July 2013 reads

>> Friday, August 02, 2013

Yet another good month. My favourites were, in different senses, surprises.

1 - A Kiss For Midwinter, by Courtney Milan: A
review coming soon

Novella, probably one of the best I've ever read. The hero, a doctor, knows the heroine's deepest, most painful secret. He's desperately in love with her, but between her awareness of his knowledge and the fact that he's sarcastic and witheringly direct in their interactions, she thinks he feels the opposite for her. Wonderful, it made me cry and had my stomach in knots.

2 - The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith: A-
review coming soon

Audiobook. Yes, this is the mystery that was revealed to have been written by JK Rowling. The plot is nothing special: PI Cormoran Strike is hired to investigate the death of a model, which the police have ruled a suicide and the woman's brother is convinced was murder. What is special, though, is the way it's executed. The characters were great. Cormoran especially, but also his secretary, Robin, and all the people in the model's life. The storytelling flowed beautifully, and I was engaged right from the start.

3 - The Blood Detective, by Dan Waddell: B+
review here

Audiobook. Serial killer mystery, with a connection to a string of 19th century crimes that brings our main character into the case. He's a genealogist, and his work is crucial in solving the case. Excellently plotted, and I really liked the characters. The only thing keeping it from an A grade is that the end was unnecessarily graphic, I thought.

4 - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie: B+
review here

Audiobook. Classic Christie. Village setting, locked room mystery, Poirot at the top of his game and the grandfather of all plot twists at the end. As often with the most intrincate of her puzzles, the psychological believability was a bit of an issue, but it's a great book.

5 - At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson: B+
original review here

Audiobook. Bryson wonders round each room of his house and uses them as starting off points for fascinating rambles into all sorts of subjects, some of which are only tangentially related to his home, such as the excesses of Gilded Age millionaires or sailors and scurvy. I didn't care, it was all fascinating, and Bryson is an engaging (if clearly not professional) narrator. A couple of issues, though. The last couple of chapters feel a bit too unrelentingly depressing and close the book on a bit of a downer. No reason some of this material couldn't have been presented earlier. Plus, at the end Bryson mourns the passing of the era of big landowners who were able to build and maintain huge country houses, and has a bit of a diatribe against death duties. Let's just say our politics are clearly quite different, so this infuriated me.

6 - The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers About Danger by Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter: B-
review coming soon

You get exactly what it says on the subtitle. It's about how people perceive and react to risk, and what the risks really are, expressed in an easy to understand way. The different areas they look at are illustrated by stories about prudent Prudence, average Norm and reckless Kelvin. Would work well as a primer, but I didn't feel the stories added a great deal, and they felt a bit off, like they could have been done better to illustrate the points.

7 - Along Came Trouble, by Ruthie Knox: B-
review coming soon

Second in the Camelot series. What sparks everything off is the stormy romance between a famous pop star and a girl-next-door type pregnant woman. But this story is not about them, it's about the pop star's sister (neighbour to pregnant lady) and the security specialist hired to keep the paparazzi away. I liked a lot about it, especially how Ellen was so difficult (for very good reasons), but it took quite a while to get going.

8 - Crystal Gardens, by Amanda Quick: B-
review coming soon

Audiobook. Starts a new series (alas, still within the Arcane Society world) centred around a group of women who work for a sort-of detective agency which specialises in looking into the backgrounds of potential suitors. I liked the romance, thought it had some of the elements I loved so much in vintage JAK, and though the paranormal aspect was a bit ho-hum, it was toned down. Nice.

9 - Lick, by Kylie Scott: C+
review coming soon

After celebrating her 21st birthday in Vegas with a bit too much tequila, the heroine wakes up married to a famous rock star she doesn't even remember meeting. I liked the setup and the possibilities, but it wasn't really my thing, partly because a) this is not my fantasy, and b) the big fight that took up half the book seemed like much ado about nothing.

10 - Any Duchess Will Do, by Tessa Dare: C+
review here

Duke pressured into choosing a bride by his mother decides to choose the most inappropriate one possible: the tavern's barmaid. Dare is one of the very few authors who can pull off a preposterous, historically inaccurate premise, but it didn't completely succeed here, mainly because she kept violating the internal coherence of her fantasy Regency-land setting. The heroine was really cool, though.

11 - Untouchable (from Deep Kiss of Winter), by Kresley Cole: C
review here

Longish novella. Tells the story of the last Wroth brother, vampire Murdoch, whose Bride turns out to be both a Valkyrie and an Icere, an ice maiden. The twist is that she can't be touched without excruciating pain. Not great, it rambles too much and I didn't really see the chemistry between the two main characters.

