Review of “Against the Tide” by Elizabeth Camden

Against the TideAnd the streak continues.  Now that I’ve reached 3 bad books in a row maybe I’ll get one I like–you know since bad things supposedly come in threes.
Against the Tide had so much potential.  The heroine, Lydia, is a young woman in 1891, who actually works for a living and isn’t a servant or a teacher.  That’s a big thing for that time period, especially since she has a government job as a translator for the Navy.  Unfortunately, her job doesn’t pay her enough money for her to buy her apartment from her greedy landlord–she needs $600 by December in order to keep her home and she only makes $30 per week.  Enter Bane.  Yes, you read that right.  The hero’s name is Bane.Bane--Against the Tide I tried really hard not to picture him as the villain from The Dark Knight Rises, but you know what?  I shouldn’t have bothered.  I have a feeling that had I watched that movie, I would have liked that Bane better than this one.  Alas, he was probably more entertaining too.
Anyway, Bane asks Lydia to do some translating on the side and because she is in such dire financial straits, she agrees to do it–for an exorbitant (for that time) sum.  For a while, the only interactions they have are when he drops off more documents for her to translate (she speaks English, Italian, Russian, Greek, Albanian, and Turkish), but eventually they start spending more time together, despite the fact that Bane has told her that he will never marry and that she has a huge crush on the man.  I have to admit that Bane can be a bit charming from time to time–he takes Lydia out to the country when she tells him that she’d never seen cows and that she hasn’t been outside of Boston since her family disappeared when she was 9 years old, he gives her a compass, and he tried to take her to the Boston Museum of Art (it was closed–for a Christian, he sure isn’t familiar with the Blue Laws).

You’re probably asking yourself what is so bad about all of that?  Well, nothing, to be honest.  Those parts of the story are all pretty decent and the writing is really nice.  My problems are mostly with Bane.  First of all, he is a lobbyist and a bully (He’s how I picture Chris Christie once he’s no longer allowed to be Governor of NJ and fails to win the presidency next year).  He may not have been called that at the time, but that sure as hell is what he does.  He is described as influencing politicians, even causing the governor of Vermont to lose his re-election bid because he went against Bane’s wishes regarding a bridge connecting Vermont and Canada (which, according to several Vermont-ites, is wholly unnecessary).  Why is Bane against this bridge?  Apparently, it will make the Opium Trade between the US and Canada easier for smugglers.

He’s also unabashedly Christian.  There really isn’t anything wrong with that unless that Christian-ness makes you an absolute asshole, which in Bane’s case it does.  Take this for example:

He would need to leave Lydia as soon as he discovered how opium was being smuggled into Boston, but before he left, he wanted to share his gift of faith with her. There was very little else he could give to this glorious woman, but that was one thing he could do for her.

Camden, Elizabeth (2012-10-01). Against the Tide (p. 127). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Lydia, you see, is not religious.  Before her parents disappeared/drowned, her father talked to her about the Goddess of the Moon and she would wish on the moon for things she wanted to happen.  According to Bane, this is foolish in the extreme.  How that is any different than praying to the Sky Bully (as Joss Whedon calls him) is beyond me.  Bane thinks this is funny and pokes fun at her because she still goes out at night to wish on the full moon.  In his mind, taking away her beliefs and replacing them with his is a gift.  How very Christian of him–literally (when the Roman Catholic Church was spreading the religion around, they would takeover lands and force Christianity upon the masses, whether they wanted it or not).

A few paragraphs after this thought, Bane begins to lecture Lydia:

“You did not have a safe environment. You did not have birthday presents or decent clothing or even the chance to go to school. In fact, aside from a loving family, you really had nothing at all, did you…. Now here you are in Boston. You have a home and a job you love. You have money in the bank, food in your pantry. And yet you are so terribly insecure. You get upset if your ink bottles are out of order. For heaven’s sake, ink bottles…. Lydia, I believe there is a deep, powerful magnet that is pulling you toward the Lord. Your desire to seek out some voice in the universe to speak to is the beginning of faith. Listen to that urge. Follow it. Begin living your life the way God would want you to, and I believe the tiny, fragile spark inside will begin to grow.”

Camden, Elizabeth (2012-10-01). Against the Tide (p. 128-129). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Oh, Bane.  You may have religion, but I have psychology.  The reason Lydia compulsively orders her life is not because she needs religion, but because she needs to feel like she has control over something.  Her parents died on her when she was nine and since then nothing in her life has been under her control.  She desperately needs to control something.  Religion is the last thing that she needs, especially one that relies on the idea of a supernatural being deciding everything for you.

This is where I gave up on this book.  It really is a shame.  Lydia was a very intriguing character and there are clues that she would have to fight off an opium addiction thanks to the “medicine” the orphanage she ended up in giving it to her whenever she had trouble sleeping.  She deserved a much better hero than the one Ms. Camden gave her.  Unfortunately for her (and me), she got Bane.  Oh, well.  Had I realized this book was an inspirational romance, I wouldn’t have touched it with a 10 ft pole.

