Friday, December 18, 2009

Hmmm... tis a possibility

Tomorrow happens to be Do Nothing But Read Day. Considering that the snowpocalypse is upon us here in the D.C. area, I think I just may have to participate.

Nothing says Happy Holidays like cuddling in a comfy chair with a book, hot cocoa, snacks, and watching the show fall.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Book 89: Black Dogs

TITLE: Black Dogs

AUTHOR: Ian McEwan
STARTED: December 6, 2009
FINISHED: December 8, 2009
PAGES: 150
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Ever since I lost mine in a road accident when I was eight, I have had my eye on other people's parents.

SUMMARY: [From] Set in late 1980s Europe at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Black Dogs is the intimate story of the crumbling of a marriage, as witnessed by an outsider. Jeremy is the son-in-law of Bernard and June Tremaine, whose union and estrangement began almost simultaneously. Seeking to comprehend how their deep love could be defeated by ideological differences Bernard and June cannot reconcile, Jeremy undertakes writing June's memoirs, only to be led back again and again to one terrifying encounter forty years earlier--a moment that, for June, was as devastating and irreversible in its consequences as the changes sweeping Europe in Jeremy's own time. In a finely crafted, compelling examination of evil and grace, Ian McEwan weaves the sinister reality of civilization's darkest moods--its black dogs--with the tensions that both create love and destroy it.

THOUGHTS: I was disappointed in this book. After liking McEwan's Atonement, I expected more from Black Dogs. I wanted to like this book, I really did. But I find that I cannot force myself to like a novel that just isn't my style. I read for stories, and this book was composed more of allegory and political discussion.

What I want to read was a story about the people: the failing marriage, Jeremy acting as a cuckoo, and interaction of the various characters. Instead, I got hoity-toity, holier-than-thou discourse on politics disguised as a novel. I could have cared less when the characters digressed into pages upon pages of political theory discussion. I got enough of that in my poli. sci. courses in college, thank you very much. Passages of this book, the ones that focused on human relationships, were incredibly interesting. Too bad they weren't the whole book.

If McEwan wanted to write a book about communism, he should have written than instead of this bundled mess. There was a great story here, too bad it was hidden by an author who seems to want his readers to know that he is oh-so-much smarter than them.

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book 88: Outlaw Hearts

TITLE: Outlaw Hearts
AUTHOR: Rosanne Bittner
STARTED: November 27, 2009
FINISHED: December 6, 2009
PAGES: 505
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Miranda tried to ignore the image of her father's still-fresh grave as she flicked the reins and goaded the draft horses into a slightly faster gait.

SUMMARY: [From] One year after the Civil War has ended, 20-year-old Miranda Hayes finds herself a widow and an orphan. Knowing that she can't manage her father's farm on the Kansas plains after he is killed by marauding raiders, she decides to search for her brother, who has gone to try his luck in the Nevada gold mines. But on a trip to Kansas City one day, she is brought by fate into contact with the outlaw Jake Harkner, who is wanted in Missouri for murder, theft and rape. In the general store, where both have stopped for supplies, Jake is recognized and a shootout ensues, Miranda herself firing at him in self defense. He escapes, and in a semi-believable plot twist, winds up unconscious in Miranda's cabin. When she discovers him, drained of blood but still alive, it's clear that these two are headed for an unlikely though inevitable partnership, as Miranda seems to be the only person who can help Jake settle his troubled and violent past.

THOUGHTS: This book attempted to be Epic. I mean, the length of time and the breadth of the country it covers is rather daunting. So, it had the right scale, just not the right number of pages. If I had to describe it, it was like Diana Gabaldon decided to reduce the entire Outlander series into a single text. That doesn't mean the book was bad, it just felt a little disjointed and rushed.

I generally enjoyed reading Outlaw Hearts  (Ya gotta love on authors who write Westerns. ); the plot was enjoyable, the writing included just enough description to please me, and the chemistry felt real. Something about the story, however, still felt amiss. I don't know if it was because the heroine was too good, the hero too brooding, or the side plots too large, but something was off just enough to make this book just a good read and not a great read.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book 87: Noble Intentions

TITLE: Noble Intentions

AUTHOR: Katie MacAlister
STARTED: November 25, 2009
FINISHED: November 27, 2009
PAGES: 329
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Gillian Leigh's first social event of the Season began with what many in the ton later labeled as an uncanny warning of Things To Come.

SUMMARY: [From] Noble Britton had suffered greatly at the hands of his first wife, and he refused to fall into the same trap again. This time he intended to marry a quiet, biddable woman who would not draw attention to herself or cause scandal. Gillian Leigh's honest manner and spontaneous laughter attracted him immediately. It mattered little that she was accident-prone; he could provide the structure necessary to guide her. But unconventional to the tips of her half-American toes--toes that one of them was constantly tripping over--his new bride turned the tables on him, wreaking havoc on his orderly life. And worse, demanding he surrender his heart. Perpetually one step behind his beguiling spouse, Noble suffered a banged up head, a black eye, and a broken nose before he realized Gillian had healed his soul and proved that their union was no heedless tumble, but the swoon of true love.

THOUGHTS: Kudos to MacAlister for writing a funny regency. I mean, I was genuinely snickering, giggling, and laughing my way through this book. Aside from the fact that this romance was sloppily written (I had to re-read several passages for them to make sense), this book was quite the inventive romp.

