Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quick Pop Back In

Yes, it's been a while. Haven't been reading with everything that's been going on.  But I do have two books to review from way back when and now that I have LOTS of free time I might be taking up reading again so... here it is.  Really I don't feel like doing a full review, so let's just do the short summary.  Two romance authors, actually the only two romance authors I really follow, one contemporary, one historical - Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Julia Quinn.  Both I think superior in general to most of their genre and a lot of to read.  I wouldn't say either of these was their best though (both their latest).  SEP's felt at places somewhat contrived and the heroine seemed like an idiot at times.  JQ's fell into the category of not enough romantic tension I'd say, he was too obvious from the get-go.  But you know, not hard reads at all, solid romantic fare.

Verdict: 3/5

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Up My Alley, Even My Front Step

Making slow progress? Maybe, but meanwhile I've finished another book, so I'm still three behind.  Onward then! Back in Febrary (on my birthday, to be precise :)) my lovely hubby took me to the used bookstore in Teaneck (funny, I just dreamed about a used bookstore last night but that's b/c I was composing this in my head earlier).   Selection was not infinite (online used books have spoiled us all) but I did find, for the can't-be-beat price (ok I'm sure it could be beat, but I'm not looking) of $1 (no shipping :)), Summers At Castle Auburn.  This is a Sharon Shinn book I may actually have reviewed before on this blog, I read it one recent-ish summer, but of course I'm not going to check first.  In any case, it's a fairly light-on-content fantasy romance tale, so pretty much up my alley.  Certainly enjoyed it the first time I read it, and subsequent times as well.  Worth buying, so I did.  Then I left it in the car for like 5 months and took it out only a few weeks ago.  It sat on my table for a while, and when I was packing for my trip, was a natural choice to bring along, since the only library book I had was the previously reviewed Terry Pratchett, which I was anyway almost finished with.

So along with me it came.  Did I expect to get much reading done on the trip? Not sure, but as it turned out, there was little opportunity until Shabbos (because I had the Olympics of course :)) But there was Shabbos, and then two nights in hotels *w/o* t.v. (Glacier National Park don't go in for that sort o' thang) so I made my way through it pretty swiftly.  Really quite swiftly - I only put it down one night because it was getting dark and I didn't want to put the light on (yes, we went to sleep early that night :)) This was somewhat of a surprise, if only because I had found that my enjoyment of this book did not tend to increase with each time I read it.  But I guess I reached a good point last time, because I was able to fulfill my expectations and more with this time.

I'm not saying it was a perfect romance, which is much what I thought of it the first time I read it (other than someone telling me she got together with the wrong guy, causing me to root for what I thought what the wrong guy, only to find out that she got together with what I thought was the right guy... but that's a separate issue).  There's a whole lot of the other stuff going on, and not *quite* enough interaction for our happy couple.  Well, not that they don't interact, but it's not at all clear that there's any romance involved in the interaction until most of the way through.  And the romance itself... well it takes on a lot of the book's quite serious tone.  They are a nice couple, and he's certainly an admirable guy, but feelings (at least of the fun, angsty sort :)) don't seem to figure quite as much as they should.

So that's why I don't absolutely adore this book.  But as I said, I do enjoy it.  Because in the end of the day, it's a romance - a royal, fantasy, romance.  Sure, there's intrigue, but no blood and guts, no physical hardship, and most importantly, no time when our heroine really feels she has no options, nowhere to go.  She may not always fit in, but she has her place and she's got plenty going for her.  And the royal palace is a fun place to be, for us if not for her.  Kent is of course a perfect gentleman, wise beyond his years and eminently capable.  At least for some of the book (when Corie is not 14 :)) he loves her from afar, and we can enjoy knowing that the second (and following times through).  So it's all good, you know what I'm saying.  No reason not to enjoy this stuff, it was written for the likes of me :)

Verdict: 3.75/5

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Universe Appeal?

Behind, behind.  But I was on a trip! For 10 days! Yes, I got back a week ago... Anyway, three books behind, not exactly fresh in my mind, it's time to get going.  First up, Terry Pratchett kind of has a new one out - I saw kind of because it's a collaboration with another author, I assume an SF writer.  Which means we're not exactly going to get vintage Pratchett, whose books are only SF because they don't take place in our universe (you know what I mean, that genre takes itself so seriously).  Not sure how much of this book is Pratchett anyway, you know I just I assume that what with his Alzheimer's and all, this collaboration might have been easier than writing his own stuff... So given that I knew this wasn't going to be Pratchett, why read it? Well, I guess it was mostly why not? That's why I reserved it and once I reserved it, might as well read it.

It was indeed, much more in the usual bent of SF/fantasy.  World building and all that, and taking itself seriously... On its merits as fantasy, I'm not sure how well qualified I am to judge (well not this type of fantasy anyway).  But I didn't think the world was all that creative or revolutionary.   And not amazingly crafted either, the laws of the universe definitely seemed at times haphazard.  I much prefer Jasper Fforde's whimsical Bookworld or even Sharon Shinn's Archangel universe.  But I guess it's not fair to compare this to some of my favorite books.  Elegantly crafted or not, this universe is certainly interesting, and I'm not going to say it doesn't have potential.

This one is only the first in the series, so potential is something it better have.  Being the first, it spent most of the time just setting the scene, and then ended on somewhat of a crisis.  But before reaching the crisis, the menace of this book had already been revealed, and I have to say I did not find it spectacular. Maybe I wasn't meant it and this was all just part of the setup, but I hope the further secrets of this universe prove more momentous.  I say I hope... because you know there's a good chance I'll be reading at least the next one in the series.   Even though it's not my thing, once I start I like to continue.

But if it was that bad, I'm pretty sure I'd abandon ship no matter what.  So I guess it's not that bad.  Actually, don't get me wrong, I didn't think it was anything terrible at all.  The book managed to stay interesting even with not much going on.  And if the characters weren't the most likable, at least they had universal relevance/importance going for them (we meet the central players in this brave new world of course).  There were plenty enough times I found myself annoyed with this or that (hard to remember what at this late juncture) but overall there was never much doubt that I would continue reading.   It was definitely interesting enough for that.  And I'm not sure what else I could ask from the genre.

Verdict: 3/5

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Storms In The Teapot

And now on to the main (or more interesting I think) event - yet another AMS.  He must be the most prolific author on this blog - of this series alone, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, I've reviewed one a year since I started, so I think I'm up to my third already.  But I'm not going to go back and read old ones, so you'll get this on its own merits only :) Anyway, what I love about this series is the amazing sense of peacefulness and well-being they manage to convey, no matter what's going on.  That's accomplished largely by keeping the personal issues of the main characters somewhat on the DL and never in too dire straights.  But that does sometimes result in a *bit* of plodding, where it takes a while for me to get into the rhythm of the book.

So The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection was actually somewhat of a departure from this.  A departure in that personal issues really took front and center - and they mattered.  I suppose Mma Potokwane's orphanage isn't really directly related to the mains, but Mma Ramotswe certainly feels her pain sharply enough.  And of course Fanwell's trials and the suspicious circumstances of Mma Makutsi's house are closer still.  So the mood is just a little more... I don't know dark, but definitely more serious than usual.   With that still, we know everything is going to be alright (well we know that, because AMS was not about to write a tragedy) - but we *feel* it's going to be alright too.  Maybe that's because the book is actually fast-paced enough to deal with all this in pretty swift fashion.  In fact, it almost feels at times like a a real detective story :) In the way the action moves along and clues are discovered.  But don't worry, not too much action, at least I didn't feel that way.