DNF

Review of “Wicked Intentions” by Elizabeth Hoyt

wicked intentionsYesterday, after finishing Follow My Lead, I waited a few hours to jump into a new book–not because of how good it was, but because of how bad it was.  I must confess to sometimes being a bit superstitious when it comes to reading and I’m always a bit wary of starting a book after a particularly bad one.  I guess I should have waited a little longer because Wicked Intentions was even worse than Follow My Lead.  I know I had almost nothing good to say about that book, but at least it was something I could finish.  This book didn’t even allow me to get to the 20% mark before I started mocking it on twitter.  It was that bad.  Seriously.  Here’s a couple of the tweets in case you don’t believe me.

Ah, a TSTL Hero for a change.  Well, that’s something, I guess.  A few pages later, there was this gem:

Lovely, just what I want to read about–a woman who is so emotional that she just bursts into tears at the slightest provocation.

These weren’t the only problems that I had and if they were, I probably would have sucked it up and continued reading because the premise is fairly good: Lord Caire, searching for his former mistress’s murderer seeks Mrs. Temperance Dew’s help in finding the man responsible for what sure as hell sounds like a Jack the Ripper-esque murder (except more than 100 years prior to the Ripper’s killings).

Let’s put aside the fact that Caire is an early 18th Century aristocrat, who certainly wouldn’t have gone to a woman, especially a lower class woman, for help, seeing as most men (and sadly even many modern men) only saw women as a means for procreation and didn’t think they had the cognitive ability of a turnip.  That’s the least of this book’s problems.  I mean, we already have a TSTL hero and an overly emotional heroine–what’s an exceedingly contrived plot point between friends?

No, there are much worse problems that plague this book.  The language, for instance is stitled at best.  The characters say things like “of the clock” and “luncheon,” which while they may have been words used by people of that time, they just don’t flow well and took me out of the story every single time.  Besides, these were conversations between a brother and sister, so I doubt they would be this formal.

There were also some glaring research issues.  At one point Caire is at a coffeehouse to meet a friend of his and while seated, orders his coffee and pays the coffee boy. This is not at all what would have been done because coffee was actually free and he would only have paid to get into the coffeehouse, which would have happened before he got inside.  If you want to write about a period of time that is normally ignored, please do your research.  It wouldn’t kill you.

Then, there was this, which happened almost immediately after the heroine started sobbing:

Seriously?  You find sobbing chicks attractive?  You must love going to funerals, then.  Dear lord.  What did I do to deserve this?

There was also the issue with names–every single child that lived in the Foundling House (more or less an orphanage) run by Temperance’s family, is either Joseph or Mary.  That must be confusing.  Twenty-eight kids all with the same first names?  Wow.  How creative of them.

Finally, there were all the rumors about Caire’s sexual proclivities.  Temperance was warned over and over again by her ladies’ maid, Nell, that Caire would do “terrible things” to her.  It kept making me think of the theme song to True Blood. Did she once tell us what those terrible things were?  Of course not, so I was left having to wonder if he was the second coming of the Marquis de Sade.  What exactly constituted “terrible things” in this period?  I bet it was anything other than missionary style.

DNF

Review of The First Three Books in the Blue Raven Series by Kate Noble

I’ve been on a bit of a reading binge–so much so that I actually procured a 3rd library card–my Queens Library card still lets me borrow e-books, despite no longer living there.  I also have a Sunnyvale Library card that I applied for almost immediately after moving to California last year.  Now, I am the proud owner of a Mountain View Library card.  I have to say that both the Sunnyvale and Mountain View libraries are nice, welcoming places.  Both are modern (meaning built sometime during the 20th Century instead of in the 19th or possibly late 18th Centuries–I never checked to see when the NYC or Boston Libraries were built), so they have none of those gorgeous design elements present in older libraries (when I briefly lived in Boston, I, like a tourist, went to the main branch of the library and took pictures of the inside of the library).  What they do have are large computer rooms and big, comfy chairs that would make anyone in Starbucks jealous.

That said, I have about 10 books (of the spine and paper variety) sitting on my dresser, most read and waiting to be taken back to the Sunnyvale Library, and about 8 e-books sitting on my Kindle–2 of which I have read (one was yesterday’s No Proper Lady).  The other books, borrowed from the Queens e-Library, was Revealed by Kate Noble.  I’d heard a lot of really good things about Ms. Noble’s books, so of course I was skeptical (I tend not to like books that everyone else loves).  I was also a little worried about reading a series about Napoleonic spies so soon after re-reading the entire Pink Carnation series.  Obviously, based on the title of this post, I decided to give it a try.  I’m glad I did.

revealedRevealed is the first book in the Blue Raven series, only the first two of which actually involved the Blue Raven–the others feature interconnected characters.  (I honestly wonder if this was meant to be a duo, but because of the of the success of the first two it was turned into a series.)

