Tag Archive | romance

Book review: Year One by Nora Roberts

Year One (Chronicles of the One, #1)Year One by Nora Roberts

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Every now and then I read a Nora Roberts book, and then remember why I don’t read Nora Roberts books. I picked this one up because, oooh, post-apocalypse! And I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction.

Sucker is the applicable word here.

The premise: a mysterious flu-like plague has wiped out the majority of the global population. One either caught it and died (100% mortality rate) or one was immune. Many of those who were immune are also…I guess “gifted” would be the correct word…with magickal (yes, that’s the spelling used) abilities that intensified after the plague swept through the populace. Witches, wizards, faeries, and elves now make up a good portion of the survivors.

Our story follows two groups of survivors who eventually join and create a quiet town built on mutual support and community effort. Various romantic couples emerge from each group (thankfully, love scenes are mercifully brief and non-graphic), but one couple stands apart: Lana and Max, both practitioners of The Craft, and both becoming more and more powerful. Lana is pregnant with an apparently magickal fetus, who others begin calling “The One” or “The Savior.” Naturally, malcontents and bigots are the bane of their post-apocalyptic Eden, with violence and mayhem ensuing.

I can’t tell you how many times I rolled my eyes at the sheer inanity of this novel. Ms. Roberts couldn’t make up her mind what kind of story she was telling: Is this her version of King’s “The Stand” or McCammon’s “Swan Song”? Is it a urban fantasy filled with magick and faerie dust? Is it a new Arthurian legend or Messiah story? Or is it a romance about hard times on the new frontier? It’s a mishmash of all of them and none of them with weirdly placed bits of religiosity.

I finished it because I kept thinking “Surely this is going to get better,” but it didn’t, and frankly, I wish I could take back the several hours I spent reading this trash.

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Book review: The Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan

The BeguiledThe Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I first started this book, I really enjoyed it — the alternating viewpoints, the sly digs each young woman got in at her fellow students while proclaiming her own virtues, the different backgrounds of the girls. But somewhere around the 50% mark, the same things I enjoyed at the beginning started to annoy me. When I began to want to reach into the story and slap certain characters upside the head for their sheer pettiness and lack of sense, it was time to set the story down. I didn’t really care what happened to the girls, or their schoolmistresses, or the young man. I figure it was not a happy ending for him, because up to the point I laid the story down for good, he never got his own chapter to speak his piece. I may still watch the movie. This one might be the exception — where the movie is better than the book.

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Double book review: In Memoriam; The Borrower

In MemoriamIn Memoriam by Nathan Burgoine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s nearly impossible to review this novella without spoilers, so let me just say this: James Daniels found a unique way to deal with the memory loss that accompanies his brain cancer, and said method is lovely and satisfying and heartwarming and sweet.

A beautiful piece of writing.

The BorrowerThe Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucy Hull has a favorite library patron, young Ian Drake. Unfortunately, Ian’s mother doesn’t approve of Ian’s reading tastes, nor of Ian himself, apparently. Early one morning, Lucy opens the library to find Ian camped out in the stacks, having run away from home. He convinces Lucy to take him somewhere else, and she obliges.

What follows is a haphazard road trip from somewhere in Missouri to Chicago and Pittsburgh and points northeastward, all directed more or less by the boy in the passenger seat, with Lucy’s passive acquiescence masking her inner turmoil at being led around by the nose by a 10-year-old. But this journey isn’t about Ian, really; it’s about Lucy coming to terms with her passive acquiescence of everything except her family legacy; and how family shapes who we are whether we like it or not; and how blood will out, regardless.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The short chapters written in the style of various children’s books were amusing and poignant and sharply aimed.

Highly recommended.

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Book review: June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

JuneJune by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summer 2015: A persistent knock on the door and a ringing bell rouses 25-year-old Cassie Danvers from an alcohol-induced haze. Cassie, grieving a number of things — the end of her engagement, the demise of her photography career, and, most recently, the death of her beloved Grandmother June — stumbles to the dusty foyer and opens the door of the decaying family mansion to be greeted by handsome young Nick Emmons, who promptly informs her she is the sole heir and, allegedly, the granddaughter of Golden-Age Hollywood movie star Jack Montgomery, and would she mind giving a DNA sample to verify?

Summer 1955: Hollywood comes to St. Jude, Ohio, to shoot a movie. Lindie, age 14, is determined to get involved somehow; and she wants her best friend June to come along too. June is a few years older and already engaged, but Lindie disapproves of her fiancĂ© — he’s too stodgy and undeserving of June’s beauty. June reluctantly agrees to visit the movie set, where she meets Jack Montgomery. And all manner of complications arise from there.

