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All posts for the month July, 2012

Review: Motorcycle Man by Kristen Ashley

Published July 27, 2012 by Shannon

Motorcycle Man (Dream Man, #4)

Title: Motorcycle Man
Author: Kristen Ashley
Genre: contemporary romance

Series: Dream Man 4

Source: ebook

Read on: July 10-14, 2012

Synopsis from goodreads:

Stuck in a colorless world, Tyra Masters decides to chuck her old life and starts searching for something. She doesn’t know what it is until she meets her dream man. The goateed, tattooed, muscled, gravelly voiced motorcycle man who plies her with tequila and gives her the best sex of her life. But she knows it isn’t the tequila and sex talking. He’s it. He’s who she’s been daydreaming about since she could remember. Until he makes it clear she isn’t who he’s looking for. Tyra slinks away from his bed, humiliated. The problem is, he’s her new boss. She just may or may not have forgotten to tell him that part. Kane “Tack” Allen has a rule. He doesn’t employ someone he’s slept with. And he lets Tyra know that in his motorcycle man way. Tyra fights for her job and wins it using sass and a technicality. Tack challenges her that if she hits his bed one more time, she loses her job. Tyra is determined to keep her job and keep away from Tack. But she makes a big mistake. During their head-to-heads, she lets it all hang out and shows Tack she is who he’s looking for. And Tack has had a good woman slip through his fingers, he’s not about to let that happen again. Although Tack colors Tyra’s world with a vibrancy that’s blinding, being with him means she has to live in his Motorcycle Club world. Full on, no holds barred. And since Tack’s world, not to mention Tack, is a little scary, Tyra isn’t so sure. It’s Tack’s job to convince her.

I follow a lot of book blogs and after some discussion about Kristen Ashley’s books, and how they were horrible, but cracktastic, I thought I had to try them. I knew going into it that I’d be encountering a hot mess full of things I knew I’d hate, but I did it anyway. Maybe some of my readers have managed to go your entire lives without deliberately reading a bad book, in which case, I commend you. I, on the other hand, think bad books have their appeal. They’re more fun to live tweet, anyway, and more fun to read out loud to friends over drinks. If that makes me a bully, as defined by the Internet police, then I own it, because you can’t make me stop reading the book crack.

First, let’s start with the writing. It’s bad. I don’t often notice prose unless it’s wonderful or terrible, but I noticed it here. It’s repetitive and juvenile, and often doesn’t make sense. Here is an example of the repetitiveness.

The steel arm tightened around my waist and my neck twisted, my head tipping back as Tack growled, “Only I call you Red, Red.”

“Why do you only call me Red?” I asked.

“Because only I do,” Tack answered.

Yep, that certainly makes everything clear. The book is full of gems like that. After Tack, our supposed hero, treats Tyra like dirt after their tequila-filled night together, she’s understandably pissed, but she has to work with him. Tack reluctantly gives her a job, and then the two continue to strike sparks off of each other in a manner described by that passage. It’s the kind of romantic banter where the heroine is never allowed to be right, because that would, I don’t know, lessen Tack’s bad-assitude?

I could get past the characters. Alpha-hole heroes and stupid heroines are a stable of romance fiction, after all, and clearly this is Ashley’s brand. It’s not my cuppa, but I knew it wasn’t going to be when I started. What was harder to overlook was the pacing. The beginning moves along at a nice clip, but the early banter goes on a shade too long, and for the most part, the romantic tension is resolved a little over three quarters of the way through the book. With a lot more pages to go. There were some suspense subplots added to the mix whose purpose I didn’t quite understand, but I have to admit, I liked the final confrontation with the bad guys. I’d have liked it more if there hadn’t been a random chapter of POV switches to every secondary character ever, but she had me during that part completely invested in the outcome. After that, there was a long, drawn-out denouement, which was beginning to wear on my patience before the book finally, mercifully, ended. I wish Kristen Ashley had the services of a good editor, someone who could have told her to cut a lot of her extraneous verbiage and improve the pacing. Sadly, this is not the case.

