Sunday, April 23, 2017

Old Favorites Time

Going to cheat, or shortcut a bit - after reading the books I took on my trip, I didn't get back to the library (still haven't) so I returned to the land of old favorites.  Since I've read / reviewed all of these previously, I figure it's good enough to just do a single post.  Lucky you and me.

Cotillion - this is one of those GHs that goes up and down in my estimation.  On the one hand, Freddy is a dear and it's a sweet story (not *too* much other stuff, though rather a lot of it in the end).  On the other... the romance is quite subtle. I think last time I read it I may have been pleasantly surprised by the romance, but this time, I feel more like I expected more than what I got.  No question I love Heyer, but more and more, I feel like it's not even necessarily about the romance.  Probably it's I who am less interested in the romance, and so have higher standards. Regardless, loved the book.  Just didn't finish off feeling like it was better than I expected.

Verdict: 5/5

Frederica (out of order, but this is the other GH on the list) - common theme here. Now this one has a fantastic romance, mostly because such a good part of it is from Alverstoke's POV.  On the other hand, WAY too much other stuff going on, with Frederica's tiresome families (who I do not find particularly winsome).  And yet.. reading this, I enjoyed the romance but I knew it was coming (like every good line I've memorized already).  and even though the family antics are as uncharming as ever, it's still a good story.  Seriously, I am such a biased judge.  I like these books way too much.

Verdict: 5/5

The Blue Castle - romance here quite subtle, and more subtle even than I remembered. And the whole first part with her family is just depressing. I really don't even feel it's realistic (like really, whose family dislikes them that much?) But anyway - lovely little book, not much going on but, you know, it's short.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

Verdict: 5/5

The Morning Gift - but wait, didn't I just read this? well yes. I guess I enjoyed it *that* much. Talk about romance. This book seriously is romance perfected. I do not know what it is about it (previous reviews may speculate more). I just know that I had zero problem picking it up a mere few months after the previous reading and thoroughly enjoying it (meaning despite knowing what was coming, the emotional moments still delivered).

Verdict: 5/5

Persuasion - Obviously, can't get much more romantic than the actual story here.  But what I found interesting was that I didn't find the actual *style* to be that romantic.  I was surprised at how aware Anne was the entire time of still being in love with Captain Wentworth, and how much more aware she was of his interest in her when he came to Bath.  Takes a little from the angst of it somehow.  Still.  Peerless in quality of course.  Story to not be beat. Also, one of the shorter JAs.

Verdict: 5/5

Elemental Fantasy

Hello again.  After Pesach already and I never even finished my reviews from my January vacation.  Tsk tsk.  For a while, I procrastinated by not reading much but I've amassed quite the list by now.  Time to get on it.  Not that I can really remember what I thought of books I read in January.  But tally ho.  The last library book from my trip was the next in the Sharon Shinn Elements series, this one fire (Corinne).  So much for what I remember :) I think I found this book faster moving than the Air book I read earlier (didn't stall in the middle).  Don't think I liked the main character as much. Seriously cannot even remember who she ends up with! Wow now I feel like I'm going crazy. Could it be she doesn't end up with anyone? I'm starting to think that.  Oh no, phew, got it. She ends up with Foley, the guard. Meh.  More unequal romance. This one doesn't even have the excuse of being a prince in disguise.  So yeah the romance didn't do it for me. Book itself wasn't bad, pretty interesting, decent world building.  Entertainment.

Verdict: 3/5

Friday, February 3, 2017

Society Romance - Nothing To Sneeze At

Moving on with the backlog - before I left on the trip, I, of course, had to pick up a new stash of books. I did a quick trip to the library, but 1) had my kids with me and 2) really running through my backlog of books from my library break, so only got out two books.  Not too bad, really.  The first of the two I picked up was the latest Lauren Willig, The Other Daughter.  (She has some collaborations as well, but meh, we'll see about those.)  I had decent expectations for the book, since the first two stand-alones were both pretty good.  But not HUGE expectations, since neither was a "real" romance in my favorite style (i.e. angsty for the right reasons :)) The snippets of this book I had read on the website made it sound pretty appealing too, capable young heroine and dashing man, 'twixt the wars.

So first thing - this book dispenses with the modern component that makes the book a time slip! Just a regular old historical.  And though I've mostly enjoyed the modern story in other books, I didn't really mind - I don't really love the way the story gets broken up.  One good story is good enough for me, you know?  So what of the story? Well first of all, expectations met in terms of the hero and heroine, he attractive, debonair, and nice underneath it all, she virtuous, capable, and charming when she needs to be.  What else? Well the plot was um... rather thin. I'm not sure whether I've thought about this too much with other Willig books, but just the fact that I did think about it with this one is not a great sign :) I mean, really, why exactly does Rachel have to masquerade as anything? Didn't really get it. Though admittedly, the ending does make it clear that it was probably a futile task.

The ending is also a bit sadder than maybe it needed to be (sorry for spoilers) - Rachel's father really was heartbroken all those years ago, and therto e's really nothing to be fixed now.  But I suppose that's somewhat in keeping with the other two stand-alones, which certainly are not unalloyedly joyous in their conclusions.

Writing is good, on par with other books.

