Friday, 30 November 2012

Review: Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami


Let me preface this by saying I know nothing of Japanese culture. I might recognise a stereotype—emphasis on the word might—but that’s it. So, if any point you feel like raving about how I just don’t get it, you’re probably right. I don’t. Instead I’m going to ask a few stupid questions and concentrate on the things I do know—like what I consider good storytelling.

Believe it or not, there was a time when I liked quiet novels, I still do, but it’s a rare book that hits me just right at the right time and changes my world. I kept wishing Norwegian Wood would be one of those books, but it was not to be. 

Toru is a middle aged man on a plane and hears a familiar song. Suddenly Toru is a young man studying in university in Tokio and he’s in love with a girl who never loved him. Toru has friends, good friends and bad friends. Toru has sex a lot. Toru is lost. 

This is a young man’s coming of age story, and this is a book about sex and suicide. Not necessarily in that order. I’m aware of the description that extols Murakami’s lively representation of the 1960’s Japan and the fascinating mix of east and admiration of all things American. Those things are true too, but unfortunately the majority of this book isn’t about what life was like in 1960’s; majority of this book is about an eighteen-to-twenty-year-old-man wanting to get laid. And when Toru Watanabe isn’t getting his leg over, the girls are talking about how wet they were with him or with someone else. It’s off putting to say the least.

And then there are the suicides. I think I counted four of them and that just made me think the author doesn’t know how to pick his moments. Or is suicide a huge problem in Japan? Are masses of young adults killing themselves there? If they are, this isn’t the book to highlight and address that problem. This isn’t a book that encourages people to stop and think what needs to be changed for kids to stop killing themselves. Not only did Murakami fail to pick and choose, he managed to trivialise a very serious issue. 

I’m not going to dignify the psychological break recovery portrayal with a comment.

Then there’s the romance aspect. With better characterisations I might agree that it was well done. There was a love triangle of sorts but it wasn’t about choosing the first shiny love of a character’s life but about choosing what was best for them in the long run. However, it was boring and it was trite. I could see the ending coming from a long way and the only thing that could’ve save the book and its rating for me would have been the how.

Had Toru’s epiphany and personal growth happened differently, I might have ended up liking this book, because that’s what I kept hoping for. I can see why others have liked the story. I liked the writing and in theory I liked the message. It’s not that long ago that I was going through some of these things and learning to be an adult,  but even then I had my priorities sorted differently. The shame of failing in school or life is nothing compared to the shame of hurting my family by hurting myself—like taking away my own life or running away. I had this figured out by the time I was twelve, so I have little sympathy for adults still lost on this issue. 

Sometimes people fall and need help to pick themselves up again. It’s a part of life, but I don’t think we should romanticise it. 

2 stars




Translation: Finnish, based on Jay Rubin's English translation
Suom: Aleksi Milonoff
Series: N/A
Pages: 426 (hardcover)
Publisher: Tammi
ISBN: 9789513162962
Published: 2012 (orig. 1987)
Source: Library

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Early Review: A seal at heart - Anne Elizabeth

Being a SEAL means everything to Petty Officer First Class John Roaker. So when a head injury coupled with a bout of amnesia makes him undeployable, he has to find a way to heal from his wounds and recover his lost memories. Enlisting the help of beautiful psychoanalyst Laurie Smith, he discovers his unlocked memories hold a dangerous secret about his last mission that threatens his life, his country, and the woman he's starting to fall in love with.

My thoughts:
Lots of seals running around these days, but when they are in they are in. In this one we have a wounded soldier, messed up in body and spirit. And a heroine who will save him.

John is as I already told you not as happy seal. He suffers from amnesia after a tour into hell. He is tough, but not really the commitment kind of guy. Laurie is sweet, nice, and knows better than to date a seal. Also she have a very protective dad. Trouble alert.

The story was light (in the way it read, not in what was in it), cute and fast to read. But to be honest I was not a fan of the sex scenes, it felt a bit...like a man had written them. Their first encounter and I was like wow, wait a moment, ask first mister. About what, ok I will not tell you that. Just read and see. Anyway, they did not feel sexy. But it all had a silly vibe over it, drama alerts and lots of soldier nicknames. But as it read so easily and there was romance I did not care. It was a little escapism book. 

Conclusion:
Seals, romance, action, hidden memories and drama.

Cover:
Eh, not a fan of the guy

Genre:Contemporary romance, suspense
Pages: 352
To be published: Dec 4th 2012 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: For review

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Interview and Giveaway: Christy English and How To tame a willful wife


Today I have Christy English over at my blog for an interview, and there is also a giveaway of her new book :)

Welcome!
1. Could you tell me a bit about yourself?
Thank you so much for hosting me, Blodeuedd. I’ve been a romantic all my life, so branching out from writing historical fiction (THE QUEEN’S PAWN & TO BE QUEEN)  into Regency romance was a lot of fun. As much as I enjoyed exploring the lives of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Princess Alais of France in my earlier novels, I had a ball diving into pure romance with Anthony and Caroline

2. You have a new book out, HOW TO TAME A WILLFUL WIFE. What is it about?
HOW TO TAME A WILLFIL WIFE is the story of two strong-willed people who, over the course of the novel, learn to live together as equals. Anthony Carrington, an earl and a cavalry officer fresh from the wars with Napoleon, comes home to marry his commanding officer’s daughter, sight unseen. He and Caroline meet, not in a drawing room, but in her bedroom for the first time, and sparks fly. And so does her throwing knife…in the beginning it’s safe to say that Caroline is not happy to see him. But she marries him to save her father from debt, and once she agrees, she never looks back.

It doesn’t hurt that Anthony is pretty easy on the eyes, but she discovers that he is not very easy to live with…

3.  This is a re-telling of Taming of the Shrew, was it fun or hard to make it your own?
It was easy to make it my own, because there were so many things I wanted to do differently. As much as I enjoy Katherine and Petrucchio’s banter and wit in The Taming of the Shrew, in the end, he starves her into submission and withholds sleep until she agrees to anything he says. This is all done in a comedic way, of course, and modern productions gloss over this, but I have never been able to overlook it. 