What saves this book from being a complete failure were the unintentionally hilarious bits. I giggled at the name Tack. Tack also has buddies named Dog, Brick, Hopper, Tug and Rosco. (You do not know the depths of my disappointment to find out that there was no Boss Hogg. Or, for that matter, Hammer, Nail, Screwdriver, Socket Wrench and Pliers.) I also giggled that bad-ass was a shortcut for everything, and I’m sure it was used at least two dozen times throughout the text. I had to admit that I liked Tack’s gritty, no-nonsense approach. He was a jerk, but he didn’t get neutered throughout the story and was a jerk right up to the end. He didn’t get redeemed by love, or by the heroine’s magic vagina. Admittedly, now the heroine is living with a bunch of thugs, which isn’t my particular romantic dream, but I suppose it works for her.

I enjoyed this train wreck of a book despite myself. I bought a couple of other Kristen Ashley books, and may get to them eventually, but I’m not sure that I’m in that much of a hurry. I recognize that I had a lot of problems with the author’s particular brand, but the stories are oddly compelling. Not enough for me to give this a higher grade, but compelling nonetheless.

Final Grade: D+

Up next: Two books about adorable beta werebears and the insane women who love them.

Review: the Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden

Published July 26, 2012 by Shannon

The Theory of Attraction

Title: the Theory of Attraction
Author: Delphine Dryden

Genre: contemporary romance

Source: ebook
Read on: July 14, 2012

Synopsis from goodreads:

Camilla can set her watch by her hunky rocket-scientist neighbor who jogs past her window each day. She relishes each glimpse of his shirtless abs, and is dying to see more. But it’s hard to connect with a man who doesn’t seem to know she exists… Ivan feels at home in the lab, not in social situations. When he finally approaches his attractive neighbor, it’s not for a date—he wants tutoring in how to behave at an important fundraiser. Ivan doesn’t expect the chemistry between them to be quite so explosive, and is surprised when Cami actually accepts his proposal to embark on a series of “lessons”. Cami soon discovers Ivan’s schedule isn’t the only thing he likes to be strict about—he needs to be charge in the bedroom as well. She’s shocked at how much she comes to enjoy her submissive side, but wonders if a real relationship is in the equation.

On twitter, talking about this book, I christened it “50 Shades of Sheldon Cooper.” For those of you who don’t get the reference, Sheldon’s a character on The Big Bang Theory, one of my favorite TV shows. He’s socially awkward, blunt to the point of rudeness, arrogant and self-centered, but endearing for all that. This is Ivan to a tee. From there, the similarities end, because Sheldon’s not jonesing to get laid anytime soon. Ivan, on the other hand, has a lot of experience as a dom. It was fun to watch Camilla and Ivan negotiate their relationship. I liked the fact that Camilla was hot for him from the get-go. There wasn’t a sudden revelation of “Oh… he’s hot, for a nerd.” I also appreciated that Camilla was a geek herself because, after all, girls can be geeks, too. Duh. I’m so preaching to the choir on that one, I know. In fact, this book works well as the perfect geekmance fantasy. We get the hot smart guy paired with the equally hot, smart girl, and the smartness of both the characters was essential and important to the story.

The characters spoke and acted the way I think people do in real life. There were laugh out loud moments, and there were definitely sexy moments. The sex is hot, and while I don’t have more than theoretical knowledge of BDSM, the way they negotiated their arrangement made perfect sense to me.

the one thing I didn’t like was the ending. I thought it was a bit rushed, and I wanted a more firm declaration of love from Ivan. I’m not sure what I would have preferred, since Ivan’s not exactly the grand gestures type, but I would have liked something.

Ultimately, this was a quick but satisfying read. I don’t know if Ms. Dryden has a backlist, but I’m definitely up for more from her.

Final grade: B+

P.S. Here, have some Sheldon Cooper.

Up next: He’s a biker dude with a stupid name. She’s got marshmallow fluff where her brain needs to be. Clearly, their romance is epic. And cracktastic.