The main characters are Marcus Worth and Mrs. Philippa Benning, a leading lady of the Ton.  Philippa is a widow, having lost her husband a scant five days after they were married.  Now that she is out of mourning, she wants to have some fun and experience all the things she hadn’t been able to as an unmarried lady.  As for Marcus, we find out pretty quickly that during the Napoleonic Wars he acted as the spy, the Blue Raven.  Having realized that the dreaded, French spy, Laurent, is not as dead as everyone believes, he has set up a meeting with the head of the War Department, but before the meeting could start, he finds himself hiding in a cramped sarcophagus, not wanting to be discovered by Philippa and Broughton, who decided to have an assignation of a different kind in the very place Marcus’s meeting was to be.  Very quickly, he finds himself joined by Philippa (hiding from the ball’s host when she realized someone was entering the room).  Unfortunately, she was not able to escape the room after the host escorted Broughton out of his library because he wasn’t out of the room long enough for her to leave.  This meant that she overheard Marcus’s entire conversation and the revelation of his secret identity.  This, ends up being the best thing that could happen to Marcus, as it becomes evident that in order to stop Laurent he would need Philippa’s help, something she is more than happy to provide.

This book reminded me a lot of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, which if unlike me you are not a fan of cheesy 80’s television, is about a divorced housewife who unwittingly gets involved with a handsome spy and who eventually becomes a spy too (and secretly married to said spy).   But that’s not what I really I liked about it, which was the chemistry between Marcus and Philippa.  They were so cute together.  I also liked the blend of espionage and romance.

There were, however, a couple things that I did not like.  At first, Philippa is a real uppity bitch.  She was mean to people she deemed below her or people who wore the wrong color clothes for their complexion.  It wasn’t until she starts working with Marcus that she begins to change.  I also hated whoever edited this book because the typos were many.  These were minor annoyances, so I can still give this 4 stars.

the summer of youThe second book in the series is The Summer of You, which focuses on Byrne Worth (Marcus’s brother) and Jane Cummings (an old school friend of Philippa), both of whom have shown up in the small Northern England town of Reston–Byrne because he inherited a small house from an aunt, Jane because her father’s health is declining and her brother doesn’t want anyone in London to see the Duke like that (from what is described, it sounds like he is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, which wasn’t officially discovered until 1906, almost 100 years after this book takes place).  Neither knows that the other is there until Byrne allows Jane’s brother, Jason, to stay on his couch and sleep off his drunk.  It doesn’t take long for the two of them to start spending a lot of time together, especially after Jane finds out that the townspeople believe that Byrne is the highwayman that has plagued the town for the last year.  Since she knows this couldn’t possibly be true, having met him in London just the month prior and knowing what he did to help Philippa and Marcus, she decides that they must unmask the real culprit.  Byrne was reluctant at first, but soon realizes that having a purpose again would help him move on from what happened to him during the war.  What follows is a true slow burn romance.

This book is the best of the three and I couldn’t find anything wrong with it at all.  I loved the interactions between Jane and Byrne and their journey from friends to lovers (and eventually to husband and wife) was beautiful.  This one wasn’t as action packed as the first one and at times I had to wonder if the characters had forgotten all about trying to find out who the highwayman is.

As with the first book, this one also took me back to the 80’s with certain scenes reminding me of Dirty Dancing, except in this I truly believe that Jane and Byrne would live happily ever after, unlike Baby and Johnny, who probably either stayed together with Baby resenting Johnny, or broke up shortly after the end of the movie. 5 Stars

follow my leadThe third book is Follow My Lead, focusing on Jason Cummings, Duke of Rayne, and Miss Winn Crane, the daughter of an Oxford professor bent on making her own way in the world.  This involved a convoluted cross-continent trek to track down fictitious letters written between a nun and Albrect Durur during the Renaissance.  Winn needs these letters in order to gain admittance to an equally fictitious academic society (to which Jason is a member) and to get her independence from her psychotic cousin, George, who only agrees to help her as a way to sabotage her hunt.

You’re probably asking yourself how Jason becomes involved in all this.  Well, the head of the society, whose daughter Jason wants to marry, asks him to accompany Winn to Dover because he is aware of some of the enmity between Winn and George.  Jason agrees only because he wants the man’s permission to marry his daughter.  Instead of leaving Winn on a boat to Calais, Jason finds himself on a boat to Nuremberg, mistakenly thinking that Winn was on the wrong boat somehow (of course, she wasn’t on the wrong boat and was just trying to escape from George). Thus begins the European Vacation that puts the Griswolds to shame.