In my book, as unreasonable as Anthony seems to the modern eye, he never starves or beats his wife. And Caroline gives back as good as she gets. They fall into a pattern of fighting for dominance, which always winds up with them back in bed. But when they wake in the morning, their problems are still there. Good sex does not solve anything. It’s only when they begin to talk to each other, and to listen, that they begin to find a way to live together.

4.  Now who would play Anthony and Caroline if a movie was made? 
I think Gerard Butler would make the perfect Anthony, though I am sure his agent would not agree. LOL Caroline is harder to pin down…she is a strange mixture of strength, beauty, and craziness…maybe Sophia Myles…I always love her in anything she does.

5.  Are you working on something right now?
I am happily in the midst of revising the second book in this Regency series, LOVE ON A MIDSUMMER NIGHT based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Lots of fairies and magic in the play… the magic of true love takes over for Raymond Olivier, Anthony’s best friend, and his lost love, Arabella. Nothing I love more than seeing a hard-drinking, womanizing rake reformed. 

6.  What is the best thing about being a writer?
Listening to my characters when they show up, and giving their story a voice. I am convinced that our characters choose us, not the other way around. When they do, we have to be ready, pen in hand…or in my case, laptop. LOL

Giveaway
1 copy of How to tame  a willful wife

1. Open to US and Canada
2. Ends Dec 6
3. Just enter :)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Review: Lady Louisa's Christmas Knight - Grace Burrowes


No one would ever guess that Lady Louisa, the most reserved of the Duke of Moreland's daughters, had published a book of racy poems under a pseydonym on a dare. Before she can buy and destroy all of the copies, a dastardly fortune hunter seeks to compromise her reputation by revealing her secret identity at a holiday ball.

Before she can be publicly ruined, close family friend Sir Joseph Carrington saves the day by offering to marry Louisa. As he recites poetry to her, waltzes with her by starlight, and showers her with lovely kisses, they both begin to discover that their match may be the best Christmas gift either has ever received...

My thoughts:
Lady Louisa is finally getting her man, not that she was looking though. All the sisters seem to be happy with what they have at the moment. Let's start.

There are secrets, but to be honest, the secrets in this series are all pretty lame. Though I did like her secret, that made sense with her choices. We learn it almost at once too. Joseph's secret, oh that was the lame one, I did not know why he even bothered with that one. But then this is not about secrets. For me these books are about romance.

Louisa needs a knight in shining armor and her widowed neighbor Sir Joseph comes to the rescue. They are already acquainted, but here they learn to know each other better, and fall in love.

The story worked (even if his secret was lame but he is a man so they are all silly ;). The love grows and I could see it. Sure it all takes place during a short period of time but still it works. And as always the book is light and so easy to read that the pages just fly by. You have to read on.

And yes it does work as a stand alone too.

Conclusion:
A nice historical romance

Series:  (The Duke's Daughters, #3) (Windham #6)
Genre: Historical romance
Pages: 384
Published: October 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: For review

Monday, 26 November 2012

Review: The Emperor's Conspiracy - Michelle Diener


From nineteenth-century London’s elegant ballrooms to its darkest slums, a spirited young woman and a nobleman investigating for the Crown unmask a plot by Napoleon to bleed England of its gold.Chance led to Charlotte Raven’s transformation from chimney sweep to wealthy, educated noblewoman, but she still walks a delicate tightrope between two worlds, unable to turn her back on the ruthless crime lord who was once her childhood protector.

When Lord Edward Durnham is tapped to solve the mystery of England’s rapidly disappearing gold, his search leads him to the stews of London, and Charlotte becomes his intriguing guide to the city’s dark, forbidding underworld. But as her involvement brings Charlotte to the attention of men who have no qualms about who they hurt, and as Edward forges a grudging alliance with the dangerous ghosts of Charlotte’s former life, she faces a choice: to continue living in limbo, or to close the door on the past and risk her heart and her happiness on an unpredictable future.

My thoughts:
It started so good..and yes it continued to be that good! :D

It was a nice mix of historical fiction, suspense, mystery and romance. Charlotte the heroine was no simpering miss of the ton. She used to live in the slum, daughter of a whore, worked as a chimney sweep but was saved by a nice lady and raised as her ward. While still be connected to the underworld. Oh yes I loved that premise at once.

In this story there is a mystery too. Gold smuggled out of England and a Lord who tries to figure out the plot. A Lord who become the romantic interested of our cool heroine. As he is not one of those silly Men of the ton who wants her dowry and are all talk. And it works, because they do not fall at once, they do not even like each other at once. It's a story that will take time.

A good mystery, evil guys, flirting and the underworld. Yes that other thing I liked. She has an old friend, Luke who is now a crime boss and it just brought something new and very fresh to it. A woman torn between two worlds, dividing loyalties and a plot that kept it going. It was a book that was hard to put down, easy to read and suddenly I had read it and wanted more.

Conclusion:
I truly enjoyed it

Genre: Romantic historical mystery fiction
Pages: 336
To be Published: Nov 27th 2012 by Gallery Books
Source: For review

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Lady Scoundrel Saturday: The Raven Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt


Scorn, Sense and Sensitivity
reviews
The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

The Lady Scoundrels are back and over the next 3 Saturdays we will bring you our reviews of The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt.

First up is Scorn (aka Anachronist)

Book info:
Genre: historical romance but I would drop the historical part
Target audience: adults
Form: e-book, pdf format

Synopsis: 
The Raven Prince takes place in eighteenth century England. 

Edward de Raaf, the temperamental Earl of Swartingham, nearly runs over Anna Wren, a relatively young widow returning from the market. Shortly after that, Edward finds himself in need of a new secretary. The last few secretaries have all fled the earl’s employ in the face of his appalling temper and since he doesn’t give his steward, Mr. Hopple, much time to come up with one, Hopple hires Anna. It is unconventional, to say the least, to have a female secretary but Anna has a fair hand and is not intimidated by Edward, so the job is hers. By the way she is desperate to keep her position - the investments that the late Peter Wren left to his wife and by extension, his mother, are not doing very well. 

It doesn’t take long for a sexual attraction to emerge between Edward and Anna as they spend time together. All of Edward’s family died of smallpox when he was a child, and he lost his first wife in childbirth, so starting a new family is important to him. Still Anna is infertile and she belongs to lower class, so he feels he can’t marry her, and he goes to London to propose marriage to a more appropriate young lady with a significant dowry. While in London, he also plans to visit Aphrodite’s Grotto, a luxury house of ill repute. 

