In which I try to read outside of my genres and remember why that doesn’t work

It feels like I’ve been on a bookish speed date, trying different reads and quickly dropping them. These are some of my latest misses.

True Love by Jude Deveraux

loveMy first and probably last book by the author. I received an ARC of the book during a conference and thought I’d give it a try. It started as a light, summer read but it was long and dull. Too many characters with vague connection, too much talk about Nantucket, inexplicable secrets (as in, they were pointless secrets and I couldn’t understand why they were being kept in the first place), and a romantic couple that didn’t really work for me as a reader. Alix did not read like a 20-something and Jared was not particularly sexy as a love match. I finished it, but only because I felt I was in too deep to give up. Nothing is really resolved, but there’s an epilogue to package it all neatly.

Received via Random House rep.

Losing It by Cora Carmack

losingI wanted to love this book. I was so excited when it went on sale for the Nook, I downloaded it right away, but about 30 pages in, I knew it was not going to work. I like the idea of independent 20-somethings taking life on their own terms, but there was too much cheese and not enough substance. I just couldn’t take it seriously when the main character picks up a boy who just happens to be British (OMG! Accent! And Shakespeare! He’s so hot!!) and immediately goes all gaga and clumsy. I quickly lost it with this one.

The Edge of Never by JA Redmerski

neverThis started in much the same vein as Losing It–skanky friend wants to take sensible friend out so she can get wild and get laid–but it soon became depressed girl goes on trip to nowhere after having a bitchfight with skanky friend. There’s a lot of riding in buses and being clueless about potential dangers, but there’s an equally troubled, hot guy to save the day. I got about a quarter of the way into the book, but just didn’t care enough to find out what happens between Cam and Andrew.

Received this one via NetGalley.

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not just another werewolf novel

Moonglow by Kristen Callihan

After reading Firelight, I was intrigued enough by the mythology created by Callihan to want to give Moonglow a try. Second in the Darkest London series, Moonglow picks up some time after Firelight left off. Archer and Miranda make several appearances as secondary characters, but the real protagonists in this story are Ian Ranulf, former Miranda stalker, and Daisy, Miranda’s older, recently widowed sister.

First introduced in Firelight, Ian is a werewolf with a yen for red-heads and a troubled past of his own. Given the troubled werewolf element, there is plenty of potential for cliché, but Callihan manages to establish a mythology all of her own, her werewolves living as part of society and serving as a sort of underground, supernatural kingdom right in the center of London.

Like Miranda, the widowed Daisy is an unconventional heroine well able of looking after herself, even during a werewolf attack. And that’s where the action starts, when a rogue kills Daisy’s would-be paramour when they set out for a clandestine tryst. Arriving on the scene at the right moment, Ian, exiled were and former member of Clan Ranulf, comes to Daisy’s aid just on time. As Archer’s former friend and Miranda’s caddish hanger-on, Ian has little to recommend him to Daisy but his personality. It just happens that his insouciant attitude is just what Daisy needs after a troubled marriage and tedious mourning.

Callihan does a great job of portraying lust/love as a companionate, mutually enjoyable thing. Like Miranda and Archer, Ian and Daisy are a pair of equals–neither is a naive innocent in this relationship. Even as Daisy comes into her own and discovers her own special talent for… let’s call it magical horticulture… Ian finds his own place through his relationship with her.

Especially interesting to me is Callihan’s concept of wolfhood, as explained by Ian:

“Look, we don’t know how we started, why we live this endless life, or from where we came. It’s all speculation. But the closest our elders can figure, it has to do with reincarnation. Once we were wolves. Over several lifetimes, our sprits [sic] evolved and we became men, but the wolf spirit lived on as well. Think of it as a soul divided.”

These wolves are not the usual bite-victims, but a kind of royal family. The elemental powers possessed by the Ellis sisters, as well as the GIMs (Ghost in the Machine), shapeshifters, demons, and who knows what that people this version of London add an extra layer of depth to what would otherwise be another historical romance.

But I really must stop waxing lyrical. This really is just a fun paranormal historical romance with some interesting twists, a side of mystery, and a number of sexy bits that are bound to make you blush, if you’re the blushing type.

I received an advance copy of Moonglow from Grand Central Publishing via Netgalley.