I didn’t particularly like this book–the characters were likable enough and the same wit from the other two books were there (this time alluding to Feris Bueller’s Day Off), but I just didn’t buy some of the things that actually happened to Jason and Winn.  I definitely do not buy a Duke traipsing through the German countryside and sleeping in fields with an unmarried, English woman.  I also don’t buy Winn being stupid enough to believe that she could make that trip by herself, especially since she doesn’t speak a word of German or Austrian.  The biggest thing that bothered me was the way George reacted to Winn’s subterfuge.  I get him being angry, but what he actually did and the choices he made just don’t fit with what we saw of him earlier in the book.  Sure, he was always controlling and ambitious as hell, but I just don’t see him becoming what he did in the end.  2.5 Stars

Review of “No Proper Lady” by Isabel Cooper

No Proper LadyI want to start off by saying that this book is very far from what I normally read (I like my paranormals to be contemporary, thank you very much).  However, I gave it a try because I was looking for something different after going through the entire Pink Carnation Series in preparation for the release of the last book, The Lure of the Moonflower.  I was in desperate need for a pallet cleanser and in that regard this book served its purpose.

Before we get into the synopsis and review, I think we should talk about that cover as it was the reason I even clicked on the link to this book.  Personally, I think it is a gorgeous cover–all that blue!  The colors went together nicely, but what really drew my eye was the obvious tattoo on the woman’s back.  I can’t exactly make it out and I wouldn’t want it on my own body (no needles, thank you), but it was distinctive.  Women of this time period most definitely wouldn’t have had tattoos.

Based on the cover, I knew this wasn’t going to be an ordinary historical setting, so I looked at the cover copy:

Our main characters are Joan (daughter of Arthur and Leia–with no last name) and Simon Grenville.  Joan is from “the future,” which is sometime around 2088 and has been sent to the past the save the future from happening.  Paradox City.  She doesn’t know all that much about the time period to which she has been sent, although she found an old style dress that she thinks will fit the bill, which doesn’t, except we don’t really know why.  Maybe it is out of date?  Or only something a prostitute would wear?  We’re never told.

Anyway, she suddenly appears on Simon’s property and he’s fine with this, even though she is “half naked” (basically, she’s dressed in black leather, which in alt-Victorian England translated to half naked) and has some gun-type weapon that she fires on what can only be categorized as Hell Hounds (except they don’t bare any resemblance to the ones that killed Dean on Supernatural back in season 3).  None of this seems to strike him as the least bit odd.  Even with his background in magic, you would think he’d be taken aback by this, but whatevs.

After Joan tells this total stranger why she’s there and that she’s come to kill a friend of his (or ex-friend) because he causes the world to go all dystopic. (In her time, demon-like creatures roam the Earth and have taken control over the human populace, forcing them underground.)  Again, he’s cool with this.  He does express concern over killing Alex because he figures this guy could be rehabilitated, despite the fact that he knows that Alex has killed at least one person and likes to force women (Simon’s sister included) to play host to various demons.  (Alex is the biggest douche to ever grace the pages of a romance novel.)

This seems to be Ms. Cooper’s first book and as such, it suffers from 1st book problems.  First of all, it sometimes feels as if the reader is being dropped into the middle of the book.  We don’t know exactly what happened to the Earth other than something Alex wrote led to the world being doomed.  The prologue literally sticks us into a battle that is being waged to stop Joan from being able to go back in time.  You get no concept of what is happening and even with little hints throughout the book, you never really find out.

Second, the pacing is really off.  It starts off with this battle and there’s a ton of urgency surrounding Joan’s trip, but once she makes it back to alt-1888 that urgency is completely gone because Joan informs us that she’s got a good 40 years before whatever happens to cause the world to go wrong actually comes to pass.  They sent her 40 years before she needed to be there?  I guess this is supposed to give her enough time to become accustomed to Victorian life and grow old before fighting the ultimate battle.

At this point, the book becomes a how-to guide.  Simon’s sister helps Joan settle into Victorian society by picking out gowns, teaching her how to waltz (allowing her to spend some time with Simon), showing her which fork to use when, and telling her all the things she can’t do as a woman in that time.  Seeing as I’ve (a) studied history in high school and college and (b) read plenty of historical romances, I already know the strictures that she would have to live by in order to survive to fight her battle.  About half the book was given over to this when really it could have been a chapter or two at the most.  The one thing I did find amusing about this section was seeing Joan remember that she’s not supposed to curse because it is unlady-like.  As a native NY’er, who did time in Catholic School, I have problems not cursing around people, so I felt her pain.  Sometimes, the only response to things is a good “fuck,” but it just wasn’t appropriate in Victorian society (although from what I’ve recently learned about Queen Victoria, who was not at all a prude, I think she might have appreciated a well-place expletive or two).

