The Gentleman's Quest, by Deborah Simmons

>> Friday, June 25, 2010

TITLE: The Gentleman's Quest
AUTHOR: Deborah Simmons

PAGES: 288
PUBLISHER: Harlequin

SETTING: 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Follows The Dark Viscount

REASON FOR READING: I like the author, and it sounded great... I do love my gothics!

Christopher Marchant's mood matches the storm clouds that gather above his mansion. Yet when lightning illuminates a stranded beauty he must do as any gentleman would. Although, once rescued, she must be on her way....

But if Hero Ingram leaves empty-handed her uncle will punish her. Christopher is caught off guard by her willful rebellion--and he's sure he's caught a hint of vulnerability in her defiance....

As a gentleman he must protect her and make her quest his own. But as a red-blooded male...? She has awoken him from his slumber!
Disappointing, I couldn't get into this one at all, and abandoned it after about 30 pages. Actually, I kind of knew it would be a DNF after the first scene, when it became clear these people acted as no real, halfway logical human beings would.

Picture this: heroine is on her way to meet a gentleman. She's clearly been ordered to use her charms to get something from this person, and is not relishing the prospect. On a quiet road, one of the wheels of her carriage breaks, and they're stuck. Suddenly, a rider approaches and, without a word, simply plucks her off the ground, and spirits her away. Is she terrified, does she fight, does she panic? From the way it's narrated, it's as if this is the most common thing in the world. The next scene just starts with the heroine saying that she's been deposited with the housekeeper of the house she was looking for, and she doesn't know nor care who her rescuer was, because they haven't exchanged a word. Huh? So she just sat there quitely and allowed herself to be carried away? She seemed quite matter-of-fact about it, as well, so it wasn't as if she'd been in shock. Big WTF moment. Who acts this way?

I decided to give the book a chance and keep reading, hoping things would get better (it did get a review at AARthat sounded nice enough that I actually ordered it from the library, after all) but they only got worse. A lot of blah-blah about murderous cults and dramatic events in previous books, and hero and heroine making supposedly brilliant plans that only made sense in their minds, and I was out of there.

Such a shame, I was really looking forward to this, considering how much I enjoyed some of the author's earlier books a few years ago. So now I can't help but wonder if it's Simmons who's changed or me. Maybe I should reread one of those faves!



Bed of Roses, by Nora Roberts

>> Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TITLE: Bed of Roses
AUTHOR: Nora Roberts

PAGES: 335

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 2nd in Bride Quartet.

REASON FOR READING: Autobuy author.

Love blooms in the second novel in Nora Roberts's celebrated Bride Quartet series.

As little girls MacKensie, Emma, Laurel, and Parker spent hours acting out their perfect make believe "I do" moments. Years later their fantasies become reality when they start their own wedding planning company to make every woman's dream day come true. With perfect flowers, delicious desserts, and joyful moments captured on film, Nora Roberts's Bride Quartet shares each woman's emotionally magical journey to romance.

In Bed of Roses, florist Emma Grant is finding career success with her friends at Vows wedding planning company, and her love life appears to be thriving. Though men swarm around her, she still hasn't found Mr. Right. And the last place she's looking is right under her nose.

But that's just where Jack Cooke is. He's so close to the women of Vows that he's practically family, but the architect has begun to admit to himself that his feelings for Emma have developed into much more than friendship. When Emma returns his passion—kiss for blistering kiss—they must trust in their history…and in their hearts.
Bed of Roses is the second in Roberts' Brides quartet, which features four friends who run a wedding planning business. In this installment, the spotlight shifts to florist Emma. In between the challenges, hard work and sheer fun of planning the most amazing weddings, Emma finds time to fall for her friend Jack.

Through his best friend Del, Jack has been good friends with Del's sister, Parker, and her business partners for years. He's always found Emma attractive, but he's previously been content to stay away. But now suddently they can't keep their hands off each other.

Bed of Roses was quite a mixed bag. Basically, the romance was very lackluster and boring, but I really liked everything else.

Let's start with the good: the wedding planning stuff and the friendship between the four women. I must say I'm extremely surprised at how much I'm enjoying reading about the day-to-day business of planning big, lavish weddings. In real life, it's something that doesn't appeal to me in the least. In fact, the very idea of being in the centre of such a massive affair is enough to make me break out in hives. Spending such big money on one day seems like a waste, too, and I could easily put together a long list of things I'd rather spend the moNey on. And yet... I'm loving reading about the details of it. The Monster Bitch Brides, the satisfaction of making people's dreams come true, the thrill of dealing with the unexpected... I'm eating it all up uncritically, and I'll be quite happy to continue doing that until the end of the series.

And the relationship between Emma, Mac, Lauren and Parker is just as good. Actually, part of the satisfying feeling of reading about the wedding planning is how much they act like a team, and how seeing them doing so really makes their friendship even more real to me. I love how they love each other enough to be confortable with a bit of bitchiness, and are always there to support one another, even after a clash.