Unlike many of MacAlister's heroines, Gillian is neither TSTL nor whiny. In fact, she is plucky and strong. Her desire to do good is sometimes misguided, but it works for both her character and the story. Additionally, Gillian's chemistry Noble is plain intriguing. There is no leap-off-the-page steaminess, just a general smolder throughout the book. The secondary characters are close to being set-pieces, but their antics are so enjoyable that I rarely noticed.

While the ending scenes were a bit melodramatic compared to the rest of the book, the fact that MacAlister still retains the humor of the rest of the story makes them work.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Monday, December 14, 2009

Book 86: All the Tea in China

TITLE: All the Tea in China

AUTHOR: Jane Orcutt
STARTED: November 23, 2009
FINISHED: November 24, 2009
PAGES: 352
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: I can abide neither a liar not a cheat, but you may be wont to think me such while I here relate my little tale.

SUMMARY: [From] Witty and fun-loving Isabella Goodrich defies cultural expectations and common sense as she sets off to the Orient to become a missionary. Book 1 in the Rollicky Regency series.

THOUGHTS: Yick. I really really really don't like it when the heroines of books piss me off. Isabella is a selfish, preening, bigot. I didn't like her and I didn't particularly care what happened to her in the end. In fact, I liked it when all her plans blew up in her face. Her character deserved it.

When I first started reading this book, I thought it would be the proselytizing that bothered me. Nope. In fact, that part of the story made sense and actually worked. It was Isabella alone who made me want to hurl this book into the fire. Never, in all my romance novel reading, have I dislike a heroine so damn much.

The only reason this book receives a 2/10 is because I liked the fact that the author picked a rarely used setting. Other than that, yick.

RATING: 2/10 [Awful]

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book 85: Catching Fire

TITLE: Catching Fire

AUTHOR: Suzanne Collins
STARTED: November 21, 2009
FINISHED: November 22, 2009
PAGES: 391
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air.

SUMMARY: [From] Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

THOUGHTS: I rejoiced with much Woohooing when this book finally came up in my queue at the library. As I was home for the Thanksgiving holiday, I devoured this book much in the manner I eat stuffing. (God, I love stuffing.) I read and read, ignored my family, and read and read, and looked up to watch some football plays, and read and read. I was generally happy, but partially disappointed.

Catching Fire is a very good book, but it was not nearly as exciting as Hunger Games. The pacing threw me off. It was very slow in the first half, but way to fast in the second half. Part of me wonders if Collins wrote the book that way on purpose to make the reader feel what Katniss feels - a sense of foreboding followed by a flurry of action and drama. If that was her goal, kudos, she succeeded; too bad I found it a tad bit annoying.

Luckily, Catching Fire retains all of the perfectly written relationships and creative plot lines of the first book in the series. Collins has done a fabulous job of pulling the story apart one layer at a time. She reveals secrets and twists that make sense for the plot, surprise me, and don't come out of left field. I am already incredibly anxious for the third book because I genuinely do not know where the plot is going, how the story will end, and who will end up with whom.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Book 84: Dear Jane Austen

TITLE: Dear Jane Austen: A Heroine's Guide to Life and Love
AUTHOR: Patrice Hannon
STARTED: November 20, 2009
FINISHED: November 21, 2009
PAGES: 158
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Who is there?

SUMMARY: [From] Women have looked to Jane Austen's heroines as models of appropriate behavior for nearly two centuries. Who better to understand the heart of a heroine than Austen? In this delightful epistolary "what if," Austen serves as a "Dear Abby" of sorts, using examples from her novels and her life to counsel modern-day heroines in trouble, she also shares with readers a compelling drama playing out in her own drawing room. Witty and wise—and perfectly capturing the tone of the author of Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice—Dear Jane Austen is as satisfying as sitting down to tea with the novelist herself.

THOUGHTS: Ummm... what? Seriously, what was the purpose of this book. I know what it was supposed  to do (offer advice), but that's not what it did. What it actually did was leave a perplexed look on my face. Why did I even bother reading this? The advice is something you could get out of a teen magazine, doctored up to sound revelatory.

Points were garnered, however, for the clever turn of phrase and keeping the language sounding as if it came from Austen herself.

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Book 83: The Dangers of Deceiving a Viscount

TITLE: The Dangers of Deceiving a Viscount

AUTHOR: Julia London
STARTED: November 12, 2009
FINISHED: November 19, 2009
PAGES: 368
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: William Darby, Viscount Summerfield, Baron Ivers, rode the last mile to Wentworth Hall full bore.

SUMMARY: [From] Lady Phoebe Fairchild is well aware that the ton would be appalled to learn of a young lady of quality involved in a trade. Therefore, she resorts to selling her beautiful handmade gowns under a fictitious name: Madame Dupree. So when circumstances force her to visit the estate of William Darby, the Viscount of Summerfield, to design ball gowns for his sisters, she assumes Madame's identity. Phoebe's discomfort in her new position as hired help is nothing compared to her visceral attraction to the viscount himself. Heathenishly handsome and shamelessly seductive, Will invites her to be his mistress -- and Phoebe is shockingly tempted to accept. But as their desire for each other grows and the risk of exposure becomes even greater, Phoebe is in dire danger of losing her reputation, her livelihood -- and her chance of becoming the bride of the man whose passion has claimed her forever.

THOUGHTS: This felt way too prolonged for my taste. The whole story was rather contrived for a London book. Honestly, this book felt like it could have been half the length. That said, London still has a knack for chemistry and bloody good writing.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]