Let’s talk a little bit about Simon.  He’s an aristocrat, although he has yet to come into his title because his father is still alive.  He has a sister, who is about 8 years his junior, and who he needed to save from our villain, Alex, before the book begins.  (It is alluded to that Ellie was possessed by a succubus (Joan’s guess).  If that is the case, then Ellie has a lot of things to be worried about (ruination, pregnancy, syphilis, etc.) and she gets over this fairly quickly once Joan shows up.)

Anyway, Simon is also a magician?  Warlock?  Wizard?  I’m not quite sure what to call him because I don’t remember if we were ever told.  He and Alex studied magic together, but when Alex went towards the dark side, Simon pulled away from him.  His magic is…different.  (At one point, he invokes a variety of deities from multiple religions all while sporting a boner the size of New Jersey.)  I get that magic tends to be sexual, but said boner shows up before he even starts to chant.  All he has to do is put on his ceremonial tunic and he’s ready to go.  (Pavlov wants nothing to do with this one–and neither did I.)

I liked Simon, but he got on my nerves from time to time.  For instance, there is this scene in which he’s worried that Joan has lost sight of her objective and has fallen under Alex’s spell.  At this point in the book, Simon and Joan have shared one kiss, but despite this he gets ridiculously jealous of Alex and the relationship Joan is pretending to have with him.  He knew going in that Joan was meant to bait Alex into thinking there is the possibility of a sexual relationship and he knew what she would have to do to make Alex think this.  For some reason, he starts to believe Joan’s little charade.  I don’t get it.  He knows that for Joan this mission is life or death.

There were a lot of things that bothered me with this book, but as it is already really long, I’m going to skip to the point.  No Proper Lady is not something I would ordinarily read, but it is by no means a bad book.  Had Ms. Cooper polished it a bit more before publication, it would have been much better than it was.  Unfortunately, it reads like a mediocre fan fiction.

If you want to read it, it is available for free on Kindle Unlimited and in most e-libraries (I borrowed my copy from the Queens Public Library, but I also saw it on the Mountain View Library site as well.)

2.5 Stars

Review of “The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy” by Julia Quinn

richard_450I love Julia Quinn.  Her books are funny (especially anything with the Pleinsworth sisters) and the central romances tend to be sigh-worthy. This book was not.  It was actually so bad that it has taken me a whole week to be able to write this review.  (I will admit that part of my disappointment in this book comes from the fact that I re-read the other 3 books in this series in preparation for reading this one and those were absolutely stellar.)
Before getting into what I didn’t like, I want to start with what worked well for me.  Sadly, there isn’t much.

What I LIked

1. The Pleinsworth Sisters: Sara, Harriet, Elizabeth, and Francis Pleinsworth belong to an off-shoot of the Smithe-Smith family and are the main character’s (Iris) cousins.  Sara was the heroine of the third book in the series and she remains my favorite Smithe-Smith heroine.  In reality, these girls would probably drive me insane within a matter of hours, but on paper they’re so much fun.  Harriet considers herself to be a playwright and in this book she premieres the play she was writing in the last book (something about Henry VIII and a Unicorn).  Francis is an 11 year old spitfire, who just loves unicorns and likes to think that she is one, something that was probably aided by Iris gluing a horn to her head for her performance in the play.

2. The Talk: This is a scene that’s been done hundreds, perhaps thousands, of time in historical romance–the heroine’s mother comes to her on the day of her wedding and petrifies her about The Thing That Will Happen.  This is no different here, but what I really liked was that almost immediately after Iris’s mother gives her The Talk, Sara comes and gives her another, more realistic one, even telling her that she and Hugh had sex before they were married.  This was a great scene and I loved the connection between Sara and Iris and it made me wish that there were more scenes involving these two in the other books.

What I Didn’t Like

1. Daisy Smithe-Smith: I didn’t like her in any of the prior books, but I tended to think of her as just another deluded Smithe-Smith girl, who thought she was the next great musician.  In this book, I learned that she’s the epitome of the snobby teenager that I hated in high school and really really hate now.  You’re probably thinking that she couldn’t be that snobby, but she is.  For instance, there is a scene in which she, Iris, and their mother were talking about Pride and Prejudice and she criticizes Elizabeth Bennett for turning down Mr. Darcy when she was lucky he even looked at her.  Then, a few pages later while talking with Winston Bevelstoke about his sister (heroine of another Quinn book) and criticizes her for refusing to marry a prince and marrying someone who is not a prince.

2. Iris’s Lack of Self-Esteam: Iris considers herself to be on the shelf, which she probably was for that time period (how insulting is that image?) and she doesn’t think that men pay any attention to her.  This is something that Quinn has done really well before (Penelope in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton owns her spinster status and uses the fact that no one pays attention to her to further herself), but it falls flat here.  Compared to Penelope, Iris has no agency.  She does what other people expect her to do and doesn’t even try to fight it when she’s forced to marry Sir Richard.  (I know this is a fairly accuracy depiction of what would have happened in that time period, but considering the only people who saw her being kissed by Richard were her aunt and cousins, she could have gotten away with not marrying him.  Her family, especially the Pleinsworth girls, would never have said anything to “ruin” her.  Even Daisy would keep that secret because in ruining Iris she would be hurting her chances of making the advantageous match that she so desperately desires.)