I’m a sucker for stories that take place in two separate time periods. I love seeing the connections, and how long-ago actions affect present-day circumstances. Add a dreaming house, visions of ghosts, back-stabbing intrigue, murder, and quiet heroism to the mix, and you’ve got a fabulous page-turner of a story that satisfies right up to the surprising conclusion.

Excellent story. This is Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s fourth novel. I’ll certainly be looking for the other three.

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Thank you to LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers program for the opportunity to read this book.

Book review: ‘Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick

'Til Death Do Us Part‘Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Every so often I indulge in a fluffy historical romance as a palate cleanser after a steady diet of more serious fiction. But I want well-written fluff, so I’m choosy about which authors to read.

I’ve long been an admirer of Amanda Quick‘s (*) work, and picked this one up, expecting another of her light-hearted Regencies. ‘Til Death Do Us Part is not a Regency, and not so light-hearted, either.

Calista (a name which I cannot encounter without thinking of Calista Flockhart of Ally McBeal fame) Langley has a stalker. She thinks this person may be someone she rejected as a client for her “introductions” agency, and engages the brother of another client to help her find out the stalker’s identity and put a stop to his sinister gifts.

Trent Hastings approached Calista at her business, thinking she was running some sort of scam on his vulnerable younger sister. Realizing she was on the up-and-up, and recognizing the danger she’s been placed in, he volunteers to use the deductive skills he’s honed as a writer of detective fiction to locate her tormentor.

Much action, danger, and Victorian-era repressed romance ensue.

It’s been…oh, several years at least since I last read an Amanda Quick novel. She doesn’t disappoint. The mystery hangs together fairly well; the final twist is indeed a surprise, although I had begun to suspect all was not as it seemed with that particular person somewhere around the second or third time the character showed up in the story. The romance between Calista and Trent is medium-warmish, but not knock-your-socks-off don’t-let-the-kiddies-read-this-book steamy. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. Personally, I don’t want an “insert Rod A into Slot B” sex scene, so I appreciated the, uh, discretion with which these episodes were approached.

Yes, it’s fluff. But it’s fluffy romantic suspense done well.

(*) AKA Jayne Ann Krentz

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Book review: Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne

Breathers: A Zombie's Lament
Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andy Warner is having a rough time. Not only did he not survive the car crash that also killed his wife, he reanimated without her and, as a result of his death, he’s not allowed to hold a job; he no longer has custody of his daughter (and must never let her know he came back); he must observe a curfew, stay away from the living (the Breathers), and never ever ever defend himself against the constant abuse he receives triggered by the mere fact of his existence. Oh, and he lives in his parents’ basement while his mother supports the stock price of Glade and Lysol in an effort to keep the stench of his decomposition down, and his father daily threatens to sell him to a research facility because Andy didn’t have the sense to stay dead.

Zombies have no civil rights.

What Andy does have is a support group, Undead Anonymous, and some new friends, including Rita, who sparks a renewed and guilt-inducing interest in romance even while Andy grieves over his lost wife, and Ray, who introduces him to his special homemade preserved “venison”, which Andy thinks might taste better than anything he ever ate while living, and certainly better than anything he’s consumed after death.

Andy also has a sharp interest in his loss of citizenship, and he protests this loss with progressively more visible actions which land him in the local animal shelter on several occasions, waiting for his reluctant parents to even more reluctantly bail him out.

And then, surprisingly, he starts to heal from the injuries he received in the car crash that killed R.I.P. Review Sitehim.

S.G. Browne’s debut novel works on multiple levels: as a rip-roaring comedy and as social satire; as sheer entertainment and a commentary on class, injustice, and the stratification of society, living and dead. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, sometimes even in the same sentence.

Read this and you’ll never watch The Night of the Living Dead again without maybe possibly cheering for the zombies.

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This book was read as part of R.I.P VIII, Peril the First Challenge. Click that badge up there that says “Review Site” to see other participants and their reviews.
Peril the First

Book review: Heart of Gold by Sharon Shinn

Three of five stars

I read Sharon Shinn’s Samaria series many years ago (when it was still a trilogy), and thought it simply wonderful. Heart of Gold, while good, doesn’t measure up. And that’s disappointing, because there’s a lot of potential in its premise.