12 - Forbidden, by Lisa Clark O'Neill: DNF
review here

I thought the hero's sexual advances towards the heroine crossed the line into creepy, and that she was a bit of a doormat. It just didn't engage me.

13 - Betrayed By Trust, by Ana Barrons: DNF
review coming soon

The heroine's sister, an politician's aide, has been murdered and the case has gone cold. She decides to go to DC and investigate, and needs the help of a journalist who's already betrayed her confidence. The heroine was annoying and judgmental, and there was a lot of narratorial victim-blaming. Not for me.

14 - Finders Keepers, by Linnea Sinclair: still reading
review coming soon

Space opera. The heroine is a small-fry independent trader who rescues a guy who turns out to be a Big Deal in his country, and who has a reputation for being cold and cruel and humour-less. I'm really enjoying it so far.

15 - Caballo de Fuego: París, by Florencia Bonelli: still reading
review coming soon

Romance written by an Argentinian author, so far it's a sort of cross between a sheikh romance (the hero is half Saudi, half Argentinian) and medical romance (the heroine is a pediatrician about to go off to Congo with a Médecins Sans Frontières-type outfit), with a heroine who, pediatrician or not, is horrendously Anastasia Steele-like in her childlike-ness and naiveté. Add to that a huge dollop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this is like no romance novel I've ever read. The romance is vomit-inducing, but all the rest (and there is a lot) is strangely interesting. However, I've been stuck at about 10% (which, considering this is a loooong book, is about halfway through a normal-sized one) for about 2 weeks, with no desire to pick it back up. I'm not quite ready to press delete yet, but it might turn out to be a DNF.


Christine,  2 August 2013 at 18:55  

Hi Roasario! I was glancing through your summary of reviews and noticed the Tessa Dare book. It reminded me of something I saw recently that I had to chuckle at. The true story of a Duke who married a chambermaid. She was his mistress for a while first while her abusive husband was alive but she really climbed the social ladder as high as was possible. I'm sure it wasn't a fantasy romance but it is very interesting.


Christine,  2 August 2013 at 18:56  

Also, that is a typo above. I do know how to spell your name Rosario!

Darlynne,  3 August 2013 at 18:02  

I'm reading The Blood Detective now and am eager to see how our experiences compare.

Rosario 5 August 2013 at 06:54  

Christine: There are some fascinating real-life stories. I was just rereading Bill Bryson's At Home, and there were loads of nuggets that made me think "It would be so interesting to see something like that in a romance novel!".

I really don't mind unusual things happening (as you say, there's always going to be a case in real history where that did happen), it's the reactions to it that sometimes make it feel unrealistic. Like, yes, a duke might marry a chambermaid, but society won't coo at them and think it soooo romantic. Anyway, with the Dare what bothered me was more the internal incoherences within her world.

Darlynne: Was going to say come back and comment when you have, but I see that you have, yay!

Christine,  6 August 2013 at 00:26  

I tried a Tessa Dare book before, one that everyone else seemed to love, but had the same problems you mentioned above with her work. Amazon had a sale for some of her works for Kindle so I bought one that was well reviewed and I'm giving "Spindle Cove" another shot.
I can't always articulate why one historically incorrect romance novel will work for me while another won't. I always enjoyed Amanda Quick and Lisa Keypas but Sarah McClean and her "Rule" books just grated on me. I think it just has to do with an author's voice. It's probably why I happily followed Michaels/Peters/Mertz in all her incarnations and did the same with Quick/Krentz/Castle until recently.

nath 6 August 2013 at 16:55  

Hi Rosario :)

I've been in the mood for mystery books and thanks to your list, I think I'm going to pick up the new J.K. Rowling and The Blood Detective :) The Blood Detective stands alone right?

Rosario 6 August 2013 at 20:27  

Christine: I do hope the one you picked up was A Week To Be Wicked, the second in the series. That one was fantastic. I also read the first one and didn't much care for it, a bit like this one.

It's funny, isn't it? I would say Amanda Quick is extremely historically inaccurate, and I don't care at all, don't even think of it. Kleypas I sort of tolerate because I like the stories, even though I do see the inaccuracies. I'm with you with Sarah MacLean. The one I tried I couldn't even finish, and I feel the same way about Julie Anne Long, who everyone else seems to adore. I think you're right about it being the voice of the author. If it clicks, it clicks, and that's it!

Rosario 6 August 2013 at 20:28  

Nath: Hope you like them! Yes, The Blood Detectives stands alone. It's the first in the series, and the case is perfectly tied up at the end.

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