A bit earlier Anna discovers a bill from Aphrodite’s Grotto, and she realizes Edward is a customer there. Soon afterwards she finds a sick prostitute lying in a ditch and takes her home to nurse. The girl, called Pearl, asks Anna to contact her demimondaine sister, Coral, who is living and working in London. Pearl and Coral help Anna to gain access to the said whorehouse wearing a mask and become secretly the lover of Edward. Still will it help solving other problems of Anna or will it make her situation even more complicated?


What I liked: 

Never judge a book by what is written on the insert or at the back of the cover. Frankly the blurb of this one reads like some idiotic erotic romance book that publishers seem to think are so popular and profitable nowadays – a virginal heroine turns all of a sudden a skanky ass prostitute in order to sate her newly discovered passions and get her man. 

It is a romance book with an actual plot and its characters are interested in something more than just going to bed together. Both Anna and Edward seem real and are grounded in the reality, as constructed by the author. What’s more their physical appearances are relatively ordinary – Anna’s only good feature is her luscious mouth and Edward is a blunt, unpretentious farmer, not afraid to get dirty, with pox scars all over his face and body – his appearance is actually closer to ugliness and he is pretty much aware of it. It was a nice surprise after reading about all these beauties who charm everybody around them and have just one big problem: what colour emphasizes their beauty the best. 

The fairy tale of the raven prince, intertwined with the story, was lovely, and I enjoyed the way the bird theme was woven throughout the book, with Anna’s last name, the comparisons of Edward to a raven and the fact that the prostitutes were sometimes (but not in this book, pity) called ‘birds of paradise’ or ‘soiled doves’. Oh, and the sex scenes were hot – one of the best I’ve read so far. Indeed, I have no gripes at all with Anna and Edward’s erotic encounters, which were sensual and rich with sensory descriptions. 

I also liked the character of Coral, the successful demimondaine, and I regretted she didn’t play a more important role in the novel. Her cynicism really appealed to me and I hope that she makes further appearances in future books of this series – she clearly deserves that. 

What I didn’t like: 

The biggest issue for me was probably how wrong and anachronistic the book felt to me. It was supposed to be a historical romance but it is as far from any historical reality as it can only be. In fact it would be better if you forgot about the ‘historical’ adjective altogether, treating all these stays, tricorn hats, bustiers and wigs as merely theatrical props. First of all let me tell you that the characters, ALL the characters, speak and think using more or less modern language and 21st century way of thinking. When Anna finds out that Edward patronizes a brothel in London she is incensed by his hypocrisy – why should whores be anathema when the men who use them remain perfectly respectable? Very well, my lady, I agree with you on principle but it is definitely not a way of thinking for a respectable, church-attending 18th century female. 

Then, Hopple and Edward hired Anna as a secretary, at a time when only men were secretaries and woman’s place was only in the kitchen and in the nursery or cleaning rooms. I am pretty sure a lady in the 1760’s wouldn’t be able to take up such a post to a peer without causing huge ructions and a lot of condemning - I found this really difficult to swallow. 

I’m not saying that these words themselves are actually anachronistic. They may in fact have been in use in 1760. But the expressions comprised of those words sound contemporary to me, and that was enough to pull me out of the story. For example, Anna goes on about Edward’s attractiveness to her mother-in-law and I just couldn’t suspend disbelief that this conversation was taking place in 1760. There were other examples of speech that seemed contemporary to me. Edward says “Shit,–? in Anna’s presence. He also refers to another character as “that baboon”. There’s mention of a “crackpot theory”. Edward’s valet says to Anna, “Don’t have to be snotty”. I really wish the author did some research or change the settings of the novel. 

Finally the little London adventure of Anna…well, it was something few modern women would be brave enough to do; I really couldn’t believe she, a respectable widow, decided to play a prostitute just to get the attention of Edward. When he found out her ruse he was surprised but not outraged. Are we really talking about times when a single woman, widow or otherwise, couldn’t talk to a gentleman face to face without a companion because she risked tarnishing her reputation? Edward was really strangely unconcerned by the resourcefulness of his beloved although before he had expressed his worry that she took a whore to her house. 

Now the ending…it was as if a nasty witch sneaked inside the novel and changed it from a reasonably good story into something unbearably naïve and inane because otherwise it wouldn’t be a romance. Spoiler - highlight to read or skip: although Anna was pretty much sure she was barren, all of a sudden we find her with a son and pregnant again, her husband on cloud nine. It seems the moment you find the right man you get cured from whatever ails you and you can have children if you wish so, right? WRONG. 

Final verdict: 

As far as romance book goes this one wasn’t bad – I really appreciated some fresh ideas and the fact that its characters were closer to real people. You can enjoy it providing you treat the whole historical set in a very liberal way and you don’t mind those cloying HEA endings


Friday, 23 November 2012

Review: Stormlord's Exile - Glenda Larke


SHALE is finally free from his greatest enemy. But now, he is responsible for bringing life-giving rain to all the people of the Quartern. He must stretch his powers to the limit or his people will die-if they don't meet a nomad's blade first. And while Shale's own highlords and waterpriests plot against him, his Reduner brother plots his revenge. 
TERELLE is Shale's secret weapon, covertly boosting his powers with her own mystical abilities. But she is compelled by the strange magic of her people and will one day have to leave Shale's side. No one knows what waits for her across the desert, but her people gave the Quartern its first Stormlord and they may save Shale and his people once again-or lead them to their doom. 

My thoughts:
I do love trilogies, why, well cos they end! It's comforting reading a series and knowing that there will be an ending in sight. Still it's always sad when they do end.

When this book starts the country is a mess. The Reduners have been chased away but they are still out there. And yes some of them are bad, but some are good and the whole Stormlord system is so bad. All people should get water not just a chosen few.

Which brings us to the characters, Shale tries to help his people, but so many of them are freaking assholes. The whole priest class should be dumped in the ocean, freaking hate this idiots. Their whole religion is a big fat lie too. Then we have 2 scheming women that makes me want to wring their necks. Laisa and her evil evil daughter. Shale is way too nice, not just with them, but with others too. Sometimes too kind is gonna bite you in the ass. It was horrible to read at sometimes cos I just wanted to go there and kick them. Yes the best of books make me so angry at characters.