I also liked that Emma's cultural background was a bit different (Mexican mother and American father), although to be completely honest, Emma didn't feel any more latina than any other WASP American heroine I've read. Maybe that was on purpose?

Now, however for the romance:

Problem #1: The characters never completely gelled for me. Emma is supposed to be the romantic one among the 4 friends, the one looking for love. And yet, she never seemed to me to be particularly romantic. Same thing for Emma and Jack's friendship. It's supposed to be so important to them that they really hesitate before beginning a romantic relationship, for fear of endangering their friendship. And yet, they never really felt like real friends to me. I got it loud and clear that the attraction between them was scorching hot, yes, but not that they really liked each other, or even knew one another particularly well.

Problem #2: The last bit of #1 leads straight into the fact that I never found the romance particularly compelling. I'd even go as far as to call it boring, and I'm someone who actually loves no-drama romances between nice, decent people.

Problem #3: I said no-drama romance, but that's only most of it. There's a bit to-do at the end, and that was annoying beyond belief. See, the problem is that Emma feels Jack is a commitment-phobe who guards his own personal space so zealously that he's keeping her out of his life. So she basically throws a great big tantrum (and is then backed up by all her friends, who accuse Jack of being hartless and treating her badly), because after only a short time the man is not clamouring to have her move in.

The justification for that was that since they'd be friends for years, surely that's not such a short time, but since I've already mentioned that they didn't act like real friends to me, that argument didn't hold water, and I found Emma very pushy. Maybe it's also that I'm also pretty protective of my own space, both physical and mental, and so I sympathised with Jack's reactions which, again, were nothing more than liking having his own space and not inviting Emma to move in after a very short period. He was never consciously cruel to her, if she felt rejected it was all her doing, and she should have actually sat down and had a chat with him, rather than going off in a huff.

Oh, well, I've got my copy of Savor the Moment ready to start now, and I really hope it's better.

MY GRADE: The romance is a C, but the rest was good, so a B-, for the book as a whole.


Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

>> Thursday, June 10, 2010

TITLE: Catching Fire
AUTHOR: Suzanne Collins

PAGES: 400
PUBLISHER: Scholastic

SETTING: Futuristic
SERIES: Second in the Hunger Games trilogy, comes after The Hunger Games.

REASON FOR READING: I want to know how things will turn out.

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.
NOTE: This is in no way a stand alone book. You need to have read The Hunger Games to understand what is going on. Reading Catching Fire first, or even reading what it is about, will probably ruin The Hunger Games for you, so turn back now if you're new to this series!

Anyway, for those of you who are still here: After the stunt she pulled to win the Hunger Games in the previous book, the Capitol has come to see Katniss as a threat to its control over the rest of the country. Revolution is in the air in many of the districts, and Katniss has become a symbol of it. Not to mention that the authorities clearly resent that she managed to out-manouver them and beat them at their own game.

So despite the fact that she's supposed to live the rest of her life enjoying the fruits of her victory, things are not easy for Katniss. Even if she wanted to embrace the life a Hunger Games winner is supposed to have, and just enjoy herself, ignoring what the rest of her people are going through (which she doesn't), she soon realises that wouldn't be possible, anyway. The President and the Capitol authorities are definitely not ready to leave her alone.

CF is just as much of a nail-biter as THG was. I thought it was going to focus mainly on political intrigue and on Katniss manouvering the shark-infested waters of Panam politics, and that's more or less what we get in the first sections of the book. I especially enjoyed that this part of Catching Fire has a slightly larger focus than THG, and we get a better idea of what's going on in other districts, and not just in District 12.

A bit later in the book, however, things change dramatically. I'm not going to reveal what happens, but in a way, I suppose those developments feel like a bit of a retread of book 1. On the other hand, though, they were extremely exciting and I loved the opportunity to meet other characters, and get an idea of the potential long-term consequences victory in the Hunger Games could have.

Katniss is just a wonderful a character as she was in the first book. She's still got her pragmatism and determination to stay alive, but I felt she'd grown quite a bit from the character she was when we first met her. She´s still as clueless as ever about things that are quite obvious to the reader, but I didn't really mind that. I felt that there was an element of unconscious denial there; she didn't want to know (with that knowledge comes great responsibility, I guess *g*), so she ignored all clues.

One of the things that has kept many of us reading is the romantic triangle, and there are definitely developments there. I'm a Peeta fan, so that element was slightly disappointing, since the developments on that front were much more exciting in THG. Maybe book 3 will be more balanced? I can't wait to find out!

The only thing I disliked, I disliked quite a bit. That was the ending. I felt it was a big let down. There are cliff-hangers, and then there are cliff-hangers, and this was definitely the sort that comes out of nothing and gives absolutely no closure. I don't care for feeling manipulated into buying the next book, and the worse part is, it was unnecessary, because, see the previous paragraph? I would have read the next book even if I had got a bit more here. Collins needs to trust the power of her stories a bit more, I think!

MY GRADE: It was a B+ right up until the ending, but ended up a B.



>> Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Jessica has interviewed me at Read React Review. Click here if you'd like to read it.


