories vary greatly from author to author. Actually, there are not a lot of original adventure stories out there, are there? So I guess perhaps it's the writing that makes the real difference. And James Rollins has the touch for sure. I have liked every book I've read by him. This one was not an exception.

     This book starts out and finishes in the Andean jungle. The adventure starts when the disappointing mummy that Professor Henry Conklin finds turns out to contain a mysterious and powerful secret. Then the reader begins a Indiana-Jones-like archeological adventure that doesn't stop from the moment the dig caves in to the moment the plane lands in Cuzco.

     The book was a bit of a slow starter; it took me a few chapters to really get grabbed, but by page 40 I was totally caught.

Sex: None, although there is some sexual tension between some characters and some kisses are exchanged.
Bad language: There is plenty. I counted about 20 serious swear words in the 416 pages of this book. I scribbled them all out so I could add the book to my shelf and not worry if my kids wanted to pick it up. Ha.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

     This was a very lovely book. It is mystery, history, romance, chick lit, a ghost story... a little bit of everything. I really, really liked it.

     Willa Jackson still lives in the little North Carolina town that her great-grandparents used to dominate. Their wealth, power and generosity was a legend until they lost everything when the logging industry collapsed. Today Willa lives modestly in the town she was raised in, working in her organic sports wear shop in the trendy area of town. But when her great-grandparents' old house is renovated, a mystery is uncovered and Willa's perception of her family and herself is changed in a way that changes her relationships and her life permanently.

   That summary doesn't really cover it. My favorite part of the book was its portrayal of the kind of friendship that binds women together for life. In fact, I got this book in the mail from my bff and I couldn't help but feel it was a bit of a love letter from her to me, a warm hug to me from a sweet friend. I closed the book with warm and fuzzy thoughts about the way women help each other and they way we SHOULD help each other.

    And of course I loved the two love stories that developed over the course of the book too. I love a good love story. I highly recommend the book, with the provisos listed below. Mostly I just loved it.

Sex: Yup. Both couples begin sexual relationships outside of marriage. There is a brief petting scene and several non-descriptive sex scenes.
Bad language: I don't remember any...I think there is some mild swearing, though.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

     There are so many books that have been made into movies, and it is such a pleasure to see characters that you've read come alive on the screen. I saw the movie version of this book many months before I finally read the actual story by Winifred Watson. She wrote Miss Pettigrew in 1938 and her little story was made into a movie starring the adorable Amy Adams in 2008.

    Which is better? Well, I tend to think that a person likes best the version he or she encountered first--if you see the movie first, you'll tend to like it better than the book and vice versa. I saw the movie first and I do indeed like the movie better than the book, but I also thought the book was cute as well.

     However, I do have some mixed feelings about the book. Had it been written in the 21st century, it would be pretty racy, with Delysia and her multiple lovers, her possible illegitimate children, her boyfriend's gifts of cocaine, drunken luncheons, rows in the night club, Miss Pettigrew's fall from exact virtue (although not yet all the way into depravity), the cold comfort of the "righteous" and the warm and charitable welcome from the "wicked" (and on and on)...all these elements are pretty unsavory to me. But this softened version is a sweet, ugly tale glamorized and made uplifting. So it's a Cinderella tale with a fast, dissipated setting yet told in a heart-warming way. Hm. Delysia is a lovely effervescent character and her friends are endearingly accepting of our poor Miss Pettigrew, who has fallen to such a low in her undistinguished and difficult life. Miss Pettigrew finds happiness in vice, which seems wrong, but we can't help but hope that she finds her fairy-tale ending, however unlikely that might seem. (Can she really be happy with the philandering and superficial set of folks that have gathered her in? Will she find love and security with Joe?)

     So. Although the movie is lovely and the book is charming, the story at the bottom of it all is one of finding happiness in vice and I just don't think that is really possible. The book is much more explicitly this way. The movie softens it and makes the happy endings more conventional (maybe that's another reason that I prefer the movie?). So I recommend it with reservations.

Sex: Lots, but no descriptions at all
Bad language: none
Drugs: Delysia has cocaine, but doesn't take it (Miss Pettigrew throws it away in horror). There's plenty of alcohol and Miss Pettigrew gets drunk. She also smokes a cigar to protect Delysia.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

    Well, this is DEFINITELY a book for women. It's a little like The Help, but not as stirring. It takes place in a small town in Ohio and also, most notably, in Savannah Georgia. Our main character is the young girl Cecelia Rose Honeycutt and the main action of our story takes place in the 1960s.

     CeeCee's momma is going insane (really) and her daddy is absent, leaving CeeCee to carry the burden of worry, care and embarrassment that her mom's mental illness heaps on young CeeCee every day. Suddenly one day when she is 12, CeeCee's life changes with the death of her momma and the arrival of her great aunt Tootie, who sweeps her up and carries her away to her gracious home in Savannah, Georgia.

     This book was pleasant, with a glowing portrait of Savannah and the gracious life of the wealthy white and their black servants (who are also their friends) being the most memorable part of the story, I think. There was no powerful punch here, even though poor CeeCee had to work out a lot of negative feelings as a result of her difficult childhood. Everything was romanticized and softened. That's usually just the way I like it, but something about this book just rang very false and made it nothing more than a pretty story to me. I don't think it's the gritty details that make a book feel real--I wasn't missing those exactly--but somehow this book felt very contrived, like something that almost happened, but never really could. The adventure on the beach, the slingshotted slugs, the exotic next-door neighbor, the lovely group of garden party ladies, the glaring lack of any good men at all (unless they're dead) all felt very carefully constructed and not at all genuine.