Who else then, Terelle of course, the woman Shale loves, the woman who has go back to homeland because her evil grandfather put a spell on her. She is nice and, well poor her at times. Then there is Kaneth and Ryka, aww, they turned out sweet. Shale's psycho Reduner brother and then we have the big players.

The book was not as good as the first, still it was great and it does make you think. An interesting history, an interesting country and a place where I could see more stories set in the future.

Conclusion:
A recommended series.

Series: Watergivers #3
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 590
 Published: 2011 by Orbit
Source: Library

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Review: Kun kyyhkyset katosivat (when the pigeons disappeared) - Sofi Oksanen


Sometimes the oppressors win.

Kun kyyhkyset katosivat (When the pigeons disappeared) continues the series of bleak tales about Soviet Estonia. Once again within the story events of two timelines intertwine. Anyone who has read a book written by Oksanen can deduce this from the stamps in the chapter titles.

Estonia was overrun by Soviet Union, Germany, and Soviet Union again in the Second World War. Ordinary people battled with hunger and against their occupiers. Or they let themselves be swept away by the authority and influence. Some became informants against their will, others aimed to please the powerful at any price—even at the expense of their own identities. For others giving up a name was the only way to protect their loved ones.

War makes criminals of us all. War makes us survivors.

I don’t think I found any deeper meaning than that in this book, and even that was almost overrun by the annoying style points. Her prose is as beautiful as ever, but the structure of the novel could have used a bit more work. It felt like Oksanen was trying to create mystery where there was none. Clarity would have been more rewarding. The plot twists in the end—three by my count—were all predictable despite the messy beginning. 

Reading English literature has made me oversensitive for mixing first and third person voices. I don’t mind quick—lasting a sentence or two—plunges into the the psyche of the character, but chapter long switches stink of laziness. If the author wants to expand her narration into several viewpoints, why wouldn’t she also tell it all in third person voice? Why would she place one character above all others but not important enough to tell the whole story from their perspective? Although, I didn’t like True by Riikka Pulkkinen, at least in that the narrative device had its purpose.

It’s quality literature, but my expectations for Oksanen were higher.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Review: Mistletoe Cowboy - Carolyn Brown


'Tis the season for...
•A matchmaking grandma on a long-disantance mission
•Mistletoe temptation in every doorway
•A sexy cowboy with a killer smile

Commitment! It made Sage run the other way. It made Creed shudder. But Sage's granny, the Widow Presley, was determined to get her granddaughter a cowboy for Christmas. And who better than Creed, the man interested in purchasing the widow's Rockin' C Ranch?

The fact that a three-day blizzard was blowing in just made things all the better. A person can't run from commitment when they're snowed in, now can they?

My thoughts:
As always, Brown's book is just adorable. It's a feel good book, a book that feels like eating yummy pie by the fireplace. What can I say, it will make you happy too.

Sage is pissed, and she meets Creed. Sparks fly, yes neither is happy at first. As she wants the ranch and he wants the ranch. But little do they know that Grand's Indian Sense know exactly what these two need. Sure the love comes fast, but it feels right because they are soul mates and so meant to be. There is a bit of drama but mostly smooth sailing as they find out what they both want. And that is love.

Sage is an artist, dreamy, spirited. She is also afraid of commitment, and yes it was nice that she was the one afraid. Creed is a true cowboy, he wants his own ranch, he is kind and well the kind of guy you would want, trust me. He cooks, he cleans, he is the best.

It's a sweet lovestory and it's mostly about these two as they are stranded on the ranch because of the snowstorm. It is part of a series, but again trust me, it works prefect as a strand alone.

I must admit that I did laugh at something. They were cold and wore pair of 3 socks and then I read the degree, and was all, ha, you silly cowboy. That is not cold, that is at worst  a warm winter day.

Conclusion.
An adorable love story.

Cover
I want a head

Series: Spikes & Spurs 5
Genre: Contemporary romance
Pages: 352
Published. Oct 1 2012 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source: For review

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Review: Gold Mountain - Sharon Cullars


It’s been six months but I remember buying this book because I’d seen a semi-positive review on a blog—Dear Author probably—and because a romance of a mixed-race couple in the 1860’s Wild West sounded intriguing. Especially since neither character is white.

Unfortunately the story didn’t live up to its promise. 

I did like the start of the book, although I did think it somewhat boring. The author spends a lot of time setting the scene and describing the life of a Chinese worker building the railroads for a pittance and the life of a black single woman trying to build a new life and a business for herself and her friend. Bias, racism, sexism, it’s all there and prevalent in the vernacular. 

As if that’s not enough to create obstacles to the couple’s happiness, there’s also their inability to fully understand each other. Quiang speaks but a little English and he and Leah have to communicate through gestures, looks, and touches. 

There’s all this, and what does the author do with it? Nothing. Cullars glosses over all the difficult—and rewarding—steps of a meaningful relationship building and focuses on the paper thin physical attraction instead. There’s a brief mention of how Leah and Quiang learn to communicate with the help of a dictionary, but they don’t really talk to each other. When they’re together they’re either taking their clothes of and having sex or putting their clothes on and thinking about having sex. And those sex scenes are bad. There’s creaming and there’s tumescence, there’s orbs and there’s the infamous “her sex” euphemism. 

After all that, the story and my rating for it could have been saved had I bought Quiang’s interactions with the triad members. I can’t really pinpoint my problem with them, but something in the language used left me unconvinced. It wasn’t just Wao’s refusal to call an erection an erection, it was also how the revelation of the misappropriation was handled. Until then, I had liked Quiang’s willingness to engage in shady businesses for quick profit and that both characters had such defined lives outside each other, after it just felt anticlimactic. 

I didn’t want a happily ever after epilogue, I wanted to read how they get there. 

So what does the book have? Good historical description with nascent characterisations, but without any real character or relationship development, and a whiff of Wild West adventures. It simply wasn’t enough for me. 