A serial, a bad Harlequin and University Challenge

>> Monday, June 07, 2010

TITLE: 44 Scotland Street
AUTHOR: Alexander McCall Smith

44 Scotland Street was originally published as a serial in The Scotsman, so I tried to read it as it was intented to be read. I couldn't quite keep myself to a chapter (episode?) a day, but I was able to keep myself from gulping down too many in a sitting. It covers a period in the life of the residents at the eponymous Edinburgh address. There's Pat, now in her second gap year, who moves in to share a flat with the annoyingly self-involved Bruce. There's Bertie, a child prodigy starting to rebel against his mother's pressure to be ever more prodigious. There's Domenica Macdonald, with her fascinating history, and many more.

It's a fun read, more a sketch than an in-depth study, but still succeeding in creating characters who feel real. The only thing that wasn't so satisfying was that the book just stopped, with only one subplot resolved. Not much more closure at the end of the book than in any one of the chapters, really. I understand the story continues, though, and I'm planning to keep reading, if only to find out what happened in Pat's disastrous first gap year!


TITLE: Just Deserts
AUTHOR: Brenda Jackson

Wendy the Superlibrarian posted about this book a little while ago (go there and read the comments to find out why there's no misspelling in the title!). I thought the plot sounded interesting (I love friends-to-lovers stories), so I picked it up from the library. Unfortunately, it wasn't good. Two reasons:

1) the clunky plot. Looks like this is part of a continuity series, and there was a lot of exposition about just what had happened in previous books. Basically, the gimmick here is that the heroines of all 3 books married the same cheating bastard (or thought they did). Each book tells the story of one of them, as they deal with the betrayal and find love. I didn't mind the set-up itself, but I minded that none of the characters' actions felt real. When Danielle goes off desperate to find this woman whom they've just found out was being groomed to be wife # 4, I really, really didn't what she was on about.

2) The clunky writing. Awkward, simplistic, all telling and no showing. Drove me batty.

After about 30 pages, I knew there was no point in continuing.


TITLE: Starter For Ten
AUTHOR: David Nicholls

I picked this up because the title immediately said "University Challenge", and took it home with me because the blurb confirmed it. It's not really about University Challenge, but The Challenge, as our protagonist calls it, does feature quite prominently in his life. It's 1985 and Brian Jackson is off to university. The book covers his first year there, including his crush on beautiful Alice, his relationship with his friends left at home, and many other painfully funny things.

I really enjoyed it, especially the way Nicholls was able to, at the same time, write a book that felt very much of its time and yet also paint a portrait of university students that still feels true (things like the way Brian was so proud he knew the meaning of the word eponymous that he used it as much as possible - and he inspired me, see the first review above!).



Italian for Beginners, by Kristin Harmel

>> Saturday, June 05, 2010

TITLE: Italian for Beginners
AUTHOR: Kristin Harmel

PAGES: 340
PUBLISHER: Little Black Dress

SETTING: Contemporary New York and Rome
TYPE: Chick Lit

REASON FOR READING: I'm not sure why I put this on my wish list.

Thirty-four-year-old Manhattan accountant Cat Connelly has always lived life on the safe side. But after her little sister gets married, Cat wonders if she has condemned herself to a life of boredom by playing by the rules. She decides to take a chance for once, accepting an invitation to spend a month with an old flame in Italy.

But her reunion with the slick and gorgeous Francesco is short-lived, and she finds herself suddenly alone in Rome. Now, she must see if she has the courage to live outside the lines for the first time - and to face a past she never understood. It will take an unexpected friendship with a fiery Italian waitress, a whirlwind Vespa tour of the Eternal City with a handsome stranger, and a surprise encounter with an old acquaintance to show Cat that life doesn't always work out the way you expect, but sometimes you have to have fall in order to fly.
Cat Connelly is stuck in a rut. She's got a boring, predictable job, and she's become just as predictable herself. She's the one everyone depends on (and in the case of her sister, takes advantage of), and hasn't done anything for herself in ages. She's in her mid-30s and everyone is giving her grief about how she needs to stop being so picky and get married, otherwise it will be too late, but when she finally, finally meets a guy she seems to click on, he turns out to be married.

This gives Cat the kick she needs to do something crazy. Back when she was in college she spent a few months in Rome, which she enjoyed tremendously, not least because she had a torrid affair with a handsome young Italian. Spurred on by her anger and an encouraging colleague, she emails Francesco, who immediately invites her for a visit. And before she knows what's going on, she's off to Rome for a month.

I thought at the beginning that I knew exactly where the book was going. I went "Michael is actually this, and Francesco that, and she's going to this and that". And I was right about a lot, actually. However, I was wrong about the most important thing: it didn't feel predictable at all.

Once Cat is in Rome, the book becomes fresh and charming and absolutely beautiful, with a wonderful sense of place. There is some romance here, but it's understated. The story is more about Cat finding herself and grabbing life with both hands, and I enjoyed it tremendously.



Blog template by

Back to TOP