So some of the charm of the earlier books wasn't quite as present here as usual. And I'm not sure I'd be a fan of many books in a row where all this happened.  But certainly, it was a good read this one time.  And Clovis Andersen's appearance was definitely an added bonus! All in all, all remains good in Botswana.  Not bad for number, was is it? 11? 12?, AMS.

Verdict: 3.75/5

Par For Course, I Suppose

Tsk, Tsk.  I have not been keeping up with posting (not that I've been reading a lot, it's just been keeping me from reading a lot :)) But my reluctance to finish the next book before reviewing the previous one has lead me into contempt of library, because I have a book that's almost a month overdue (oy vey).  So I finished that book and it's time to review the previous one once and for all... Unfortunately, the previous title is a Jill Mansell, meaning I wouldn't have a whole lot to say about it if I had finished it yesterday.  But let's give it a whirl.

So Jill Mansell... you know, these books vary, some are more fun than others.  I never like the ones where the whole tension of the book is the girl thinks the guy is a player, so they don't get together even though they like each other - I mean, you know there's no romance when there's no suspense.  So this (Nadia Knows Best) wasn't one of those but it wasn't any better - girl likes two guys, they both like her, which one does she chooose? Never mind that it takes her a whole book to make the no-brainer choice - where's the romance?! I can't say it wasn't chic lit, that would just be ridiculous - but those chic lit moments were few and far between.  Instead, there was a lot more... well a lot more actual plot going on with Nadia's family and Jay's issues taking up plenty of time.

I mean I suppose it wasn't bad overall - maybe I'm just used to her writing, but I felt like it wasn't as egregious as usual.  And maybe the book didn't even drag on as much as I sometimes feel it does, since there was always something going on.  I mean it's hard for me to even remember my feelings on this one, never mind going back father.  But overall, though it was nothing to write home about, nothing to disuade me from Jill Mansell forever.  But I do hope she goes back to some other chic lit meme for her next one.

Verdict: 2.75/5

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

All the Adventure, As Promised

Oy veis mir.  Two behind and it's not even June anymore.  That's what comes of not writing these on the bus... but what's the point of lamentation? Let's get on with it.  Luckily, though I finished this like what 3 weeks ago, it's still relatively fresh in my mind... since this was like the 10th time (or something like that) I read it.  After the success of The Blue Castle, and before any of my new books came in at the library, I was eager to continue with the old favorites trend.  So I picked up a certified goodie, The Scarlet Pimpernel.  I'm obviously not alone in my enjoyment of this one - this book is a classic, and it's not because of any great literary value.  It really is the quintessential adventure.

I first valued TSP as a romance, because that's what I value everything as.  And of course, Sir Percy's hidden passion for Marguerite is very romantic.  But what makes this book stand out as a romance is the same thing that makes it stand out in general - the very awesome Scarlet Pimpernel.  I mean, I guess he's not the man nearest and dearest to everyone's heart, but handsome, brave, smart as a whip, quick, gallant (and of course rich ;))... yes, he's pretty much all that.  So who wouldn't want to read a romance starring him and a woman who is impressive enough in her own right?   And romance is very satisfying, as far as it goes.  But the truth is, it's not given *much* attention during the course of the book.

It's much more about the story, as it should be.  I've read this book a lot, I know the drill, and yet I still find it to be a page turner.  It's well-paced, with things moving along, and no gratuitous action scenes thrown in.  We get closer and closer to the mysterious identity of the SP, and then, when we find it, we are treated to a brilliant display of the abilities that have kept him bringing people to safety by the skin of his teeth time and time again.  I remember one time I felt compelled to actually clap at the conclusion of one his triumphs.  This time I didn't go so far, but trust me, I was impressed.  I don't know that there's much funner reading than Sir Percy's pitting of his wits against his enemies'.

To be sure, the book is guilty in some measure (no little one I might even say) of aggrandizing the situation for dramatic tone.   Every moment is milked for all its worth, every dilemma is agonizing, all the emotions are exquisite.  Not to mention the slightly strange emphasis at times on Marguerite's girlishness and how attractive it seems to make her (sorry not really the same thing, but it all comes down to that old "show, don't tell")  And I was even more aggravate than usual from having made the mistake of reading the forward and hearing how Baroness Orczy apparently felt "the beautiful Lady Blakeney" to be her alternate ego, her better self - don't read forwards, especially not if you plan on writing your own review.  BUT... this is one book that can get away with pretty much whatever it wants.  It really does live up to the promise of all that drama, manufactured or not.  So with all the angst and all the throes of passion, it keeps on zipping along towards its extremely satisfying conclusion.  There's a reason so many people love this book.

Verdict: 5/5

Friday, June 1, 2012

Simple Goodness

As you may imagine, it was with some relief I turned towards a tried-and-true favorite after last book's disappointment.  The Blue Castle certainly ranks as one of my two favorite LM Montgomerys.  Now that might now be particularly high praise, since I'm not a major fan of every one of her books by any means, but in this case, I'm pretty sure TBC is one of the books I mention as a favorite of mine in this very blogger profile, and of course, was one of the first books I ever bought (well in recent years, not counting gordon korman and harry potter).  Anyway, the book has been a delight since the first time I read it (not sure how many years ago, sometime in middle school probably) and it was just the ticket for an easy, breezy, guaranteed to delight romance.

Henny G. once complained about this book that its ending is just too ridiculously felicitous.  Not only do the lovers end up happily ever after (of course) but the mysterious hero ends up being the son of a fabulously wealthy man... AND the secret author of the heroine's favorite books.  Now I agree that all that wasn't strictly necessary, but I don't find it at all irritating.  The latter detail isn't emphasized at all, and Barney's secret wealth ensures their happily-ever-after just a little more.  So let's dismiss that first complaint :) Any others? Well it's short... not that that's necessarily a bad thing, and certainly makes for an easy read, but I guess it's somewhat lacking in substance.  I noticed for the first time that the bulk of the couple's interaction is compressed into maybe the last third of the book, if even that - it make sense, because more would have necessitated an introduction of obstacles/issues/problems whatnot in the way of our happy couple's idyll, and we wouldn't want that.  But it's funny to see that the first 2/3 of the book are about 2 months all told, and then the rest of a year takes half that length.  Again, didn't find it irritating.  Was there anything I did find to be? If there was something not realistic about this book, it's Valancy's horrible life prior to her newfound determination to live life as she pleases - specifically, what a nightmare of a family! Yes, it makes for good, funny, reading, but really, Valancy's mother doesn't even seem to love her.  And that's just not realistic in my book.  But like I said, it makes for good reading, and doesn't bother me *all* that much.

Leaving me free to revel in the extremely well executed love-story-with-coming-of-age of overtones that remains.  LM Montogomery isn't shy about giving her characters all sorts of gifts.  Valancy isn't as loved as Anne, but she is appreciated by those who matter (those who matter being those who appreciate her of course :)) And once she shrugs off the burden of her unloveable family, things proceed pretty much smoothly.  She likes caring for Celia, she loves her life with Barney... along with her, we are just living out the year, content in the simple things in life.  So no tension, and, with that, good romance.  Lots of interaction, a pretty decent hero (rough on the outside, tender within kind of guy), and some good heart-squeezing moments (do you know what I mean? when I read these good romances and I come to a passage I like, I feel like my heart actually squeezes some times).  And of course, an excellent ending (caveats above).  What more could I ask for? Not much, which is why this one will probably always remain a favorite of mine.