On an unnamed continent of an unnamed planet, three diverse races live in a state of unarmed truce. The Indigos, a blue-skinned matriarchal society, are the de facto rulers of the continent by virtue of their numbers and control of arable land. The Guldens, a gold-skinned patriarchal society, are more technologically innovative, but stifled by restricted access to land, wealth, and power. The third race, the Albinos, exist in meek servitude, primarily to the Indigos.

Nolan Adelpho, the scion of one of the High Hundred families, the Indigo elite, is a scientist in Biolab in the Central City. His family is waiting for him to get this notion of working for a living out of system and marry according to family arrangement. He is quietly rebelling: although he loves Leesa, his fiancee, he is resisting the pressure being put on him to come home, where all he will then be required to do is raise the children and take care of the house. He enjoys his work and has made several satisfactory discoveries in his field: antivirals and antibiotics.

Kitrini Candachi is the somewhat disreputable member of another High Hundred family: disreputable by virtue of her father’s youthful rebellion in leaving home and raising her among the Guldens. Much to her indomitable grandmother’s dismay, she does her reputation no good by being the mistress of Jex Zanlan, the son of the Gulden chief Chay Zanlan.

The Indigo and the Gulden have viewed each other with suspicion for generations. Long ago, the Indigo bullied the Gulden out of their native lands and pushed them toward the rocky coast. Non-aggression treaties were eventually signed, but lately the Indigo have been pushing into Gulden territory again. Terrorist attacks have taken place in retaliation, attacks laid at the feet of Jex Zanlan, now under arrest and awaiting trial in the Central City.

Shinn spends nearly half of the book introducing us to the various aspects and conflicts of Indigo and Gulden society, and then plunges us into the midst of a terrorist attack, a frantic escape from Central City, and a clandestine journey to Gulden territory in an effort to thwart a malicious plot. The slow build-up is necessary, especially due to the severe role reversal of Indigo society, where women have all the power, land, money, and prestige, and men are the virginal chattel bargained away in marriage. Even the action-packed second half progresses at a leisurely pace. For all its leisure, though, this is a fast read, easily consumed in a day or two.

All that being said, this book’s premise is one that could have easily been expanded to twice its length. Too much was left unexplored. What was the origin of the different skin tones? Did the Indigo come from some other planet or some other continent and take over the Gulden lands? If not, how did two such radically different societal structures evolve on the same continent? Was there some geologic feature which separated them that the Indigo eventually surmounted? Why did Shinn even include the Albino race since they played virtually no part in the story? What about the Guldens’ trading partners on other continents, mentioned only in passing? Were they Gulden as well? Albino? Or something else? So many questions, so little information. I guess that’s what comes from having a mind attuned to anthropology….

So. Bottom line. Enjoyable light SF/fantasy with a romantic bent, not too taxing on the brain. Could have been better, but not too shabby a way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Book review: Fated by S.G. Browne

FatedFated by S.G. Browne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did you know that various immortals watch us at every moment? They do, and they report to God, who prefers being called Jerry, by the way. But they’re not supposed to interfere with us humans. In fact, Rule Number One is Don’t Get Involved.

Fate, however, has broken Rule Number One. He’s fallen in love.

Fate, who prefers being called Fabio, has grown tired of watching all of us screw up and wander off the paths he assigned us when we were born. This creates new work for him, assigning us each new fates, which we proceed to blithely ignore as well. Jerry damn that free will thing. But every now and then, Fabio runs into an individual whose path he cannot see. And when he runs into Sara repeatedly — by Chance, at first, and then deliberately — he knows she’s on the Path of Destiny, and he can’t see her future, but that doesn’t matter. In fact, it makes her even more appealing….

And so, there goes Rule Number One. Which subsequently leads to breaking other rules, such as Rule Number Five, Never Materialize In Front Of Humans, followed closely by Rule Number Six, Never Dematerialize In Front Of Humans. And so forth.

But it’s when Fabio breaks Rule Number Two, Don’t Improve Anyone’s Assigned Future, that things really start to get hairy.

The thing about Destiny is she’s a nymphomaniac.
The thing about Lady Luck is she has ADD.
The thing about Jerry is he’s omnipotent. But busy.
The thing about Gossip is…well, you know.

And the thing about S.G. Browne is he’s following in Christopher Moore’s footsteps, and doing a bang-up job of it. Which is why I hadn’t even finished this book before I went out and bought his other title, Breathers.

Many thanks to LibraryThing‘s Early Reviewers Club for the opportunity to read this book.

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