1 star


Series: N/A
Pages: 232 (ebook)
Publisher: Loose Id
Published: February 23rd 2010
Source: Bought

Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: The Oracle Glass - Judith Merkle Riley

Genevieve is a precocious girl with the remarkable power to read the future in a water glass. Left for dead by her family, she is taken in by La Voisin, who rules a secret society of witches that manipulate the rich—from tradesmen all the way up to the king himself.
Genevieve transforms herself into the mysterious Madame de Morville, rumored to be 150 years old. Driven by the spirit of revenge, Genevieve is on the verge of discovering true love when the police sniff out the secret network of poisoners and sorcerers. Genevieve races to escape the stake, unaware who will live and who will die in the wake of the King's terrible vengeance.

My thoughts:
It's a story about a girl from a good home, that is not really good. Her mother does not like her because she is deformed. So this girl transforms into the most sought after seer in Paris. What a Cinderella story. Ok not really. But she took life in her own hands and made something out of it. At a time when a woman should not be alone.

One negative thing about the book would be that it could have been shorter, like 150-100 pages shorter. Because even though it kept out the pace it still felt like it dragged a bit since it was so long. And I am unsure about the end. I can't say but, sometimes you know for sure, and sometimes you can just be 70% sure about something, mysterious, well yes ;)

A secret network of witches, poison, court intrigues at the splendid Sun Court. A world where you can tell futures and those rich enough to spend their money will believe every word you say.

Genevieve was a nice heroine, her mentor La Voisin a nice baddie without being crazy bad. She was just a big spider in a net. Then there was a tiny bit of romance, just a tiny bit late on as Genevieve became more popular.

Conclusion:
There are real historical characters in this one, including La Voisin. And the author mixes reality and fiction in a nice blend.

Cover
Eh, does not tell me much

Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 544
Published: Nov 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Landmark (first pub 1994)Source: For review

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Lady Scoundrel Saturday: Lord of Scoundrels - Loretta Chase


Scorn, Sense and Sensitivity
Today is Part 3 of our Joint Review of this book, and I am up today as Sensitivity, though I feel more like Silly ;) Who is with me? ;=D

Part 1: Scorn aka Anachronist
Part 2: Sense aka Rameau

I have seen this one hailed as the best historical romance of all time. But this time I did not go in with any expectations this way or another. And yes it was a good book, those two were crazy and I am sure they will have a great deal of fun in their life together. But, did it make me want to read more by her? No, not really. Sure I would if the book showed up at my door, or at the library. Did it make me turn the page faster and faster? No, but I still wanted to read more.

The romance, oh this I liked. She was a spinster who knew about sex from her naughty grandmother. So when she felt lust, it felt ok. She was not one of those girls who went to pieces over a mere touch and then willingly spread their legs. Not she knew he was bad, but damn, if he is a virile beast then he is one. And she stood up for herself, she talked back and she....oh yes that scene, epic. Romance does not come like that anymore.

Dain, our hero with too many names was all messed up. His father had been an ass, his mother had left him and every told him he was the ugliest thing alive growing up. Issues for sure. Did he want the spinster who talked back? No, but she sure was an annoying thing and yup sure he wanted to tumble her later. So these two, hating each other, lusting for each other, being idiots together, well I believed it. I believed that she wanted to have him, I understood why she fell and why he did. That part she did well. No easy sex act and instalove. No one falling to pieces, instead two adults who are idiots.

So it was a fun and different historical romance. The sex even had to wait (YAY cos hello, prude here when it comes to HR).I just hate when they give it up too quickly when they do not even get what they are doing. ) But best HR ever? No, not really.

Cover Snark:
It's just so very boring, not so fitting if I think about it either.


Friday, 16 November 2012

Author Interview: Megan Mulry


Today I have author Megan Mulry over for an interview :)
Welcome!

1. Could you introduce yourself to my readers? 
Thank you for having me on your blog! I am a former journalist (among other dubious professions) now living in Florida with my husband and two children. I lived in London for four years and sometimes I think I still live there in my mind. I started writing full-time about two and a half years ago.

2. Could you tell me a few things about your new book, A Royal Pain? 
It's the story of a strong-willed, independent American woman who unwittingly falls for a British duke. She's obsessed with British culture and royalty, but the reality turns out to be far more than she bargained for.

3. What was your inspiration behind this book? 
A few years ago I got totally hooked on Regency romances, and then I decided it would be cool to put a lot of Regency elements into a contemporary setting (balls, royalty, British high society). When I was querying agents I called it a Contemporary/Regency Mash Up. The story and characters evolved from that idea.

4. And do you yourself follow the Royals? If so, then who is your favorite? 
I wouldn't say "follow" necessarily, but I am particularly interested in the idea of what it means to be royal today, while living in the real world. I love websites like What Kate Wore and The Duchess Diary to keep in touch with contemporary royals and what they are up to. Since this idea of modern royalty is what I'm after, Kate Middleton (Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) is my absolute favorite. I also spend a lot of time staring at pictures of the Duke of Feria (it's research, I swear!)

(Blodeuedd takes a look at the Duke and approves ;)

5. Since this is the first book, is there anything you can say about what is to come? 
The next book in the series, Earl Meets Girl (June 2013), is about Max's younger brother Devon Heyworth. He is the complete opposite of his responsible older brother: he drives too fast, drinks too much, and sleeps around. When he meets glamorous shoe-designer, Sarah James, he has no idea how to deal with being in a normal relationship. It's really a story about surface appearances and what lies beneath all of our facades. The third book is about Max and Devon's wild younger sister, Abigail Heyworth. I am in the midst of working on that one now. Suffice to say, Abby is in a world of trouble.

6. How well would you manage as royalty?
 Horribly! As my husband says, I like to shoot first and aim later. I tend to blurt things out and then deal with the consequences as best I can, usually with a conciliatory bottle of wine. That was the part of Bronte's difficulties that I could totally relate to…the idea that one must behave all the time sounds so terrible to me!

Thank you again for having me!!

Thanks!!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Review: How to tame a willful wife - Christy English


1. Forbid her from riding astride
2. Hide her dueling sword
3. Burn all her breeches and buy her silk drawers
4. Frisk her for hidden daggers
5. Don't get distracted while frisking her for hidden daggers...

Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, expects a biddable bride. A man of fiery passion tempered by the rigors of war into steely self-control, he demands obedience from his troops and his future wife. Regardless of how fetching she looks in breeches.