Verdict: 5/5

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Wrong Way To Write a Romance

Next, next, next.  One you haven't heard of, since it's a brand new book from a first-time author.   I heard of it on Lauren Willig's website (where else? I guess Austenprose :)) and she pretty much raved about it.  Beatriz Williams's Overseas, a time travel romance.  Time travel I can take or leave (I do like Outlander of course) but romance I can always take... at least if it's romance in my style.  Question is, was this? We'll get there.  Meanwhile, all signs pointed positively, since there definitely wasn't much else in this book besides the romance (a little mystery, but it didn't look too overwhelming).  And, you know, rave reviews... certainly worth a shot.

So at the start, it was all very promising.  Heroine is fairly successful and very pretty nice girl, hero is billionaire hedge fund manager who is also gorgeouso.  And he woos our heroine with every luxury we can think of, and with every gesture of romance too.  OMG... who even wants that?! I mean come on, he loves her right away, he tells her he loves her right away, and she loves him right back! How boring can you get? Quite boring I will tell you.  On and on about his dedication and love/obsession with her and we're supposed to be enjoying it.  But I tell you, I was NOT.  I just get absolutely nothing out of hearing his speeches and watching his oh-so-sweet overprotective behavior.  Yes, yes, yes we get it, you love her, now finish this up already.

I mean, there is a point to the story of course - this is a time travel tale, and it switches back and forth between some "future" time back in the past and the present (2008) and we have to resolve how we get from one to the other and what happens at the end.  I found the ending somewhat interesting, if more than a bit of a cop out.  It's kind of funny actually, since the whole time we're all worried about this big cataclysmic danger that turns out to be mostly a storm in a teapot.  But anyway, who cares? Like I said, I can take or leave time travel.  The big disappointment here was the total, complete UTTER lack of what  I consider good romance.  Are there really people who enjoy such drivel? I guess there are... (and I'm sure there are *plenty* who would say the same about the drivel I enjoy :)) But what I'm almost reminded of is the Mark Helprin book I read last summer that I hated so much.  Both just kind of revel in whatever they're talking about without really caring too much about advancing a plot.  Of course, a plot advances, but the extraneities are too excessive to be considered anything but the main point of the book.  And as the main point, seriously, if I wanted to read about great love, I'd read Shakespeare's sonnets or something.  Not someone's overblown ideas about what constitutes ideal romantic devotion.

So altogether, thoroughly, thoroughly disappointing.  Somewhat surprising, given that I'm all for romance with not much else getting in the way.  But I guess there's a wrong way to do everything.

Verdict: 2/5

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Still One To Hold On To

Well, well... all caught up and now... 3 behind.  That's what happens when you spend a 3 day yom tov all alone (ok, all alone except for the 3 other frum families in Carteret + my DH).  Anyway, Shavuos is over and I have 3 new books to review... fresh in my mind-ish for now, but let's see if I can get them all done while that's still the case.  Numero uno was begun before Shavuos (first half was finished, but I'm reviewing both together) - Court Duel (or actually, it's Crown Duel for both together).  Not sure when the last time I read this was, certainly not since I started the blog.  So does it hold its flavor? Does it still pass muster?

The thing about Court Duel is, I never thought it was perfect.  Meliara was always annoying in some ways (and yes, Huvi, Branaric can make we want to scream) and while Shevraeth is awesome, I'm not sure I ever thought the romance was ideal.  And of course, I always had very little interest in all the political intrigue and whatnot.  So if I had any of those complaints this time around, I wouldn't say Court Duel isn't what it once was.  I'd say I had all of those complaints - Meliara is as stupid as ever, the romance doesn't have enough interaction or enough from his POV (I have to say, the former might be a new complaint, I'm not sure this is something I minded initially), and the nuance imagined behind every word, glance, or action at court seems excessive.  But like I said, nothing new.  What was new? Well I find I did appreciate Mel's finer qualities a little more -  I think they stand out much more in the first book, which of course I have read far less frequently.  Yes, she's stupid and mostly wrong - but she is brave, spunky, and even heroic. I can see what Shevraeth likes about her, she's definitely got something.  And I always like it when the romance doesn't feel ridiculous or made up.  She's pretty too - something I'm always trying to determine and which is also more clear from reading the first book.

So much for the new - what about the old? Is it still one heck (apologize, apologize) of a romance? I'd say so.  He's just awesome, that Shevraeth.  And he loves her, he does.  It is definitely problematic that we don't see anything from his POV and even more so that they really don't interact much (at least in the second book) but it got me back into my somewhat abandoned habit of imagining what isn't written.  And there's plenty of fodder for that here.  And the details of court life are as enjoyable as ever of course - nobility being, after all, my preferred milieu.  The book remains a solid historical (fantasy - whatever) romance, though years of chic lit have somewhat deprecated my appreciation of its uniqueness (that is to say, I don't know many other fantasy romances - I guess Sharon Shinn) but the usual chic lit fare does a fine job with romance in its own way).  Still, still, still - I don't feel stupid that I know this book almost by heart (not quite as well as I used to of course).  It satisfies my ideals of a romance with angst, tension, and happy culmination, and a royal hero to boot.

Verdict: 4.75/5

Friday, May 25, 2012

Religion Makes For Boring Chick Lit

And... Number 2! Don't know if I'll have time to finish this b/4 I get off the bus, or failing that, before Shabbos starts, followed by Shavuos, but I will do my best... and that's all that can be expected of me.  A fitting segue into the next on our list, another Robin Lee Hatcher.  Her best books were the ones written not as Christian romances.  I kind of like that short series from last year / two years ago... but this latest series, of which I now review the second (it's called... um... Where The Heart Is? I think? nope that's something else, this on is heart of gold)  is just too... Christian for me.  I mean, put in all the religion you want, but give us something else too!

Here, if there's something else (well there is) it's civil war politics.  Yeah, that doesn't exactly make me do jumping jacks either.  I mean it's not crazy tense of course, the war is far away in the east for the most part, but it doesn't make for a fun romp when the heroine is concerned for her beloved Virginia, and rightfully too.  And what else? What about the romance? Sigh... I'm not saying it wasn't there at all... but at one point I found myself getting a little excited about its potential... and even that potential didn't realize materialize.  It was one of those that just moved along with no angst, no tension, no fun.. just gradual realization on the part of each of their being in love, followed by an engagement (there was a short break-up, but that's the potential I mean didn't materialize, it was just kind of blah).

So overall, not much to recommend the book.  Pretty vanilla, nothing distasteful, but where's the fun? I just get no kicks out of following along with people's religious growth and whatnot, and there just wasn't much else accompanying it.  Oh well.