Bonus: What Made This a Wall-banger:

Sir Richard: Our “hero” is a ginormous ass-hat.  I suppose we’re supposed to feel sorry for him because he’s broke and raising his teenaged sisters, but all of that is negated by how he treats Iris, who he allegedly likes.  He sets out, from the very first page, to trap a wife and is only attending the Smithe-Smith Musicale because he knows that all of the musicians are supposed to be unmarried ladies and he figures that one of them would be happy to marry him.  One by one, he disqualifies the girls–Harriet and Daisy are too young and Sara is already married (she’s the only piano player and agrees to play in the musicale despite hating it and skipping out the year before)–and he settles on Iris, who attracted his attention by being the only one who could actually play her instrument.

In ways, Richard is a very old-school hero.  He sees Iris not as a person to love but as a means to an end.  Instead of a woman, she is a big Pound Sign in a dress, despite not having a very large dowry.  That’s all he cared about–not that Iris is funny and smart.  Page after page, I held out for hope that he wouldn’t go through with his plan, but unfortunately, I was destined to be disappointed.

It also turns out that I was destined never to find out Sir Richard’s titular secrets because I couldn’t finish reading this.

No Stars
DNF

Review of “The Liar” by Nora Roberts

The LiarI’ve been a fan of Nora Roberts books for over ten years and I have to say I have never been more disappointed in one of her books than I was with The Liar.  It wasn’t that it was a terrible book, but it just wasn’t up to par with her others.  Books like, Three Fates, which I still read once a year, or the Three Sisters’ Island Trilogy are some of my favorites.  Something tells me that I won’t be re-reading this one any time soon.

Here’s the synopsis:

Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions …

The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.

Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning …

To be fair, this isn’t a bad plot–I don’t think Nora could think up a bad plot if she was forced to at gunpoint.  No, my problem with The Liar is Shelby.   A bigger Mary Sue there never was.  She’s had almost no education or job experience, but everything she touches turns to gold.  Want to sing in a small town bar?  Sure–here’s a karaoke machine; go put a playlist together.  Want to get into interior design?  Just redecorate a few houses for friends and family.  Sure, most of Rendezvous Ridge is in some way either related to or friends of Shelby’s family, but I just don’t think an interior design business is going to be much use in such a tiny town.  I kept feeling as if she was going to rely on Griff and Matt to get her work, no matter what she wanted to think.

My biggest problem with Shelby is that she’s a total fucking idiot.  I’m not going to blame her for anything that happened before her husband disappeared, but afterwards her actions are nothing more than that of the hick he always accused her of being.  For example, she finds a safe deposit box full of money and fake passports, all with her husband’s picture on them.  A normal person with half a brain would have gone straight to the cops, but not Shelby.  No, she takes it all home with her and uses the money to pay her bills.  This is all after a sleazy PI showed up, accusing her of being on the grift with dear old, supposedly dead husband.  I get that she had a toddler, but seriously everything that happened in the rest of the book could have been prevented by that one decision, but that would have been too simple.

So, Shelby runs home to Mama and Daddy, determined to get back on her feet again and starts looking for a few jobs.  Of course, she ends up with two after having spent half a day looking for one.  I know a lot of people would kill for luck like that.  Sure, she had a problem with Melody, an old classmate who hates her for no reason and serves no purpose other than being an obstacle for Shelby to jump over in order to get to her HEA.

I also found this book to be a bit predictable.  If there is anyone out there who didn’t figure out how this was all going to end, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn and a swamp in Florida to sell them.  Somehow, I doubt I’ll be rich.

When I first started reading this last week, I posted about hoping it would be worth the hefty price tag, and unfortunately, it wasn’t.

2.5 Stars

Review of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling

Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_Stone

The year was 1998.  Bill Clinton was president and was about to go through the toughest year of his presidency thanks to a bunch of petty Republicans, who didn’t like his policies and the fact that he was able to do things that none of their presidents, including their hero, Ronald Reagan, could do (i.e. balance the budget and create a surplus).  Not that I was aware of any of this at the time.  All I cared about was watching 7th Heaven, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Sabrina the Teenaged Witch.  Oh, and passing math.  I was very concerned with passing math.  And eventually history.  But that was a different part of 1998.