Review: the Down and Dirty trilogy by Moira Rogers

Published July 25, 2012 by Shannon

Today I bring a review of yet another trilogy of erotic romance short stories. A word of warning: I consider the two halves of Moira Rogers to be friends. However, they did not bribe me to write positive reviews. This is a shame, as it costs money to keep myself in the lifestyle to which I have become accustomed.

On with the show.

Wild Card (Down & Dirty, #1)

Title: Wild Card
Author: Moira Rogers
Source: Ebook

Read on: July 8, 2012

Synopsis via goodreads:

As Alpha of the Lonely River Pack, Jack Owens is responsible for keeping the peace between what’s left of the human population and the wolves who have taken over since the War. All wolves are his responsibility, even the ones like Virginia Howard who don’t necessarily recognize his authority. Ginny’s been a thorn in Jack’s side since she took over her parent’s operation and established herself as one of the area’s premiere ranchers. The fact that she’s everything he wants in a mate makes it hard to stay away from her, but any good hunter knows how to bide his time. Ginny fights hard to maintain her independence from men, human and werewolf alike. The humans may not like having a woman as their chief competition, but they’re not the ones determined to see her submit. When a group of angry wolves try to run her out of business, she’s forced to accept Jack’s assistance. But in saving her ranch, Ginny runs the risk of losing something far greater–her heart.

this was a refreshing short story, and it makes me eager to read the author’s Bloodhounds series. The idea is an interesting one, part post-apocalyptic future, part Western, and part paranormal romance. It could have been a gigantic mess, complete with the kitchen sink, but it wasn’t. The focus is tight, on the burgeoning relationship between Jack and Ginny, both of whom are sensible people, and their chemistry is explosive. If I have any complaints, it’s that Ginny, who was proud of her independence, seems awfully eager and willing to play house with Jack when the story’s over. I didn’t quite buy the transition from wary trust to love, but I had fun with Jack and Ginny anyway.

I appreciated that the sequel-baiting was handled well. It’s one of the things I’ve always liked about Ms. Rogers’s books. The secondary characters weren’t superfluous and I thought they added verisimilitude to the story.

Final Grade: B

Calling the Bluff (Down & Dirty, #2)
Title: Calling the Bluff
Author: Moira Rogers

Source: ebook

Read on: July 10, 2012

Synopsis via goodreads:

Hazel Young is a rare commodity in town: a young, single female whose first mating is nearly upon her. She’s spent the last two years fending off suitors who grow more determined by the day–after all, there’s nothing flattering in the attention of werewolves more interested in what she is than who she is, especially not when she gave her heart away to Oliver Russell years ago. But Oliver seems to feel nothing for her but fond kindness, and the time has come to choose a mate before the wolf makes the choice for her. When Oliver happens across Hazel being pressured by a local who wants to be her first, it awakens protective instincts he thought he’d set aside with the death of his wife five years ago. With Hazel in heat and no time to get her to safety, they wind up in a fishing shack on Lonely River, waiting for her mating fever to pass. The last thing he expects is to be tempted by her inexperienced attempts at seduction.

What I love about this story is Oliver, the hero. He’s the strong, silent type, with deeply hidden pain. I am a sucker for those sorts of heroes. He’s also endearingly clueless, and it was great fun watching Hazel bang her head against walls trying to deal with him.

Hazel didn’t entirely work for me, because she was too much the typical romance heroine ingenue. Ms. Rogers is careful not to actually make her a virgin, but she might as well have been. I liked that she knew what she wanted out of a relationship, but I would have appreciated more backstory than is possible in such a short story. Oliver is endearing, I get that, but I never understood what caused Hazel’s crush on him in the first place, and why she held onto it for so long, since he wasn’t particularly encouraging.

The sex scenes are hot here, as always, but there wasn’t much of a plot to fit them into. Considering the nature of this kind of story, that may not be a bad thing for some people, but I found the whole thing a bit anemic, and after a while, the constant sex had me skimming, hoping something else would happen.