Verdict: 2.3/5

Not With a Bang But a Whimper (Ok, That's a Little Harsh But I Like The Phrase)

Oy veis meer.  I am *behind*.  I have two books to review and it's erev a three day yom tov! Need to bang these out, and fast.  Luckily, since I finished the first one like, what, two weeks ago? I've somewhat forgotten whatever I had to say about it (not that I had a ton at any point in time) so maybe this won't take too long.  Anyway, this first one is a familiar name - (not that the second one isn't, more on that of course when I finish this one) - Gail Carriger.  The fifth (and last) in the Parasol Protectorate series, all for of whose previous installments I have reviewed right on this very blog! You can't expect much about of the fifth in a series, though I think expectations are somewhat raised for the finale.  But you know, I tend to be sanguine, and I enjoyed the previous ones, though some more, some less, so I was hoping for a good read.

I'd say I was fairly disappointed, at least in the most promising elements.  Characterization-wise, we continue going off the cliff (getting farther to the edge?) of pairing off everyone as she pleases and wrecking some heretofore steadily admirable personalities (Biffy no longer confidently flamboyant, Lyle not the calm presence of mind, and Floote, oh Floote, no loyal and utterly capable butler any longer).  Then there's the lack of humor, or rather the failure of what forced humor there is.  Turns of phrase, light absurdities, they just fall flat.  And romance is long gone by this point of course.

So we're left with plot... well this is the last book, so of course we get lots of loose ends tied up and that's always satisfying.  And there was plenty of excitement, and new scenes (Egypt!) and new background to keep one interested.  So I read it more eagerly than I might have expected, at least once I got into it.  But I have to say, the ending left me disappointed - in not one, but two ways.  First,  I just didn't like it - (spoiler alert) - Ivy as a vampire queen? no.  And then it just seemed like there were plenty of little strings still waving gently in the breeze (I mean by that that not everything was tied up tidily). I suppose the excuse fo r the latter is that I think there's some kind of follow up series with Alexia's daughter, and something had to be left for that? But come on, it's the final book, couldn't it have just been final? Or maybe that is final, maybe the lack of explanation of the book's "science" was on purpose? Dunno, and not sure how much I care.  I'll read the follow up if it's in a normal format, but I seem to recall it's either manga or a children's series, neither of which excites me overly much.  So series over, all tied up, one way or the other.

Verdict: 2.75 / 5

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why JA Is Where It's At

I have been sadly remiss in posting - it's been over a week since I finished my latest, but I haven't felt like posting on the bus (with good reason, I'm sitting here posting in stop-and-go traffic and ugh it does not make me feel good) and these days, that's my goto posting time.  But at least I haven't finished another book in that time, since last Shabbos was busy (CL! :)) and I haven't felt like reading on the bus either.  But, you know, it's almost Shabbos again, and this time I might end up finishing something... so better get on with this one.  This one is Northanger Abbey, next in line of books I own that I felt like re-reading.  It was a very different experience than rereading P&P, since I know it so much less well.  I think this must be maybe my fifth time reading it, and the first since 12th grade, the ITV movie, and my general immersion in all things Austen via the blogs.

I definitely had some anticipation going in - I never haven't enjoyed NA, and Henry Tilney's popularity among some (the Austenblog Editrix) made me eager to get to know him, at least, again.  And JJ Field in the move is adorable of course :) But I must say, whatever my expectations, they were surpassed! I finished the book in a few days, mostly on the book, and I never wanted to put it down (yes, I was often heading into work :)) NA is probably JA's least serious work, written as a satire on horrid novels, and that lightness of tone never really abates.  JA's wit reigns supreme, and I am reminded, or reassured, of her amazing ability to write in such a well-formed, yet such a far from ponderous, and ever humorous vent.

As for characters - Catherine herself is likable, if stupid.  And she is quite stupid, at least where human nature is concerned.  I was surprised to find that her predilection for seeing the world through the eyes of Mrs. Radcliffe and co. was less pronounced than I had thought - she only really lets her imagination overcome her at Northanger.  Most of the satire comes from JA's interjections that "a heroine must this" or "as was appropriate, he reacted thus" contrary to the usual course of events followed here.  But anyway, her naivete when it comes to Isabelle is really on the annoying side, since, at least until the end, I feel like Isabelle's false professions and airs never result in consequences unpleasant to herself.  But I suppose in the end, Catherine sees even Isabelle for what she is, and her appreciation of John Thorpe comes rather earlier.

Then there's Henry Tilney. !!!!!!! The perfect combination of flirtatiousness, kindness, humor, and wisdom.  He seems, at least to me, quite a modern type of hero, one whose charm lies in his manner, rather than his character (though his character is very good, don't worry :)) I mean, I could easily see GH creating such a man (like Mr. Beaumaris, though he's definitely more jaded) but I feel like JA must have been the first to have put such charm to the page (ok, maybe she wasn't, but I never read anything like it dated anywhere near that time).  I can see why he such a fave among the ladies ;)

So the humor is great, the story flows easily, the characters are just as they should be... what about the romance? So here's the thing - I think last time (or maybe it was the time before?) I was disappointed by the romance, since it's really not much of one at all (in the tension/angst sense I mean of course :)).  But knowing that going in, I didn't care all that much this time.  I thought maybe there would be some bits I missed that I could pick up on and enjoy... and maybe there were.... kind of.  But in general, it basically says straight out that Henry falls in love with Catherine because she's in love with him.  A very un-GH-like behavior, but in keeping with the theme of anti-horrid novels.  And it really didn't affect my liking of the book at all.  It was just so perfect the way it was, light satire and a good story too.

Verdict: 5/5

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Not Looking For High Drama

Finished this Sunday... too lazy to post till now... feeling tired these days... anyway... after my previous foray into long-neglected GHs, (see review of The Quiet Gentleman) I was eager to venture yet again into the land of almost-forgotten novels by the great authoress.  I selected The Masqueraders, which I think I bought in an airport in Europe at some point because it was the only Heyer there... or actually, maybe I bought it last summer along with TQG... yup, I'm pretty sure it was then (Simon the Coldheart was purchased at the Glasgow airport I think).  And since I bought it last summer, I haven't read it - not surprising, since I hadn't read it for quite a few years before and I haven't read most of the Heyers I've bought, sad to say.  I have read it more than once, which puts it ahead of TQG. (continuing from Thurs...) Now TQG never got reread because, as I said in that review, it's almost more of a mystery than a romance.  The Masqueraders is more typical Heyer, but not typical Regency Heyer - it's one of her Georgians.  Those are written quite differently - more dramatically, with less of a light touch and more of an intense tone.  With that, there's no real reason why they  can't be just as romantic... These Old Shades, The Convenient Marriage, even Devil's Cub are also decently, or more than decently in DC's case, so.  But The Masqueraders...

Well I don't know how much I noticed it before - I think not as much previously as this go-around - but The Masqueraders loses a lot to drama.  In fact, it's not really a chic lit romance at all - I don't even really think it's meant to be.  There are two couples, one the usual boring one and then the central couple.  But the central couple aren't together not because of angsty misunderstandings or spark-filled clashes, but because circumstances (the woman masquerading as a man) make it impractical.  So there's not much fun in waiting for them to get together.  The fun is more in the drama and the action of the story, a fairly entertaining tale of a con artist's greatest effort - all taking place in the elegant halls of Georgian London high society.  And you know, it is pretty fun in both those senses (con artistry and high society).