But who cares about all this? What about romance??? Of course you are saying :) Well... this one was definitely more of a traditional romance than the others. Simon and Rachel don't know till the end that they are in love with each other, and there are definitely some angsty moments (jealousy of others, misconstrued motives, all that).  For whatever reason though, I couldn't *quite* get into it - maybe it was just the total lack of anything from Simon's POV? Not even subtle hints.  I feel like that's somewhat unusual, LW usually does have some male perspective. (Oh yes, now I remember, it definitely is, she even mentioned it in the Acknowledgements as a new style for her).  So it was a good romance, but I couldn't *really* enjoy.

Overall - old fashioned (well, somewhat) nobility, society tale with little other plot to distract, and solid romance. Why would I complain? Well I wouldn't.  And yet

Verdict 4/5 - Why not 5/5? Do I really not think it's a better book than Ashford Affair? It should be, by my standards, right? Probably that one got the benefit of being a first read.  4/5 is nothing sneeze at, certainly. One day I may even reread :) Oh wait never mind, I gave Ashford Affair 4/5. Good, now I feel this is a fair rating :)

Far Away From Home

Vacation has come and gone (it was wonderful) and, with it, a decent backlog of book reviews (of course).  First up - the second book I had taken out of the library along with That Summer, on that Friday afternoon trip - the next Flavia de Luce.  This is the book that brings us the change of scenery - away from the English countryside, to the cold corridors of a Canadian girls boarding school.  There's definitely what to be lost from Flavia's family's, friends', and neighbors' absence.  Does the presence of the teachers and pupils of Miss Bodycote's make up for it?

Maybe not entirely, but certainly the old-fashioned boarding school has its own charm.  Certainly for me, it has a similar far-away old-fashioned comfortable feel as old England.  And if the students can't quite compete with Dogger, Mrs Mullet, and the village, they are certainly new and interesting.  So I don't entirely mind the change of scenery.

I feel though, that with the loss of Buckshaw and the village, the book turns more in the direction of its immediate predecessor - less about life + Flavia's little investigation, more about some serious stuff going on.  Flavia spends a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly is going on at the school, not as much figuring out the dead body.  It all comes together of course - but the tone is different when Flavia is part of the mystery, not just solving it.  More confusing, less cluesy.  Of course, the story of the dead body gets resolved in the end, but I'm not sure how much of a resolution it was.  We find out that Miss Bodycote's is a school for spies, but we knew that already.  And what they do or what it's about isn't really clear.

And with that, if I remember correctly (pretty bad I don't, it hasn't been *that* long, I think I finished this on the plane on the way to CA, which was last Wednesday night), Flavia ends the book journeying back to England. So what was the point of this interlude? I'm not quite sure actually (it would probably help if I remembered better :))

So basically, we lose the village and much of the light-hearted tone.  Flavia herself, while just as capable, does seem a bit out of her depth in this mysterious place.  And the plot itself doesn't *quite* tie up all the lose ends.   With all, Flavia is a pretty talented young lady and the boarding school is an enlivening place. So I guess I didn't mind too much that I, like Flavia, felt a bit lost throughout this book.

Verdict: 3/5

Thursday, January 12, 2017

That Author

Well, I was told I needed to find a substitute for food to help me diet.  Only thing that could possibly be is books, right? So, though I had no more time than in previous weeks, I felt I had to fit in a trip to the library (to aid me in my diet, of course :)) So on Friday afternoon, I took my little girlies and went. It was a short trip, it being Friday afternoon, and it being kids at the library. I quickly went to a few known authors and grabbed some books.  First one, of course, Lauren Willig.  I was excited to read her next stand-alone, given how much I enjoyed the Ashford Affair.  Well-written, historical romance with a modern-day accompaniment. The next one after Ashford was That Summer, so I took that one (not that there's really any reason to go in order).

That Summer, like all the other LWs, is a story about a modern woman examining history, and we get the usual two love stories.  And like The Ashford Affair, I think it was well-crafted and well-written.  So let's get to the stories themselves - first, Victorian England.  Unlike the Ashford Affair, where the ending was clear from the beginning of the story, and the story itself was extremely familiar, I was not at all clear where this story would end up.  Very appealing in a way, a little bit of mystery :)  As the book progressed, I could see this would not be one of the angst romances I so love - it was one of the ones where the couple are kept apart by external obstacles, and not their feelings. Bor-ing! And the ending... well there was a good reason I couldn't figure out how this one would end up.  Was not exactly a happy ending.  With all that... well written, interesting, engaging story, and nothing too painful.  Can't *really* complain.

As for the modern romance - really, it felt a little perfunctory.  I'm not sure why, it was a typical chic lit romance of ups and down, misunderstandings and sweet moments before the reconciliation.  But it just felt like..  I don't know, I wasn't convinced.  Also, in this one, the modern story is much less about unraveling the history from the 1800s, and more about unraveling the heroine's own history.  Not quite as much fun (you know it's not going to be fun when there's history to unravel from someone's own life).   Really, nothing to complain about in this story either, I just wasn't feeling it.

So - basically, this story was well-written, in a genre I am eminently comfortable in, and nothing in the plot (even the ending) was unspeakably offensive to me. At the same time, the main oomph of the romance was just not there, and for whatever reason, I missed it (more than in the Ashford Affair, which also didn't really have a fantastic romance - maybe it was before the modern romance was better in that one. Or maybe it was just my mood, expectations, whatever). Anyway...

Verdict: 3.5/5