Final grade: C+

Ante Up (Down & Dirty, #3)

Title: Ante Up
Author: Moira Rogers
Source: Ebook

Read on: July 11, 2012

Synopsis via goodreads:

Thomas Crawford is Lonely River’s beta, and it’s high time he settled down. He’s had his eye on Charlotte Daniel, the owner of the Full Moon Saloon — and independent cuss of a woman — for months, but she either hasn’t noticed his gentle courting… or she’s ignoring him. But when some local wolves lodge a complaint about her questionable business practices it’s Thomas’s job to investigate, even if it means the woman he wants will hate him forever. Lottie has noticed Thomas’s courting, all right, but it’s a little too polite for her tastes. She wants a man with fire and sensuality, not daisies and poetry. Then he kisses her. Once she gets a glimpse of the passion burning in him, Lottie decides a slow, careful seduction isn’t a bad idea at all. But she’ll do it her way.

This one has my favorite heroine. There’s something about a saloon owner/madam that I find intriguing. Being the sort of woman she is, I can understand Lottie’s need for passion. In fact, I liked Lottie so much and I thought the excuse to get her and Thomas together was so entertaining that I would have liked for it to be expanded upon, especially because it would have meant fleshing out of Thomas as a character. I liked the idea of him, trying to be the public face of the Pack and hiding his true feelings behind calm politeness, but unfortunately, he wasn’t very substantial to me.

What we got was good, but I was more invested in the plotting than the sexy times. Not that those weren’t sexy, but the details weren’t especially memorable.

Final Grade: B-
Overall, though this wasn’t my favorite erotic romance trilogy, it’s a great way to spend a couple of hours with pleasant characters, a fun premise, and hot sexytimes.

Up next: 50 Shades of Sheldon Cooper. You know you’re excited.

Monday checkin for July 23

Published July 23, 2012 by Shannon

Happy Monday, everyone!

It’s been a grueling week at Casa de Shannon. I’ve been in the process of moving, and so have spent the past three days with sore feet, achy muscles, and obnoxious headaches as I try to get everything into the new digs I like to think of as my parents’ house.

Consequently, I haven’t done much reading. I’m trying to finish Outlander, but it’s very slow going considering I haven’t had a chance to truly sit down with it. But I’m determined to get it done this week.
I’m glad I had posts scheduled for this week. I have a feeling next week may be a little content-poor as family obligations will keep me offline much of the time and also away from my books. But, as they say, c’est la vie.

I’m starting to get excited about the Olympics. I’m not much of a sports person, but other people around me have great enthusiasm, and I have to admit it’s infectious. Not sure what I really want to watch, but I expect to be entertained.

Last week was fraught with online drama. I have no idea if any of it is still going on, and am kind of relieved I haven’t had a chance to spend hours absorbed in the train wrecks. I hope this week is calmer for all of us in book blogland.

Oh, and… I finally had The Talk with my mom. You know the one. The one where she asked if I’d heard of a certain obnoxiously prevalent book featuring a number, a color, and terribly written BDSM. She heard about it on NPR apparently, and about its start as fan fiction. She has not read it, although as we are now living together, the moment she does, I’m sure I’ll know about it. I did not tell her that “50 Shades of Your Mom” is one of my favorite blog tags to use.

Have a great week, everyone. May yours be less busy than mine is starting out to be.

Review: Forgotten Faces by Vivian Dean

Published July 23, 2012 by Shannon

Capricorn: Forgotten Faces (Boys of the Zodiac, #10)

Title: Capricorn: Forgotten Faces
Author: Vivien Dean
Genre: paranormal M/M romance

Series: Boys of the Zodiac

Source: ebook

Read from: July 8-9, 2012

Synopsis from goodreads:

Some call Caleb the Angel of Death, but he knows better. He doesn’t kill. He erases life. Centuries ago, the Higher Powers created him to walk the terrestrial plane, eradicating those from existence who have either earned punishment or asked for dissolution. No attachments, no commitments, no problems. His latest assignment should have been as easy as the rest. But the second he gets invited into Leandro Warnell’s remote Alaskan cabin, Caleb knows something is different. It’s more than the overpowering physical attraction between them. It’s more than the inconsistencies that have plagued this assignment from the start. It’s the mark Leandro wears over his heart, the symbol unique to Caleb’s body. Because the only way Leandro could have received the tattoo is if Caleb had given it to him. But the man who’s collected memories for the last thousand years has no recollection of ever meeting Leandro before.