But I don't know why, the high-flown language just bothered me more than usual.  I know GH essentially made up Regency cant as we know it today, but now it just seems authentic to me (and it bothers me when other authors get it wrong :)) But here... maybe I'm just less used to it or maybe it really is more fabricated, but the "child" (to address an adult), the "it" (in place of he)... and then there was the rather too much "show don't tell" magnificence of the con artist in question, Lord Barham.  Sad to see GH guilty of such a thing.  And I can't say she's *very* guilty of it.  He mostly is pretty magnificent.  But the drama just wasn't *quite* all it was meant to be.  I hate to criticize a Heyer but... there it is.  I can't say I didn't enjoy this book, I did, but it irked me at the same time - maybe just because it wasn't as good as I remembered.  I still think she's great, and I'm sure I'll go back to this one some time... but just be warned, this is not quite the Heyer we love.

Verdict: 3.8/5

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Finish That Goes Nowhere

Well it's been a while... what with California (though my last post was after that I think) and Pesach... I finally finished the book I started in CA over the last days of Pesach but then it took me a while to get to this... anyway, here I am now.  Ready to review Jane Vows Vengeance, the third in Michael Thomas Ford's series of Jane Austen as a vampire.  I think I rather enjoyed the first two (and at least one, if not both, are reviewed here, but I have not reread the reviews, pursuant with my general rule :)) so I was expecting the same of the third.

But whatever I liked about the first two, this one was not up to par.  I mean it's not like the other two were  *great* - but somehow MTF did a good job with the characters, making them interesting and fun to be around.  But this one... well the characters were more annoying than anything else - it's like only the main elements of each were preserved and exaggerated, with most likeability erased in the process.  It's almost a "show, don't tell" case, where we're supposed to like Lucy and Rabbi Cohen and Walter because they're the ones Jane likes, but they're just kind of boring and there to be yes men than anything else.  And the dislikeable characters aren't funny (I'm pretty sure they used to be funny) just kind of silly.  I guess Lord Byron has some of his old charm... but even he is just repeating old movements.

I found that, in general, this book was covering old ground - and what wasn't old was not worth introducing.  The story centered around vampire legend, and MTF played as fast and loose as he wanted with it to get what he considered a good story.  But it just comes off as thrown together.  In fact, the whole book comes off as thrown together.  There was some interesting promise with the mystery, but it all got resolved most disappointingly.  Really just altogether very amateur, with nothing I can think of to redeem it.  Oh well, at least this was the last one.

Verdict: 2/5

Friday, April 6, 2012

Not an Ordinary Fairy Tale

Upon finishing the previous title Motzei Shabbos before leaving to SF, I did not immediately write up a post.   I also did not go to sleep in anticipation of my 7:00 AM flight the next morning.  Instead, I took a survey of books to bring with me on the trip and decided I was in the mood to read The Ordinary Princess right then and there.  So I did.  It's not too long, finished it before going to sleep.

It really is an adorable little thing.  I mean it's a children's book, but it's not written for children so much as as an homage to children's books of yore (fairy tales).  So, though its attitudes are often simplistic, it's understood that's to be expected in a fantasy land.  And occasionally there's some light fun made of the open-and-shut universe of fairyland.  Well I suppose actually the entire book is a parody, since the notion of an Ordinary Princess highlights the ridiculousness of all those other Extra-ordinary ones.  But in any case, no one reads this book as a satire, and not even really as light humor.

Instead, it's a charming love story/coming of age.  In common with some fairy tales, there is no tension to be found - I mean none - Amy goes to work as a kitchen drudge, but that's not something she minds.  And she's happy to live alone in the forest.  So the time passes as easily for us as it does for her.  And the love story - it's interesting, because it doesn't really have much of that angst I always say is essential to a good chic-lit romance - but yet, I find the story quite romantic.  I almost don't know why, but there is the constant underlying tensions on both sides that the other party is "not for me" (though of course, we know  better :)) And despite that, they do grow closer - and reading between the lines, treasure their fleeting time together.  I almost don't know why I enjoy this romance so much... but after all, it's by MM Kaye - who has written some rather grand romance in her time.

The book takes about an hour (or less) to finish - and I wouldn't want it to take more.  But from start to finish, I really don't think there's one moment I don't enjoy.

Verdict: 4.5/5

Some Neat Lines, A Lot of Fluff

I actually finished this one almost a week ago, but what with my little dash off to San Fran I didn't get around to reviewing it till now... when it seems most imperative that I do so since I'm heading into Pesach and possibly more reading time.  Anyway, after finishing up a long-neglected GH, I still didn't have any books on my agenda (and still don't have many, since I've been lazy about reserving) so I picked up a rather random title.  A few months ago, I mentioned that a "popular math" book I saw around Dov's parents' house looked interesting - Math Mysteries I think it's called or something like that, by Marcus de Satoy (again, or something like that).   I've read a few books of this type - history of math, basic introductions to its areas of study - and they're entertaining enough.  So my sweet Dov brought the book home for me, rather unexpectedly.  It seemed incumbent upon me to read it once I got around to it.

It turned out to be fairly interesting, and definitely an easy read.  I don't think any of the actual math was new - a lot of it was very similar to the math section of 1,2,3....Infinite and the remainder was mostly my CMSC 203 class - discrete math.  But it was a nice reminder I guess.  What I found a little annoying was the juvenility of some of the examples - the book is peppered with games that "illustrate" the concepts being explained.  But maybe it's aimed at a juvenile audience, I don't know.  It just seemed like a little too much filler.  And on the other hand, some of the most interesting math was glossed over, so that I found myself wishing he explained A->B in a little more detail.  But there was good too - I think what I found strongest were his examples of math in nature - especially the prime number cicadas and the three-colored lizards.  What a world we live in, huh?

I guess it's not his fault that this isn't my first math book.  I would have gotten more out of it if I didn't already know most of the stuff.  But I'm glad it's not my first, because I think those other ones did a better job explaining the concepts than he did.  Overall, it wasn't hard to read though, and it was a nice refresher.  Not too taxing on the brain, and good reminder of the neatness of mathematics.

Verdict: 2.75/5

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hand of a Master, Even If the Medium Is Different

Well I finished my books on reserve... and found myself, perhaps due to neglect, with a zero-length backlog.  So I was free to pick up whatever I fancied, as long as I could get my hands on it.  That of course, limited me to Georgette Heyer and a few other choice favorites I have in my possession.  I did, indeed, choose a GH, but the question is, which one? The only one I've read at all recently is Venetia (and I'm not sure how recently that was, since I don't think I reviewed it on the blog) so I had many old favorites I could turn to... then there were those that I like, but that I didn't buy on the first round since they aren't *that* good... and then there's The Quiet Gentleman, which I picked up last summer from the Border's going-out-of-business sale (see if you can find the other book I picked up reviewed here :)) simply because they had it.  This is one I've read once (back when I first read them all and got out the last 10 or so from Pratt library) and I don't think since then.  It's more a mystery than a romance, like Regency Buck, but only the mystery parts.  But Gital (Dov's cousin - is this the first time I'm mentioning Dov? maybe :) - nope, just checked, two other times - I guess he does figure quite largely in my reading life :)))  mentioned that she liked it (she got into GH a few years ago and has been reading them slowly, I gather) and that was somewhat of a recommendation.  Plus Jennifer Kloester's Regency World kept mentioning Gervase Frant of all heroes.  So I was ready to give it another go.