Promised to the Earl of Plump Pockets by her impoverished father, Caroline Montague is no simpering miss. She rides a war stallion named Hercules, fights with a blade, and can best most men with both bow and rifle. She finds Anthony autocratic, domineering, and...ridiculously gorgeous.

It's a duel of wit and wills in this charming retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. But the question is...who's taming whom?

My thoughts:
There is a difference between a book not working and a book not working, or is there? Well here the book was well written, it could have been really good, but I hated the characters and that ruined it all for me.

First we have Lord Ass Hero. Sure he fits his time and is perfect for that with his constant "Obey me! You are my wife." But I do not read romance for heroes that are correct for their time. I read it for romance and he did nothing romantic. He saw her and lusted for her. They were to be married 2 days later. He wants to tame her and then when he has her he wants her to be a bit willful. He knows he owns her, that she is his property, he is jealous and a dick.

Our Willful Heroine is willful at first, but then enters the magic penis and that is long gone. Yes she hates him (but he sure is pretty!), and then he touches her and she forgets all about that and becomes a Sex Goddess. And every time they argue it ends with sex, he kisses her fiercely and she melts. She stops being willful and becomes a simpering mess. She also has a few TSTL moments.

Oh and I hate this trope: There is a secret, it could be freaking vital for the other person to know it. But the person knowing the secret does not tell it, here it is Ass Hero. He just tells her that she should obeyed him and do as he tells her.

Conclusion:
So sadly this book did not work for me, and it was a shame cos it was good. I just could not stand the characters.

Series: Shakespeare in Love #1
Genre: Historical romance
Pages: 352
Published: Nov 6th 2012 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source. Review

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Review: Captives of the Night - Loretta Chase


If you've read the blurb you know that this is a romantic mystery where Leila Beaumont is trying to find out  who killed her father almost a decade ago and who is responsible for the recent death of her husband. Of course, she can't help but be tempted by the spy assigned to help her, Comte d'Esmond.

What you don't know is that Captives of the Night isn't a quite like any other romance novel I've ever read before. It's a historical and it features a so called bad boy with a heart of gold, and those are things I love, but for a good part of the story the heroine spends married to someone other than the apparent love of her live. What's more curious, is that she freely admits having once loved her abusive and vile husband. 

It's a delightfully realistic take on two people finding each other and giving themselves a second chance in happiness. Not everyone finds and marries the love of their live at seventeen and spend the rest of their lives together. There's a slight problem, though.

How does an author stop the heroine from becoming a contemptible doormat to an abusive husband while turning her into a possible adulteress and keep her relatable to an average romance reader? 

The answer is, she doesn't. At least, Chase didn't. She made the Leila Beaumont into a violent tempered shrew who can stand up to her morally corrupt husband and and whose tantrums lead to her being the suspect in her husband's murder. And that's how Chase handled the second part of her dilemma. Getting rid of an unwanted balls in chain (pun intended) was the only way for the true romance to move on. 

I call it a true romance because it isn't magically easy. Both Esmond and Leila fight their attraction for each other instead of giving into their insta-lust. The sex part still comes quite early for an historical novel, but at least it follows a decent seduction. I'd almost given up on the hope of reading scene something as innocuous as a good look at a man's hands can raise the temperature of the room. It shouldn't come as a huge surprise then that this book was written and originally published in the early 1990's. As much as I don't miss the euphemisms, I do miss the sensual seductions that used to precede outright sex in romantic fiction.

I liked the fact that as imperfect and infuriating as both characters were, they were evenly matched. Their flaws and strengths complemented each other. Admittedly, Esmond had the advantage of his gender and the laws of the era to help him, but I also felt he was cunning enough to handle Leila when needed to, just as she was stubborn enough to demand the truth and trust he so reluctantly bestowed to anyone.

All this I liked, the story, the writing, and I liked the mystery too, which managed to surprise me to a certain extent. Also, I'm valiantly ignoring all the bad, bad, words like female, core, and a host of others I've managed to forget since reading the book. So, why then, isn't my rating higher?

I simply didn't like certain aspects of the book. Not only was I bored for the longest periods, I found myself baulking at how certain things were handled and how much attitudes have changed in twenty years. It has to do with the dead husband's vices and how those were described. I appreciate the historical accuracy of such attitudes, but I can't help but feel that another author writing today would have chosen his or her words differently especially when describing someone as tolerant as Comte d'Esmond talking or thinking about the matter. 

Rating: 3




Series: Scoundrels #2
Pages:      352 (paperback)
Published: Originally 1994
Source: Anachronist

Monday, 12 November 2012

Review: The King's Agent - Donna Russo Morin


The King’s Agent is based loosely on the life of Battista della Palla-a patriotic plunderer, a religious rogue-of the 16th century, a lifelong friend to the great Michelangelo. 

As the cloistered ward of the Marquess of Mantua, Lady Aurelia is a woman with a profound duty, and a longing for adventure. In search of a relic intended for the King of France, Battista and Aurelia cross the breathtaking landscape of Renaissance Italy. Clues hide in great works of art, political forces collide, secret societies and enemies abound, and danger lurks in every challenge, those that mirror the passages of Dante's Divine Comedy. It is an adventurous quest with undercurrents of the supernatural, powers that could change the balance of supremacy throughout Europe.

My thoughts:
 What went wrong? Well in a way that is easy to explain; frankly I was bored. I wanted to skim, I wanted to get it over with. I just could not connect. I did like one part of the book though..after page 300 it grew interested and there was a new mystery that caught my attention. But even if that was good in the end I just did not get one thing, which I can't tell you about.

The book was a bit heavy and it's not straight up historical fiction. It has a bit of "paranormal" in it that shows up later. Not much but there is something,and truth be told since I was bored in the beginning I did not get the whole thing in the end. There is an adventure, a mystery, a hidden painting, war between France and Spain, worries in the city states of Italy, a woman that wants more from life and an art thief that is real pretty. That sums it up.

Sure it's well written but this time it was not the book for me. I wanted to like it, it had promise, but the beginning was so heavy and I just never connected (well ok at page 300 but if I did not have to review this one I would have given up before that).

Conclusion:
It was a good story, but for me, it was a boring story.

Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 411
Published: 2012 by Kensington
Source Goodreads First Reads

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Lady Scoundrel Saturday: Lord of Scoundrels - Loretta Chase


Lady Scoundrel Saturdays
Scorn, Sensitivity and Sense!
Part 2 of The Lady Scoundrels reviews Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. Today Rameau aka Sense is bringing you her views of the book.


When I finished reading this book and went on Goodreads to see what others had thought of it, I was surprised. The four star ratings didn't surprise me, the five star ratings did. As good as I felt after closing the book (or activating the screensaver on my Kindle) I didn't think I'd just finished reading a five star book. I didn't think I'd finished reading anything as close to such (im)perfection I expect from a five star book. I did think I finished reading an entertaining, character driven romance about two very irritating people who were a match made in heaven or hell depending on your belief system.

Lord Dain—don't ask me to look and type out his full name, I beg of you—was the titular character in the book, a true Lord of Scoundrels.He's not welcomed into polite society despite his breeding and he doesn't aspire to spend his evenings with the genteel folk of the French capitol, he'd much rather spend his time in more pleasurable endeavours with the less than reputable Parisians. He has the money to do it, but the people he drags down with him don't. That is how he trips to the greatest obstacle life has thrown at him yet, Lady Jessica Trent.

Despite being virginal, Jessica isn't one of the vapid insipid ingénues that plague the world of historical romance. She's determined to save her brother from ruin and she has the character to pull it off. Jessica is capable, shrewd, brazen to a point, and most of all self-assured. She doesn't wait to be chased and wooed, she goes after what she wants. And she knows boys of all ages as the author points out, repeatedly. She's also smart, but she isn't all-knowing, but she faces head on all the challenges presented to her, including her husband.

That's another part I liked about this book, that the romance didn't end at the altar, but that it continued well into the marriage

After two novels, I finally figured out why I like Loretta Chase's books as much as I do despite their obvious downfalls and dated modern attitudes shining through the writing. It's because she creates complex and interesting characters and I have a soft spot for character driven stories. There are only so many ways to create interesting characters that fit into the strict society of old without turning them into boring cardboard cutouts most authors churn out.

Despite his rakish habits, it's Dain who is the insecure ingénue. He's deluded about his looks as unfashionable as they are and he's deluded about his own worth and influence on others. He believes in the only power that hasn't failed him in his life—money—but inside he's a wounded puppy and an unloved child looking for someone to hold him while he cries.

“In any case, to hesitate in such a situation was to indicate doubt, or worse, weakness. To do so with a man was dangerous. To do so with a woman was fatal.”

The only problem I have with this beautiful characterisation is that if you're the sort of person to skip prologues, you'll never find a shred of sympathy for the man. The way he behaves may be understandable, but in so many ways it is also unforgivable. A better writer could have worked that horrible history within the main body of text without having to glue on an apologetic introduction to the horrors of growing up to be Lord Dain.

At the same time Jessica is the bold seducer who works within the society and makes the society work for her. She not only overcomes the period appropriate hindrances for her sex, but uses them in her favour. <spoiler>Yes, I'm talking about the shooting</spoiler>.

As much as I loved incongruence between reality and his perception of himself, I think I would have loved the story more had Dain truly been hideous and had Jessica been less of a Beauty to her beast.

Although, I liked Lord of Scoundrels better than I did Captives of the Night. I do think the latter had a better if under utilised story of the two. In essence Lord of Scoundrels is a straightforward story about two people meeting and working through a random series of obstacles before settling to live the rest of their lives together as a <spoiler>blended</spoiler> family.

4 stars

Series:                                            Scoundrels #3
Pages:                                             375 (paperback)
Published:                                       Originally 1995
Source:                                           Anachronist


(Next week I am up, eeek)

Friday, 9 November 2012

Review: Dream a Little Dream - Sue Moorcroft


What would you give to make your dreams come true?
Liza Reece has a dream. Working as a reflexologist for a troubled holistic centre isn’t enough. When the opportunity arises to take over the Centre she jumps at it. Problem is, she needs funds, and fast, as she’s not the only one interested.

Dominic Christy has dreams of his own. Diagnosed as suffering from a rare sleep disorder, dumped by his live-in girlfriend and discharged from the job he adored as an Air Traffic Controller, he’s single-minded in his aims. He has money, and plans for the Centre that don’t include Liza and her team. 

But dreams have a way of shifting and changing and Dominic’s growing fascination with Liza threatens to reshape his. And then it’s time to wake up to the truth ..

My thoughts:
Moorcroft has real people with real issues, and I love the settings too. Here we are back in Middledip. I like the quiet small towns

In this we have Liza a reflexologist  yes I have never met a heroine who is one before. She used to be fun and out there, but now she is more quiet after something that happened. And with quiet I do not mean quiet, just not out partying all night long. Because she is not afraid to speak her mind.

The hero Dominic has narcolepsy, yes, never met a hero with that before either. And he has it rough, he lost his job cos of it and is not allowed to drive. He is staying with his cousin and he is not happy. I liked him and I liked how it was also portrayed how some just do not get what it's about. Like he could just get over it.

Will these two meet, fall in love and be in lalala land at once, ha, of course not. This is a real romance after all ;) Yes they meet, yes there is an attraction but they will have to work for it, and then work some more. They both have problems and dreams that have to be dealt with first. And in the end this is a couple that will last.

Conclusion:
If you want a little reality with your romance, but still being able to dream yourself away then this is the book for you.

Cover.
Eh

Genre: Romantic Fiction
Pages: 336
Published: Nov 7th 2012 by Choc Lit
Source: For review

Find it on Amazon UK / Amazon US

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Review: A Royal Pain - Megan Mulry


Bronte Talbott follows all of the exploits of the British royals. After all, they're the world's most preeminent dysfunctional family. And who is she to judge? Bronte's own search for love isn't going all that well, especially after her smooth-talking Texan boyfriend abruptly leaves her in the dust.

Bronte keeps a lookout for a rebound to help mend her broken heart, and when she meets Max Heyworth, she's certain he's the perfect transition man. But when she discovers he's a duke, she has to decide if she wants to stay with him for the long haul and deal with the opportunities-- and challenges-- of becoming a royal.