I don’t recall how I came to find out about this book. I remember trolling the Internets and coming across this series, and thinking it sounded fun, so I’d start with the book about my Zodiac sign. There are worse reasons than that to buy a book, surely.

What I liked most about Forgotten Faces was the writing. It is evocative and lovely, and I paused in my reading quite often to admire a particular turn of phrase. Unfortunately for you, you’ll have to trust me on this, because one of the features Amazon did not choose to make accessible on the one version of the Kindle a blind person can use is the ability to highlight text. Which is a rant for another day. But trust me, Vivien Dean is an excellent wordsmith.

I liked the characters and the storyline. I thought the paranormal aspect of the plot, with a hero who erased people from existence, was well done. I’m not especially picky. I don’t need to read yet another bland story involving vampires and werewolves, so I’ll take interesting premises where I can get them, and this one presented opportunities for angst. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect enough with Caleb, who tells the story in the first person, so while there was angst it didn’t work for me.

It wasn’t especially clear to me why Leandro had stirred feelings of love in Caleb,other than that he was hot. I felt I understood Lenadro’s motives much better, which is odd considering the story is told from Caleb’s point of view almost exclusively. His love for Caleb runs deep and true, and Caleb put him through a lot because of it. I also appreciated the diversity in tis story. Leandro is black, which is not important to anything except for a note in the backstory. That’s the best way to handle introducing people of color into books. Just slide ’em in there, and don’t make a big deal of it.

In addition to Leandro whom I liked, I loved Lemuel. He’s the closest thing Caleb has to a friend. He’s also the guy that gives Caleb his assignments. His scenes add a note of levity to what is otherwise a serious story. Even though he’s certainly not conventional hero material, I’d have loved to see him find someone of his own.

There are parts of the book that dragged. A lot. the mystery of why Leandro seems to know Caleb and why Caleb can’t remember him isinteresting, but ultimately I got a little bored. Caleb is very focused on what he has to do, and I didn’t think there was enough time devoted to him and Leandro coming to know each other in the present, since Caleb spends so much of his time trying to sort out the past. And because I didn’t quite buy their past connection, the present one didn’t work for me, despite a couple of hot love scenes.

I’m not sure if I’ll go back and get any of the other books in this series. the Zodiac element was only superficially important, and I suppose it’ll just depend on my own curiosity. I definitely want to read more of Ms. Dean’s writing, though, so hopefully I’ll find something in her impressive backlist I liked better.

Final Grade: C

Up next: If she has sex, she’ll die. If he doesn’t have sex, he dies and also the world as we know it gets destroyed. Needless to say, it sucks to be both of them.

Review: Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Published July 21, 2012 by Shannon

Blacklands

Title: Blacklands
Author: Belinda Bauer
Genre: mystery
Source: Audio
Read from July 8-9, 2012

Synopsis:

A psychological thriller about the cat-and-mouse game between a boy desperately seeking the truth about this uncle’s murder and the murderer himself.

Warning: It’s going to be impossible for me to talk about what didn’t work for me without revealing spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Billy Peters disappeared nearly 20 years ago. His body was never found, but it was believed that he fell victim to Arnold Avery, a child serial killer who often lured children to their deaths by strangulation at his hands and who confessed to the murder of several other children from nearby villages. the Peters family has never recovered from the loss of their son. Billy’s mother constantly stands at the window, looking out as if hoping her son will return. His sister is a huge mess of a woman, resentful and bitter and trying to raise her own two sons. Steven, the older son, lives for the moments when his mother and grandmother aren’t haunted by the past. After his English teacher commends is letter-writing skills, Steven writes a letter to Arnold Avery, hoping to get some answers from him about Billy.