It is indeed, more a mystery than a romance - and mystery is not GH's strong suit (not that it would matter much if it was, since I don't go in much for mysteries no matter how good they are).  But in any case, I've never read any of her actual mystery, but her other romance + mystery is really Regency Buck (though that one is more of a romance / tour of Regency society than a mystery) and I found them quite similar - mostly in the dispositions of the villains, who were both refined, almost smarmy, and overtly concerned for the interests of their victims.  But if the meat of the book was the mysterious accidents that befall Gervase and the fallout from his return to the family seat, there was plenty of distraction in light flirtations, balls, and pleasant conversation.  So don't get me wrong - this book was not hard to read.

In fact, I'd say TQG made me appreciate GH all the more.  Even in a book with little romance, and between a couple I couldn't really get behind for much of the book (I appreciated Drusilla's practicality from the beginning but Gervase did not seem to be "one of the downy ones" until much later and it was hard to see his coolness at first), it was just so much fun to read.  The usual stock characters, the practical heroine, and everything moving along so delightfully.  I'm not saying this book was a favorite, or even that I'm surprised I haven't read it in years, but I'm not sorry I own it, and I'm sure it'll make its way back into this blog (if it's still around :)) a few years from now.

Verdict: 4/5

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Almost, But Not Quite, More of the Same

Remember way back when, through the fog of time, this blog was a newborn babe, and I did other things besides reviewing every book I read, methodically? It was a short but sweet time, glorious in its variety.  Oh how I miss it... but nothing remains the same, not forever anyway... All right, enough nostalgia.  The point is, one of the first reviews I did, about a book I had read before I started the blog, was The Spellman Files #4.  Last year (I think it was last year), I read and reviewed Lisa Lutz's stand-alone, and this year, I'm back to #5.  I think we were all a little surprised that there is a #5, since #4 ended off just fine from my POV.  But she chose to write a #5, and if I have gleaned properly from the website, there's more where that came from!  Sarah Sp. has not been happy with her since at least #4, and I think #3 too, so she wasn't very enthusiastic about the continuation.  My feeling was that Isabel was with Henry, and all grown up, so why go further? And yet, here we are.

Two years into the future that is (and we actually *are* two years in the future, how funny :)) Isabel is with Henry, Rae is in college, and the ex-convict Isabel liberated in the last book has taken up residence with the Spellmans.  Isabel herself has not regressed in maturity, I'm happy to say.  Other than the slight irregularities that are a product of her personality (and perhaps Lisa Lutz's) she appears a stable, relatively successful adult.  The rest of her family is up to their usual antics, but they were never as crazy as Isabel.  So to start off with, less self-destructiveness and just as much harmless zaniness as before.  I think it's a change for the better.  The plot itself is mostly harmless too.  I have to say I don't have that much of a memory for previous plots, which suggests they are mostly of the same nature as this one - lots of meandering threads that get somewhat loosely enmeshed towards the end.  I think it's Spellman as usual, for most part.

But Spellman as usual can get irksome after 5 books.  Rae is definitely not aging gracefully.  And I find the unnecessary rudeness and shenanigans... unnecessary.  And maybe it's just this book, but I feel like I can very much hear Lisa Lutz writing.  Isabel is funny when we're laughing at her and her insane family.  But if Isabel is right in her "quirky" view of the world, even a little bit ... well what's there to laugh about?   I guess what's left is a certain cleverness in the antics.  I definitely stayed curious the entire book, through all the plot twists and jumps.  There is the little annoyance of *constant* event-droppping (just coined the term) where all we hear is "we'll get to that later".  If *you* know, we want to know too! Get that through your head.  But I guess it's just par for course with the Spellmans... even though I bet Lisa Lutz could write a whole book in chronological order and I would still find it interesting.  Really, she should try it.

ANYWAY... why am I going on and on about this? It's not like I care about any of this (ok not like I care *most* about any of this :)) What's going on with Isabel and Henry? Of course that's the question on all your minds :)) And first, let me say that, in book #5, I would have been just fine with letting I&H fade into the background as a mature couple - their story was well-played out already.  What I am NOT fine with is them breaking up! I will however forgive LL if/when they get back together in #6.  I'm betting they will, because otherwise, what was the point of breaking them up? To be realistic? I mean, really? I'm definitely going with engagement in a book or two.  But even with that, I'm not sure we needed a breakup now... Oh well, what's done is done.  'Twere well it be repaired forsooth.

Verdict: 3/5 (I don't know, I just didn't find it at all hard to read)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Humorous Side of Chic Lit

More familiar authors, though less avidly followed perhaps - Sophie Kinsella's latest is one of her one-offers, not a Shopaholic installment - that means greater potential for romance, but nothing to get too excited about if its last few predecessors (Remember Me, Twenties Girl) are any indication.  Anyway, I've Got Your Number did not impress fellow readers Huvi and Chava (Huvi read it three Shabbosim ago at Bubby's, Chava at my house :) two Shabbosim ago), but they are rather harsher judges than I.  I expected not much, as most of Sophie Kinsella's characters are utterly silly, but maybe some good chic lit-style boy-girl plot.

Now, from the start, IGYN promised to live up to any SK work in both plot and character silliness.  First of all the character - Poppy Wyatt, a Becky Bloomwood soul mate in flakiness, some naivete, and a gift for twisted logic and getting herself into trouble.  Then there's the plot... I gave Dov's family the pleasure of a synopsis, which was greatly appreciated as a piece of unlikely farce - girl loses ring, then fire alarm rings, then phone is stolen, then she steals another phone... and then she strikes up a relationship with the phone's owner, all the while refusing to return him his property?! Only forgivable because in chic lit, implausibility cannot be allowed to stand in the way of good romance and maybe some funny moments along the way.  So far, so silly... I could well understand H and C's lack of enthusiasm.

But, even with all the ridiculous setups, snort-worthy scenarios, and lack of common sense I couldn't stop noticing, I found myself laughing out loud once in a while.  She does have great comic timing, Ms. Kinsella, no doubt about it.  So she succeeds in at least part of her goal (what I assume is her goal), to write a book that keeps us laughing most of the time.  At the beginning, I was doing less laughing though, and more worrying, as Poppy was (of course) being an idiot about dealing with the loss of the engagement ring (word of wisdom, it's ALWAYS better to tell).  But then... it didn't spiral off into disaster after fiasco... about half-way through, it's actually resolved! Leaving us to concentrate on Sam (the phone owner's) problems, which are much more interesting, and also much less tense than our heroine's (last tense because they aren't our heroine's, strictly speaking he has lot more on the line).  So we are left more free to enjoy both the funny stuff and the romance.

The romance is decent, nothing to rock the world, and I'd say in the background for the most part - but that's pretty typical SK, she's never all about them getting together.  And it was there all the while, something to look forward to.   And if its progression was fairly typical, I have to say there were a few surprises along the way for the plot in general.  Nothing *major*, but I was definitely surprised at how certain things were resolved (the fiance's parents, Sam's Dad, Lucinda...) Impressively not what I'd expected, I'd say.

So the book was silly, no doubt about it.  It wasn't the greatest romance ever written, without a question.  But as a solid, funny, chic lit romp, I have to say, I was quite, quite pleasantly surprised! Less tense, less predictable, and quite a bit more funny than I would have thought.  Not bad, Sophie K.  Not bad.