At this point in time, I hated reading.  Hated it.  All the books they made us read in school were boring as hell and would continue to be straight through high school and I hadn’t yet discovered romance novels (being 11, I’m sure my dad would have had a coronary if he found me with one of those books), so it came as a total surprise when I picked up my brother’s copy of HP1.  Back then, Jimmy was the reader, devouring Matt Christopher and Wishbone books.  All I did was watch television and listen to music.  Anyway, my mom bought HP1 for my brother, thinking that it would be the perfect thing, but he couldn’t get through the first two chapters, declaring it “boring,” which to be honest, they are.  But, I just loved it.  (Really, why my mom thought Jimmy would like a supernaturally themed book, is beyond me as he has never been into that type of thing.  I, on the other hand, have always loved paranormal shit.)

I recently decided I would re-read the entire series, something that I have never done, despite the fact that I would re-read the most recent books before a new one was released.  So, let’s start from the very beginning (as it is a very good place to start, after all).  If you’ve lived in some sort of cave for nearly 20 years, here’s the plot (boiled down to its most simplest form): Harry Potter, an 11 year old boy living in England, learns he’s a wizard, attends the coolest school known to man, becomes best friends with Ron and Hermione, and fights against the evil wizard, Lord Voldemort.  (Only a Brit would create a villain named Lord Voldemort.)

Re-reading HP1 as an “adult” is an interesting thing.  Part of the charm of the Harry Potter series as a child, is imagining yourself as part of Harry’s crew, running around with him, Ron, and Hermione, having adventures and saving the day, but once you’re an adult, it is harder to do this.  At times, I found myself wondering what the professors were doing.  Were any of them hooking up?  Did they have families outside of Hogwarts?  What was it like to worry about hundreds of students in a world where anything was possible?

I also found myself wondering how any of them could have thought their “obstacle course” (really that’s what it was) would keep out the most powerful dark wizard of all time, let alone a group of 11 year olds.  The hardest one being the logic problem that reminded me of LSAT problems and had my eye twitching, thinking of the possibility of actually taking the LSAT at some point in the future.  Those logic problems are total nightmares.  Anyway.

Having read the other books in the series, I wonder just how much J.K. had planned out before writing this one because knowing what happens later on in the series, I can spot things in this first book that wouldn’t have been important when I read it back in 1998.  Things like Snape having gone to school with Lily and James or Neville being raised by his grandmother.  I doubt I would have even thought about why these things were significant at the time or why they were even included in the book at all.

One thing that bugged me about this book was the idea of Snape trying to stop Quirrell from getting the Sorcerer’s Stone.  How is it that Voldemort, living as a parasite on the back of Quirrell’s head not know that his most loyal servant was actually working against him the entire time?  Did he not remember this when he finally became whole again in book 4?  How was Snape able to return to the Death Eaters in book 5 after doing what he did in book 1?  Voldie is not the forgiving type, so he would never take someone like Snape back had he remembered any of what happened in this book.

Obviously, this wouldn’t be a problem had I not read the other books or seen the movies, but at this point, I’ve done that all.  It is hard for me not to give the book side eye over that part.

Overall, it is still a good book.  Rowling’s prose in this book is not as good as it is in the later books, but that’s natural.  No one who writes would ever believe that another author’s writing could stay the same from the first book to the last and even as good a writer as Rowling is, this is still true.  There were passages that I had to read more than once because Rowling head hopped.  One moment we’re in Harry’s mind and the next, for a few seconds, we’re in Ron’s.  The first time I noticed this was in the scene with the first Quidditch match when Harry’s broom is cursed.  It took me a minute to realize what was going on here.  It was rather jarring.

I will say that this series is still my favorite, and I am a series fiend, glomming JD Robb, Kay Hooper, and Jill Shalvis books like no one’s business.  If you haven’t read this series and you’re under 40, what are you waiting for?  What hole have you spent your life living in to have not even been tempted to check out these books?  Do it.  You won’t regret it.

4 Stars

The Fiction Vixen–Back from the Dead…Again

Hi, all.  I know I’ve been gone for a REALLY long time, yet again, and there are not enough words in the English language to come close to apologizing for leaving you high and dry for a second time.  The truth is that I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff in my non-internet life and am now (hopefully) done with all of it.

Anyway, I haven’t done much reading at all since the last post I made back in early January, so I don’t even have much to say on that front.  I have read the newest J.D. Robb as well as the new Karen Rose, both of which I’ll hopefully have reviews of in the next few weeks.   Currently, I am doing a re-read of the Harry Potter series, starting with book 1 and making my way to the final book.  It is probably going to take me a long while to get through all 7 books as I am not a fast reader and I just don’t have the time to sit and read for hours on end the way I did when the last several books were released (always great getting those books during summer vacation as a kid).