When I did a google search for the relevant information I put into the links for this post, I found out quickly that Blacklands was apparently well thought of in the literary world. It has a review from The Guardian and everything. I, on the other hand, did not love it, and while I saw some potential for awesomeness in the story, it proved to be disappointing in the end.

This book reminds me a lot of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let Me In, which I read last year. It’s got the kids who have complicated lives the grown-ups don’t know about, it’s got the creepy pedophile, and the clueless adults. There’s even an element of horror, because you know going into it that when Steven Lamb (what do you mean, that name’s not symbolic?) starts writing letters to Arnold Avery, it can’t go well, but the tone is surprisingly breezy. It’s not lighthearted, but Bauer invokes Steven’s headspace so well that she succeeds in making me want to cover his eyes and tell him not to go talk to the bad man.

I really liked the first half of the book. the story flew by, and even though I didn’t like Steven much, I had enough sympathy for him, but then the book went exactly where I knew it was going to go toward the last quarter and my sympathy went away. I don’t think it takes a great deal of deductive reasoning ability to figure out that Avery is going to learn Steven is a child and then decide to escape. He does, and then the prison officials promptly… do nothing, because if they’d done their actual jobs, the climax of the story wouldn’t have happened. My suspension of disbelief was eroded by that point. Of course, Avery maneuvers Steven out onto the moor for a final confrontation. I thought some of Steven’s actions veered a little too close to too stupid to live territory, and this, friends, is why I read few mysteries, because we know there has to be an alone with the psycho moment , and invariably if the protagonist had just not gone down to the basement/out onto the moors/into the dark building with a killer on the loose, , the climax wouldn’t happen. I wouldn’t have minded the climax so much except the first half of the book didn’t feel so cliched, and I was expecting the suspenseful moments to fold out in a way that wasn’t so time-worn.

I loved the moments between Steven and his family. They were real and raw and painful and tender, and though we don’t get too much time spent in the heads of people that aren’t Steven, I understood where all of them were coming from. That said, the ending was much too pat. Things aren’t wrapped up with a neat bow, but the bow is still present. Not that I’d have wanted a different ending, but a few more thorns and a lot fewer roses would have suited me better.

I also have to mention the setting. I love it when the books I read evoke a sense of place, and I have always been fascinated by the English moors. I choose to blame Gothic novels. Blacklands was set on the moors, and their creepiness is well-invoked here. There’s no way you could take Blacklands and transplant it to a different setting. Granted, I would not want to be stuck on the moor with a serial killer, but now I hope again to be able to see them one day.
I don’t often notice the writing in the books I read unless it’s very good or very bad. Blacklands had some wonderful writing, as I’ve mentioned before, but the author makes a few stylistic choices I didn’t agree with. There aren’t that many characters, and the ones I wanted to read about were Steven and Avery. There are a few scenes told from other points of view, and they added nothing. In fact, there’s one moment near the end told by a character who is introduced once and then never seen again that was improbable and served no purpose.

This book isn’t for everyone. There’s violence against children, which will be triggering. I thought it was handled tastefully, but your mileage may vary. There’s also a moment that made my inner feminist rage. It serves a plot purpose, but still annoyed me. In the end,I know it’s a book so-called taste-makers in literary circles liked.. I could see its literary merit, but the whole didn’t work for me.

Grade: C

They read it, too:

Up next: The angel of death struggles with the question: How can I erase a man from existence who is that hot and who wants me that badly?

Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Published July 20, 2012 by Shannon

Persuasion

Title: Persuasion
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Classic
Source: audio
Read on: July 6-7, 2012

Synopsis via goodreads:

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?Jane Austin once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.

I know there are people on twitter who have strong opinions about Austen (though admittedly, people on twitter have strong opinions about everything from books to Jell-o, so that’s not saying much.) When I tweeted that I was reading Persuasion, I got several of them. My favorite was that I needed to read the Bridget Jones series, right now, post-haste and without delay. The prevailing sentiment, though, was that Persuasion was no Pride and Prejudice and Wentworth was no Darcy. To that, I must emphatically disagree, and I loved Pride and Prejudice.