My thoughts:
I do not where to put this book in a way, it's kind of chick-lit, meets contemporary romance meets romantic fiction meets neurotic New Yorkers (ok so not a genre but I could not think of anything else.) Sure it's funny at times, romantic at times, but there is much more too. 

The lovestory takes time, in all ways. It takes time for them to meet, to fall in love and more. I guess I was expecting instalove and a trip to England but no My Lord, that was not in the cards. There is drama, hardship and one woman that sure has a hard time believing in something. Which then makes it more than just a lovestory, it's about finding yourself so that you feel that you are worthy to be loved.

Oh and yes it's also about finding out if you are cut out to be nobility ;)

I do have to admit (it ends well, duh but..) that I did feel at the end that maybe they will have a few good years and then split up. I must be in a mood today.

Anyway, this was a funny and romantic story. Mix in lords and ladies, ad a couple that really want to be together, but have a hard time doing so.

Conclusion:
Royalty meets commoner, what is there not to like.

Cover
Cute

Genre: Romantic Fiction
Pages: 352
Published: November 1st 2012 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Source: For review

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Review: FanGirl - Angel Lawson


My name is not Ruby Miller and this book is not about me. Although, it could be. 

Except it could not, never. I would never ever ever ever go and meet my idol. I’m too much of a coward. This is why I watch Buffy on TV—or DVDs now—and why I am not Buffy.

But Ruby Miller is the zombie slayer. Or at least she pretends to be. 

She’s a fan of zombie comic books and does all the things a young fan does. She spends too much time on the internet and discussing the comics with her friends. She also acted in a fanvideo and goes to the same school the creator of Zocopalypse graphic novels went to. She meets him, Gabe Foster, and ends up a little deeper in the fantasy world than any other fan.

As understandable as the situation in which Ruby meets Gabe for the second time is, I’m disappointed that once again the story starts with a guy coming to a girl’s rescue. After that, Ruby handles it all well, almost too well for an eighteen year old girl. She has her best friend Iris and her parents to support her, but how many of us would know how to act in the sudden spotlight of fame? 

In Fangirl, the fangirl gets to live the other side of the industry. Not just see it, but to live it. Or a fictionalised version of it. Of course there’s romance and predictable relationship drama thrown into the mix to make things more realistic.  

I had most fun with the fannish aspects like the lingo of the story even if certain nods to fanfics made me grit my teeth—Gabriel’s Inferno? Was that really necessary? The footnote commentary I found extraneous. It wasn’t there purely to add snark to Ruby’s voice and the informative facts for non-fans were useless to me because I know what IMDb.com is, but as I said, I’ve lived the fangirl side of things. I am still living it. It was a nice try to avoid infodumping, but it’d been better had the information buried within the body of the text. The romantic subplot was as predictable as ever as was Andrew’s secret.

This is a fun, straightforward Mary Sue self-insert novel for each and every fan of anything and everything ever. It’s labelled as Young Adult fiction but could be read by younger children and even people almost twice the age of the characters. 

3 stars

Series N/A
Pages 283 (kindle .mobi)
Publisher CreateSpace, Self-published
ISBN 9781478180296
Published July 10th 2012
Source Author


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Review: Wolfishly Yours - Lydia Dare


Accustomed to running wild with her Lycan brothers in the swamps of Louisiana, Miss Liviana Mayeux is shipped off to London where Lady Hadley offers to sponsor and assist her. Before she knows it, Vivi finds herself in the middle of a pack of English wolves who are all vying for her attention. But Lady Hadley's handsome son Grayson is determined to keep her out of trouble. If only he knew how...

My thoughts:
Lycans, how can I not love them. Here we meet Grayson (introduced in previous books) and he is getting his match.

If you have read Dare's book you know what to expect, if not, then I will tell you. There is humour, banter, flirting, fun, werewolves trying to behave and romance.

Grayson Hadley drinks, gambles and is not the kind of man mothers introduce daughters too. But he is kind and well, he is a Lycan. He does try his best to behave and now and his brother even have a tutor to help them along. I like him, he knows what he wants.

Liviana is an American sent to England to learn proper manners. Yes you see a pattern here. At one time she say something that, well trust me it will be good. She is not timid and proper. And in the end she is everything a Lycan would want. I also liked that she knew his secret from start.

When these two meet there is a clash of wills. The romance grows, which I liked, because things does not happen at once. Though if I would say something negative is that Livi does something at one point that had me really disappointed. Have some faith woman!

Also, it does work as a standalone

Conclusion:
Dare does it again. She knows her Lycans

Cover:
Nice, but he does not look that happy

Series: Westfield wolves #6
Genre; Historical paranormal romance
Pages: 384
Published: November 6th 2012 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Source. For review

Monday, 5 November 2012

Review: A Walk in the Park - Jill Mansell


It's been a while, but Lara Carson's back in Bath and lives are set to change as a result. Because Lara left her family and boyfriend Flynn eighteen years ago without a word to anyone. Why has no one heard from her since? Her childhood best friend Evie is thrilled Lara's back and able to share her happiness. Evie's about to walk down the aisle with her dream man, Joel. Or so she thinks...Then there's Flynn Erskine, even more attractive now and stunned to see Lara again. The spark between them is as strong as ever, but how's Flynn going to react when he discovers the secret she's been keeping from him? Oh yes, there's a lot of catching up to be done...

My thoughts:
 If you have read Mansell before then you know what you are in for, multiple HEAs. Yay.

First we have Lara who comes back after many years away, and with a teenager in tow. One no one knew about. And in Bath her old boyfriend lives, Flynn, a good guy, but yes also the father of her daughter. Flynn and Lara are so meant for each other, always meant to be. And even though I knew that Mansell loves HEAs I was worried. Co there can always be someone else that would be better.

Evie is Lara's friend and is about to be married, and let's just leave it at that. 

Plus one more HEA and revelation is on store for readers.

Mansell writes about real people, who make mistakes, and who fall in love. Slowly. And that is what I like about her books. The book had a great cast of characters and each one brought something to the story.

Conclusion:
A feel good book. A perfect read when the weather gets colder and the days darker.

Genre: Romantic Fiction
Pages: 448
To be Published: Nov 6th 2012 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Source: For review

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