     However! I am wasting too much time on criticism when this was really a pleasant book filled with glistening word pictures. I think the best thing about this book is how lovingly Savannah Georgia is painted. Makes me want to move there right now. That is, IF I had money enough for the gracious living described. As far as the book being set in the 60s, I think the setting had more of a timeless feel. It didn't feel firmly tied to that decade but it didn't feel distractingly anachronistic either. It was a lovely book that was an easy and engaging read.

Sex: There are no titillating sex scenes, although the mildly villainous neighbor plays around (in her sheer lingerie) with the married sheriff on her porch.
Swearing: A few swear words--I think I counted 2.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

I'm gonna review both of these books on one blog. They are two and three in this little trilogy. Book one is City of Bones. The big story doesn't end in City of Glass, but this particular adventure does.

Actually, I don't have much to say about these last two books--they've been very widely read and reported on all over the internet. They're not very different from other books of their type and they are very engaging. I liked our main character, Clary, very much and was very interested in the outcome of this particular conflict.

Of course, this is just the first of many conflicts that Clary, Simon, Jace, Alec, Isabelle and their attendant parents and friends experience over the course of this very long "Mortal Instruments" series. I can see why so many are hooked on the books, although I won't be reading any further--they're kind of empty and obviously written to appeal to a young demographic.

The books are pure fluff. They are imaginative and exciting. They have a variety of relationships. They are fun to read. There are no important ideas and nothing is unpredictable. The teenagers are the main heroes in this book--the adults either don't listen, are impotent to act, or are traitors. The bad guy is great--he is really bad.

Bad language: none
Sex: referred to by teenagers, passionate kisses exchanged, incest discussed, one same sex relationship (between a teenager and an adult) initiated. Lots of sexual stuff for a YA series, isn't it? There are no sex scenes, no descriptive make-out scenes even, but this is the kind of "benign" sex that I can't stand to see in a book written for teenagers--it seems harmless but really isn't. The kids in this book are engaging in sexual relationships as if they were adults--and the book makes it seem like this is normal. Are the characters teenagers because this demographic buys these kind of books? Or are the books geared to teenagers because there's very little of substance in these stories? Hm. I'm tired of fluff. The next book I read is gonna have something a little more meaningful to say.

The Reluctant Bachelorette by Rachael Anderson

     This was a romance. I guess you could probably tell that from the cover, eh? And at first I thought it was going to be predictable, but it actually turned out to be kind of good. It was cute.

     Taycee is shanghaied into being the bachelorette on an internet-based show designed to raise funds for the farms that are in trouble in the small town that Taycee has grown up in. She is not interested in a serious relationship right now and she's feeling conflicted about her girlhood crush, Luke Carney, who has moved back to town. Complications ensue.

     I liked Taycee and I liked this story, although some elements seemed very unlikely. Still, the romance was sweet and squeaky clean.

Bad language: none
Sex: none

The Trouble with Perfect (Christian romantic thriller) by Christy Barritt

     I borrowed this e-book through Amazon Prime's lending deal. I think someone recommended it to me...or something. I do usually really like romantic thrillers (Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMarier, Victoria Holt, Helen MacInnes....).

     "Perfect" is a town and it's a creepy one, by the way. The main character was kind of irritating. Why didn't she leave when she was first creeped out? I don't know. Probably because there would be no story if she were actually sensible. Urgh. The book was entertaining and engaging, very predictable and forgettable. It was also completely inoffensive.

Bad language: nope
Sex: nope

The Hero of the Ages by Brandon Sanderson

     This is book three in the “Mistborn” series. Mistborn was first, The Well of Ascension was second, and this one is the final installment in the trilogy.

     I really like Brandon Sanderson. His writing is what good fantasy is all about: complex worlds, changing characters, a strong good vs. evil conflict, profound ideas and questions, a transporting story line. His books are pretty amazing. 

     However, I do not really like dystopian books. I find them dark and even a little depressing. In this book, our story is finally resolved, but not before lots of blood is shed, people die….and other stuff like that—reminded me a bit of the last Lord of the Rings movie (I found the movie more oppressive than the book) where it seems like the war can never be won and all your favorite people will certainly die and problem mounts upon impossible problem. Sigh. I read this book about halfway through and felt so mired in doom that I had to put it down for a week or so while I read a bunch of lightweight stuff. Ha. I do really like Brandon Sanderson. I thought about his characters the whole time I was taking a fluff break. His worlds are very memorable (I loved Elantris too). But I really had to make myself get back into the hopelessness that was going on in Elend’s and Vin’s world.

    Anyway, that’s my own preference—I don’t like the dystopia thing that’s so popular right now. However, despite the doom and gloom that seemed so prevalent for most of the second and third books, I was deeply engaged, I loved the questions about God and fate, creation and destruction, opposition, lies and truth that the characters were mired in. The book was pretty amazing. And the ending was satisfying. 

Bad language: none
Sex: none