Poor Anne. She’s level-headed, kind-hearted, and generally a nice girl, so she gets ignored and abused by much of her family, who are all silly to one degree or another. I thought this would make me impatient with her, but since she doesn’t really dwell on it, I moved along. Anne was persuaded not to marry Captain Wentworth when she was 19 by Lady Russell, a well-meaning family friend, because he hadn’t made his fortune yet, and the match could have left Anne unhappy. She broke off the engagement, Wentworth went off to sea, and Anne never recovered.

Now, years later, Anne’s father decides, hey, clearly he’s in financial straights, so he should move to Bath. Because that’ll solve everything. He has to rent the ancestral home to someone, though, and ends up renting it to Admiral Croft, who is the brother-in-law of Captain Wentworth. Who, of course, is back from sea, fabulously wealthy and attracting the notice of every woman he meets, and Anne can’t help but see him everywhere, and learn that he finds her incredibly fickle.

What makes Jane Austen such a master storyteller is that she manages to convince me that, no, really it would have been impossible for Anne and Wentworth to have a five-minute conversation to clear everything up. She also convinces me that they are exactly suited to each other, and I liked that she brings in a love triangle that doesn’t grate on my nerves. We know from the outset that Elliot is a hopeless cad, and Anne doesn’t really choose between him and Wentworth. That, dear reader, is something I can tolerate far more than the constant “I’m Team Edward! No, team Jacob!” nonsense that seems pervasive these days.

The language is quite accessible. There are occasionally odd turns of phrase (I remember giggling when Annes father describes someone as “quite underhung”, which I have no idea what that means, but I’m not very mature sometimes, so I prefer the dirty explanation I came up with in my head, thank you. But it was easy to follow, and went by surprisingly fast. I think it was helpful that I read this as an audiobook. The narrator did an excellent job distinguishing voices, which is a necessity in such a dialogue-heavy book, and she placed just the right amount of inflection in her words that I was able to keep everything perfectly straight.

I don’t have any particularly strong desires toward self-improvement by reading more of the classics, but I enjoy Jane Austen and found this book thoroughly charming. Highly recommended for those with a romantic bent like me.

Grade: B

Up next: A boy writes a letter to the serial killer who murderized his uncle when the uncle was a child. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Review: How the Marquess Was Won by Julie Anne Long

Published July 19, 2012 by Shannon

How the Marquess Was Won (Pennyroyal Green, #6)

Title: How the Marquess Was Won
Author: Julie Anne Long
Genre: historical romance
Source: ebook
Read on: July 2-3, 2012

Synopsis from goodreads:

The Scandal Sheets call him Lord Ice. Ruthless, cold, precise, Julian Spenser, Marquess Dryden, tolerates only the finest—in clothes, in horseflesh, in mistresses. And now he’s found the perfect bride, the one whose dowry will restore his family’s shattered legacy and bring him peace at last: the exquisite heiress Lisbeth Redmond. She’s not afraid to play with fire… But one unforgettable encounter with Lisbeth’s paid companion, Phoebe Vale, and the Marquess is undone: this quiet girl with the wicked smile and a wit to match is the first person to see through the icy façade to the fiery man beneath. But their irresistible attraction is a torment as sweet as it is dangerous: for surrendering to their desire could mean losing everything else they ever wanted.

I’ve read many discussions over the years in blogland about the merits or lack thereof of C reviews. After all, a C means the book wasn’t awesome, nor was it terrible. It just is. that said, if I read a C book, I am often not willing to give up on an author. This book is a prime example. It aroused neither great love nor great hate in me, but I find some things work well, and I like the author’s writing, so I plan on reading the rest of the series at some point.