Verdict: 3.25/5

Monday, March 5, 2012

Perhaps a Bit Warmed Over, Still Tastes Good

While I was immersed deep in the P&P universe, a few long-reserved titles arrived at the library.  The first of those to which I turned my attention was naturally the one the excited me most - Lauren Willig's 9th Pink Carnation, The Garden Intrigue.  The PC series is, of course, one of my favorites, uniting accurate (ok, somewhat vaguely realistic) history, well-formed prose, and *solid* romance.  The books might almost be categorized as romance novels, especially the earlier ones, but they are so superior to the lot as to be almost literary in comparison :) So what more could I want than a well-written romance novel? Well-written and true to its chosen time of course.  That's as far as the series goes, and #9 is really true to form.  A new hero and heroine with as classic a romance as any, liberal "good angst" moments abounding, and a plot to keep things going without distracting.  There's also Jane around (unlike some of the latest ones) to keep us entertained, admiring and waiting for her story.

But... I'm really not sure what it was, my enjoyment of the book did not compare to previous times.  Some of it was almost definitely things I just happened to pay attention this time (or this time more than others) - notably the very anachronistic writing style, and even conversation at times.  This doesn't really bother me, as it's done deliberately to amuse - I don't find it particularly amusing, but I can hear the smirk behind it so the inaccuracy doesn't grind the way it could.  I do think that the little jokes may be becoming more prevalent (and obvious) though - Be careful with that case, it's a Vuitton? Approaching the level of Terry Pratchett when it comes to tongue-in-cheek anachronism,  but without his skill and certainly outside his genre.  But like I said, that didn't really take away from my enjoyment of the book.

It was more like... I don't know, I just didn't have patience.  My heart failed to wrench at Emma's memories of Paul and her regrets of past life, Augustus's unwillingness to think of home never went anywhere at all, and the characters' constant second-guessings and wistful imaginings left me mostly unmoved.  Even the love story itself seemed somewhat hurried and unsatisfying.  It was certainly not developed well, as the time during which they were supposed to fall in love is brushed through in a single, short chapter of notes back and forth.  But that's ok, they're believable enough as a couple.  It was more like that once the real happenings got going - the scenes on the stage, on the lawn, in the guesthouse... I just felt like it was all just too pat.  We knew he would say this, we knew she would feel that - not that I ever expect romance to be unpredictable, but this time it almost felt like it all unfolded along premarked lines.

And that's the part where I'm not sure whether it's me or the book.  I'd like to think it was the book, since that means I haven't lost my ability to enjoy romance.  And I think it's definitely somewhat that LW is probably feeling the same fatigue I am on #9 - yet another couple, with their own cozy little romance.  And there's the fact the Augustus is a poet, so a little high-flown sentiment may have seemed in order, even at the expense of more relatable writing.  But there's no question that if I had read this book a year or two ago, I would have enjoyed it a little more.  I guess that bothers me a bit, but it's not like I couldn't read this at all... and I do think that a good part of my failure to get interested was reading it in so many bits and pieces, which I can remedy easily (well as easily as I can free up some time on a Shabbos :)) So maybe The Garden Intrigue has been a gentle prod towards diversifying my book pool from romance.... but I wouldn't say it's not a good, old-fashioned example of my favorite genre, all the same.

Verdict: 4/5

Monday, February 27, 2012

Return to Pemberley

February's done up and gone (or almost)... and how have I been occupying myself away from my loyal followers? Do not fear, my little ones... I have been most gainfully employed.  At last, at last, gainfully employed.  Whimsicalities aside, I have finally made it all the way up my backlog.  To the one, the only, the one and only book that deserves all the fanfare you could possibly come up with... yes, you guessed it, L&Gs, ppppP aaaaan ppppP!!!! Shockingly enough, I have not read the book since I came back from seminary - which means 5 years last June, IIRC.  In that time of course, I have not been leaving my beloved idle.  Movies, sequels, prequels, take-offs, spins... I have spent a fair bit of time immersed in the world of Pride and Prejudice (embarrassingly enough, some might say).  But it was time to get back to basics.

I was afraid I wouldn't be able to read the book, since I know it so well.  And indeed, it wasn't a fast read (it has been over a month since I posted, after all).  But I guess I don't know the book as well as I thought I did, since I had very little trouble absorbing the meaning of the words (and not just letting them wash over me, as I find I can do when I know something really well).  I mean, I definitely had to read passages twice at times... but it was all the more worthwhile.  It's amazing how much I can still pick up, on my upteenth reading (maybe it's even at 20? who knows...) Little nuances, like that when Elizabeth says "a deep and intricate character is more estimable than one such as yours", estimable means *good*, not easy to understand! It all makes sense now :) And those pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches served at Pemberley? For the entire table, not for each person.! Oh... We're literally talking about single words here that I feel like I'm reading for the first time :)

So yes, there's more to be gained every time I read it (and that's of course, besides everything that I forget).  But it's not all about tiny details... as always, my perspective on the characters themselves shifts when I follow their stories once again.  Darcy seems more than ever an awkward and reserved man, not necessarily the paragon of perfection we like to imagine him as.  Mr. Bennet's neglect of his family gets more comdemnable.  Georgiana's youth is even more apparent.  Wickham's impudence shocks and amuses more than ever.  5 years, alternative perspectives, and attentive reading will get you that.

To some extent then,  the P&P experience is influenced by its supplementary universe.  But, too, reading the book itself reminds me of what it's really all about.  I feel like in the carefully crafted sentences I can find out the truth to what these characters feel and who they really are.  Yes, it's ridiculous to care so much (and you know I really don't), but reading all that paraliterature makes me appreciate the real thing all the more.  Oh the perfection of plot, of scene, of characters... and of prose! It's simply ridiculously well written.  Elegant, subtle, and gently mocking all the while.   With feeling ever present, but always restrained, often hidden.

Which brings me to another point - P&P is a romance, but a hidden romance.  I don't know, if I was reading it for the first time, whether I'd appreciate it as a romance at all.  There are none (or very few) of those "angsty" moments I love.  Darcy loves Elizabeth, and it's stated more than once... but JA doesn't go out of the way to twist our heartstrings with his longing for her.  But it's there... oh it's there... and luckily for me, I don't have a problem remembering that.

And because I do, I can revel in the original hate-at-first-sight, he-loves-her-all-the-while tale... perfectly written, perfectly humorous, and perfectly wise on top of that.  I really don't think it's just my bias talking - there is just nothing bad about this book.  Ok, it has its tense moments, its uncomfortable interludes... but we know we need them.

So what can I say on picking up P&P five years later, older and wiser? It's still the best book over... maybe because it can still surprise as much as because its first goodness holds fast.  There is only one P&P... but boy are we lucky to have even that :)

Verdict... oh what can a measly number say about perfection? If you will have though, 5/5.  No, 6/5.  No... this is silly.  Perfect.  What else is there to it?


Friday, January 20, 2012

Great Showing By The Less Than Great

Since nothing came up in the interim (or indeed, since), I moved on to the third novel in Claire Darcy's Regency trio, Lydia.  This one was a combination of quite a few GH's - I'd say mostly The Grand Sophy, but with a strong hint of Frederica and just a touch of Regency Buck.  So many different ones, I'd say, one could almost say it stands on its own as an original.  Its characters, or at least its heroine, can certainly hold her own.  And the plot itself was rich with a good number of complexities.  So what am I saying? I was impressed by this last of the three.  With the first two, I felt like CD caught GH's style, but not much beyond that - the books were fun to read because they were Regency, but slow-moving and, at times, clumsy.  I don't think Lydia could be called slow-moving at all - in fact, I enjoyed it from the start, and didn't want to put it down at any point.  It was clumsy in a few places, for sure... but that's only to be expected, and really wasn't enough to mar my enjoyment at all.