It has been a long time since I tried to read all 7 books in a row and I’m not sure I can do it because if we’re being honest, those books get extremely depressing starting around book 4.  I just started book 1 last night and will be working on reading it tonight in between Jeopardy and Criminal Minds.  I’m also thinking of either doing a live read (where I’ll blog my reactions) or reviewing each book once I’ve finished it.  I have reviewed the last book on one of my old blogs (fairly certain it was on my old Blogger page), but since I’m not even sure if that is still out there in the interwebs I’ll post a new one when I get to it.  I’m also thinking of doing an interview with my 10 year old cousin (if I can get him on the phone long enough to do it), since he’s already read the first three books in the series and I would love to get an actual kid’s opinion on the series.

If anyone is actually still reading this, thank you for hanging in there. :)

Review of “Magic Found” by Misha McKenzie

magic foundI don’t think that I have ever had a harder time trying to come up with a grade for a book than I am having on this book.  It is definitely a middle of the road type of book, so definitely less than 4 stars, but it is also better than other books I’ve read.  I’m torn between giving it 2.5 and 3 stars, but I’m leaning more towards the 2.5.  Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and hopefully I’ll be able to make up my mind by the time I’m done.

Marissa Spencer’s world has been turned upside down since waking up one morning with magical powers. She has no idea where they came from and controlling them has not been easy. To make matters worse, these new abilities seem to have brought with them a mysterious evil force that torments her dreams and tracks her down dark alleys. With the help of her sexy PI boss, Jack Slade—whom Marissa has always had a crush on—she will have to fight a battle for power that began before she was born. Along the way, she’ll discover a family she didn’t know she had, an inheritance she may not want, a strength she never knew was within her, and a love she’d only dreamed of.

This description doesn’t really tell you a lot, which is a bit ironic because the author definitely has a problem when it comes to telling instead of showing.  This was actually once of my biggest problems with the book–so much of it was simply told to me and not shown.  For instance, there is a scene early on in which Marissa is attacked and instead of having this scene in Marissa’s POV, we get Jack telling us that something was wrong and we don’t even get there until the entire thing is over.  I don’t know if we were not supposed to know that Marissa has powers, although the word magic is in the title, so I’m a little perplexed as to why we couldn’t get that scene from her POV.

The next problem I had was that there was a whole lot of info-dumping going on.  I don’t know how many people actively think about things that happened to them in the past, but Marissa and Jack sure do.  I don’t need to have everything told to me all at once.  I’m a delayed gratification kind of girl.  All at once just doesn’t cut it for me.

Finally, there is no character development whatsoever.  Each character behaved in the way the scenes needed them to behave and once that scene was over they reverted to their former behaviors.  It was maddening, especially when it came to Aiden, Marissa’s long lost relative.  He had real reason not to trust anyone and I had a lot of hope for him, especially when he was first introduced.  I thought that he was going to be this badass character, who was able to handle himself.  Unfortunately, I just didn’t get this from him.  He whined a lot about his new powers, and I do get this, but at some point, the whining needed to stop.  The sad thing is that none of these characters were at all complex and with their backstories, they really could have been.


This is obviously the author’s first book (or one of her first books) and it suffers from a lot of new author mistakes.  I really wish she waited to write this until she had some more experience writing because the plot was good.  If a more experienced writer had written this, it would have been awesome.  I would love to see what someone like Nora Roberts could do with a book like this.  I wish I could have liked this book more and I want to know what happens in the next books, but I don’t think I will.  I don’t like to be disappointed and unless someone else was going to write then, that’s exactly how I will feel as I read them.

2 Stars

Review of “The Importance of Being Alice” by Katie MacAlister

AliceHave you ever started reading a book and knew immediately that you weren’t going to like it?  That was my experience with The Importance of Being Alice.  The premise of the book was that Alice, upon being dumped by her douchebag sort of fiance, decides to go on the vacation the two had planned and winds up sharing a shabby cabin with said douchebag’s friend.  (Since the plot could be summed up in one sentence, I felt no need to include the entire thing.)

Part of my problem with the book stems from the fact that the ARC I received was almost unreadable–I’ve seriously seen pirated e-books that have better formatting.  Even with this, I would have been able to continue reading if a single one of the characters was at all likable, which unfortunately was not the case.  Elliot was alright, but he’s the type of curmudgeonly character that I want to take to the back and shoot.  Compared to the rest of his family, however, Elliot was a boon.  His mother would fit in with the Real Housewives women and his younger brother was a total teenage stereotype.  Then, there are the characters we don’t meet, but are told about: one of his sisters ran off with the wife of the local minister and his other sister is involved with Alice’s ex.  Nice people, he’s surrounded by there.

My biggest problem is that both Alice and Elliot are too stupid to live.  You’re probably wondering how I know this, stopping so early in the story, but there are times when you can just tell.  Case in point, they both decided to get on the decrepit boat on which they’d booked passage.  I don’t care how expensive the tickets were, but if the Titanic post-sinking is in better condition then the vessel I am supposed to be getting on, I would run in the opposite direction.

DNF.

The Importance of Being Alice is available for pre-order from Amazon, BN, and Kobo.