The writing is beautiful. Ms. Long has a deft way of turning phrases, and she writes good banter. She shows rather than tells, leaving it up to the reader to figure out what was going on in Phoebe and Dryden’s heads. She also takes familiar themes in Regency romances and twists, folds and shapes them into altogether new configurations. I’ve read several books about governesses ending up with handsome, titled members of the aristocracy, and I’ve read several books where the heroine is all fire and passion and the hero is icy and cool. I’ve also read books in which the heroine undergoes a makeover. But I’ve never read anything quite like Julie Anne Long.

The strongest aspect of the book for me was Phoebe. She grew up in a rough part of London, and was swept off to Miss Marietta Endicott’s School for Girls in Pennyroyal Green. There, she became a teacher, able to handle troublesome girls because she was one. She takes refuge in learning things, and she dreams big. She reads the scandal sheets avidly, and fancies herself in love with Julian Spencer, the Marquess Dryden. Then she meets him and hears his friend propose that Dryden can’t coax a kiss from Phoebe. She’s pissed, and of course has to meet with him again, whereupon she neither screams at him nor faints at his feet. In fact, she calls him on the wager, and evinces such a wicked sense of humor and a penchant for flirting that Dryden is intrigued. As the book progresses, they keep running into each other, and what starts out a silly crush on her part and mere intrigue on his grows into something deeper.

Through it all, I thought Phoebe was as sensible as she could be, and I appreciated that she acknowledged her silliness for what it was. That said, I was less enamored with Dryden. I could understand his motivations–he took charge of the family when he was quite young, and restored it to its former glory through blood, sweat and tears. He planned to marry in the same spirit of calculation that he did everything else, but he didn’t count on Phoebe. I get all that, and yet he didn’t really do that much for me as a character. He was perfectly fine, but he wasn’t unique, and I thought pretty much anybody else from central casting would have done.

The secondary characters don’t get a lot of page time. There’s some hint of the stuff that happened in the previous Pennyroyal Green books that I didn’t read, but thankfully all the previous happy couples stayed out of this book.

My major issue with the book, however, does relate to a secondary character. I wasn’t sure what to make of Lisbeth Redmond. She’s beautiful and she knows it, which has made her rather spoiled, and she spends the whole book being extremely passive aggressive. Then a plot development happens that involves Lisbeth and a couple of minor secondary characters treating Phoebe like crap for the sheer pleasure of doing so, and I didn’t like that. I’m sure the season was, in fact, a time when women could be spiteful bitches and frequently were, but I get tired of the only female characters a romance heroine being able to be friends with being ones who are clearly not a threat to her, meaning they’re older, uglier, or already attached. Girls can be catty and mean to each other, but that particular plot is one I would happily never read again. In fact, just remembering how annoyed I was by the mean girl subplot makes me want to pick up some Lisa Kleypas.

The plot moves along rather slowly. The first chapter was awesome, and hooked me immediately, but then the pace slowed considerably. At the end, the resolution was pretty much what I expected. I was left entertained, but not particularly excited. I loved Julie Anne Long’s writing, and I want to go back and read the rest of the series, but with this book’s bland hero and slow pacing, I’ll probably forget it in the mists of time.

Grade: C

Up next: Just a short novel about a young woman pining away for a sea captain written by someone you’ve never heard of named Jane Austen.

More administrivia

Published July 18, 2012 by Shannon

this time it’s really Shannon. Also this time I think we’re done tinkering with the theme and site design. (She says now… who knows what will happen later?)
There is now a handy contact form and an equally handy link to my review policy. If you have always wanted to contact me but are intimidated by my sparkling personality and all 3 of my regular readers, now is your chance.

While I’m at it, here is a link to my twitter. I love twitter, and it’s a place where I can be silly on the Internet. If you want to follow me, feel free.

Please Excuse the Mess… Redux

Published July 18, 2012 by Shannon

Okay, this isn’t Shannon but I’m too lazy to sort out my own persona. It’s Mia, the webbie fixer person who has had no end of trouble finding a theme that does all the things this site needs to do. I apologize to anyone who looks at the site often enough to be, like: wtf, mate?

I think, I hope, I think… that this does it! Any complaints or rotten vegetables can be thrown in my direction. Thank you for your patience!

Mia