I'm not saying we're talking about GH here.  The romance was definitely not particularly well-executed - it's unclear when the falling in love happens, for starters, and the couple in question do not interact very much.  We get some hint of the Viscount's feelings, but nothing extraordinary.  And the Viscount himself, while very likeable in a combination of Mr. Beaumaris (ready enjoyment of amusing situations) and the Marquis of Alverstoke (not a marrying man), and a soldier to boot, is also new to his wealth, having inherited it unexpectedly from his great-uncle.  Not the worst shame in the world, but we like our heros to be "independently wealthy" if possible :)  The second point is a minor detail, the first less so, but despite both, the book was a good read.  I'd say of all Clare Darcy's books I've read (and there were two others besides the trio, both substantially inferior), this one was the only one that makes me regret there aren't more.  Maybe I'll even consider trying to find the others that there are.. maybe.  But in any case, this one was worth the time.

Verdict: 3.25/5

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great Form, Lacking Substance

Way back when, I started Clare Darcy's regency trilogy (or actually just 3 books published together).  At that point, I wanted to review all three at once, but by the time I finished the first, I had higher priority books in the wings, so I just stopped and review the first.  I have made it back to the low priority pile, for the time being anyway, and I finished the second one today.  Just as I thought, there's not much to say about this one that I haven't already said about the first, but that's what I got myself into by reviewing after  only finishing one...

So, recapitulate (actually, I just assume this is pretty much what I wrote, I didn't reread the other post, naturellement) Clare Darcy is remarkable for her uncanny ability to imitate Georgette Heyer.  Right away, I am sucked in by the familiar cadences - the nineteenth century cant, the lifestyle of Regency gentility... it's there, and in a quite delicately copied fashion.  This particular story, Georgina, was an ode to Venetia -  girl is an isolated town falls in love with a known rogue... and there's a young suitor, a crippled young companion, and some other similarities that make me wonder if CD was at all embarrassed by how much she ripped off.  It's so obvious, I almost think she meant it as an homage.  But homage or not, it is of course not Georgette Heyer.  The characters are less believable, the plot more boring... And in this particular case, GH's signature snobbery was just not there in force.  The guy is... well I suppose he *is* nobly born... in a manner of speaking (he's a bastard).  And all that talk about money... whew! You know only the mushrooms care that much!   Then there's the romance itself, which so disappointingly executed. Georgina figures out quite soon that he loves her, and despite some waffling that seems a bit forced, we and she never really doubt it afterwards.  And where's the fun in that?! And nothing less lack of fun like a poor hero and wealthier heroine.  Where are those principles of GH we can rely on? Gentlemen, with some respectable source of income... who can hide their love from their beloved just a little bit better...

But again, why complain about how CD isn't GH? Of course she's not GH.  So judging the book on its own merits, the romance isn't perfectly executed, but she certainly tries, which is more than I can say for most books.  The writing isn't bad at all, I didn't find it grating.  But overall... well overall the book was just boring.  I don't know, it just didn't move.  I'm not even sure why I found it this way, but perhaps I was picking up on the author's central focus - an "authentic" Regency novel, not necessarily a good story.

Verdict: 2.85/5

Friday, January 6, 2012

You're the Mother, Don't Be Such a Baby

A familiar author, if not one I avidly follow - I've reviewed two of Katherine Center's books already and I've been meaning to read the third ever since.  But it was one of those got it out, had to return it, Chava had it out, she had to return it, I forgot about it... but when I remembered, it was very easy to get ahold of.  I thought this was her newest book, but it turns out that it's her first (I think), and, maybe a little surprisingly, I think it made a difference.  I like KC's books despite their plots - overworked Mommy or jobless and manless doesn't really do it for me.  Though surrogate pregnancy isn't a bad twist at all.  But in any case, the books were much more fun to read than their jackets would suggest, since KC has a way of lulling you into calm enjoyment of ordinary life.

But The Bright Side of Disaster (debut or not) was just a little bit less about ordinary life.  It was a Mommy tale again... but a very new, and newly singled Mommy tale.  And it was *all about* just how hard that life is.  So hard it actually made me dread having a baby a little bit... except that it all sounds utterly exaggerated.  Yes, it's tiring to have a new baby, and definitely, it's really hard to do it without a husband.  But seven months in and still doing nothing but taking care of the baby? Pu-leeze, stop complaining.  And in general, stop complaining.  Yes, Jenny's situation is not a pretty one, but seriously, she just makes such bad decisions. Well of course, allowing Dean back in to her life was a bad decision, but that's clear from the book.  It's more just her ridiculous overprotectiveness of Maxie and her constant background whiny tone that just makes it hard for me to feel that sympathetic.  I ended up feeling like she just needed to man up and take better care of herself.

In the end, it all works out of course, but it wasn't all that exciting.  I don't blame KC for that, she doesn't do romance all that well - Get Lucky I found unexpectedly romantic, but it was just a nice bonus.  These books aren't about romance... what they are supposed to be about is women we can get along with.  Women we like, and we want to succeed.  Not that I didn't want Jenny to succeed, but I have to say, I wasn't surprised she had a hard time with.  Wow, I'm being mean :) But the point is, it's not like Jenny was having fun and I certainly had no interest in hangin' with her as she traversed the path of new motherhood.  All I can say is, it BETTER not be that bad - and I'm pretty sure it's not :) So Jenny, glad you ended up with your man, gladder still I'm not you, and not unglad to be finished with the book.

Verdict: 2.75/5

PS - I feel I must note that the cover picture is not of the edition I read but I couldn't find a working link to that one... oh well :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Yet Another Take on the Classic Tale

For some reason, yet another author felt the need to publish a teen version of P&P (Actually, when I reviewed the last one, Prom & Prejudice, I said that I didn't remember reading any other versions, but it just feels so done).  For all the reasons I detailed in my last review - basically, I have no patience for teenagers, I just wasn't that interested in reading Epic Fail when I read about it on Austenprose (this despite it being by an chic lit author, Claire LaZebnick, whose previous books I enjoyed).  But S.b. got it out from the library and thought it was pretty decent, so I read it over this Shabbos, for which I was in Baltimore.

It was indeed, pretty decent, and also pretty much exactly what I expected.  Rich prep school to imitate the class society of England, and sweet enough teenage romance.  Not hugely romantic, but fun enough to read about.  This one took place in Hollywood and made much of the difficult lives of movies stars and whatnot, more standard chic lit fodder.  And there was the similar issue that Elise Benton's position at her school is far more tenuous than Elizabeth's in the vicinity of Longbourne.  Then there's the fact that the plot just doesn't have that much room since we all know what's going to happen. I always end up being happy when story deviates from the original, since at least it's a surprise. Plus if you try to stay too close, you end up wangling things in a way that make no sense at all.  So this one kept consistent enough, changed a few things, and was the more successful for that.

So basically, decent high school romances, NO surprises, not much else to say, but certainly not too hard to read.

Verdict: 2.95/5

Funny side note, as I was writing this Sarah Sp. emailed me and asked me if I had ever read this or another teen version of P&P.