Last post of 2010

Goddess of the Rose by PC Cast

Mikado “Mikki” Empousai has always had a special affinity with roses, as did her mother and grandmother. When she starts to have tantalizing dreams about a mystery lover, she starts to wonder if it’s the result of loneliness and an overactive imagination, or something more.  It doesn’t help that her dream man bears a striking resemblance to the mythical beast statue that guards the local rose garden. Little does Mikki realize that it’s a sign of a change to come, an awakening that brings her close to her true destiny and challenges her concept of dreams and reality.

I picked this book up on a whim at the used paperback store by my old job. The cover was a bit more sensual than the kind of covers that usually pique my interest, but I was intrigued when I read the blurb and realized that it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling.

I have mixed feeling about the novel itself… I found the concept original. The plot draws on Greek mythology and casts the Beast as the misunderstood Minotaur who guards Hecate’s Realm of the Rose, the place where the mundane world’s dreams are made. Mikki is portrayed as a strong, determined woman willing to chase her dreams, while the Beast is presented as a creature who is well aware of his position as a man-beast. The magickal elements also seemed a natural part of the world created by Cast. However, I had some trouble with the prose. I’m very particular about my idea of romance, dialog, and description when it comes to sex in literature, and the language just fell short in my opinion.

Blameless

Blameless by Gail Carriger

The Parasol Protectorate has become my new favorite series. I’ve said it before–I’ve steered clear of series books for a while, but I am completely taken with these. If I had to describe them in a sentence, I would say they are: Supernatural Victorian steampunk comedy romance with a dash of mystery and parasol proddings.

I’m sure my b-chan thinks I’ve become a bit barmy over this series 😛 , but even he has been intrigued by my willingness to drive for miles because I must have the next book now! (woe is me… the next part won’t be released until July 2011! It’s HP-type anticipation all over again.)

One of the things that I love about this series (and there are lots of things that I love about this series) is that while it is a supernatural steampunk romance, it is so much more than the sum of its parts. I like the idea of steampunk (I’m a techie, I’m a Victorian geek, steampunk just fits), but I’ve had trouble finishing some works because it seems like the author gets off on explaining how whatever gadget/contraption/element of society works, rather than developing plot and characters. I’ve not had this problem with Carriger’s series. From the Loontwills’ upper-class-twittery to Floote’s taciturn loyalty, Alexia & Co. arrive on the scene fully formed and armed with witty repartee.

These books make me laugh, and that’s not something that often happens when I read. I may be amused, but I don’t often get a fit of the giggles while reading at the uni’s library and/or coffee shop, thereby earning me evil glares from high-strung undergrads.

I’ll end this ramble here…

To avoid being Spoilerific, I’ve placed my synopsis under the cut tag… so read on if you don’t mind a few teensy spoilers.

Avast! There be SPOILERS ahead!

Continue reading

Truly, Madly

This review is based on an ARC copy. I got my copy through Barnes & Noble’s First Look Book Club. This book will be released in February 2010.

Heather Webber’s Truly, Madly is a fast-paced, fun read with a dash of mystery and suspense thrown in for good measure.

Lucy Valentine, daughter of world-renowned matchmaker Oscar Valentine, is a little skeptical when it comes to love and matchmaking, but when her father gets caught in a compromising and career-threatening position, Lucy is left to run Valentine, Inc. and maintain the companies near perfect record for matches. Nevermind that Lucy lost the famous (and secret) power that has made the Valentines successful matchmakers for countless generations, independent Lucy has a job to do and a lot to prove.

But Lucy soon finds that there is more to matchmaking than finding complementary auras. When client Michael Lafferty tells Lucy the story of a long-lost first love, Lucy finds herself tangled in a mystery that she never expected.

Hiring Sean Donahue,  PI, to find  Michael’s old girlfriend, Lucy feels an instant electric connection that challenges everything she’s ever thought about love and attraction.

What is a reluctant matchmaker to do when she knows she’s cursed to never find her own perfect match?

When I first heard about Truly, Madly on the First Look Book Club, I thought it sounded like a fun read and it certainly was. I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, but the book was very readable and I didn’t want to put it down! The blurb on the back of the book promises that there will be at least two other books in the series (there is a preview of the next book, Deeply, Desperately) and I will definitely be looking for them in future.

The characters were charismatic and believable (yes, even with the psychic powers), and the plot was engaging and well-developed.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in a fun romantic mystery. I think fans of Meg Cabot’s series will probably enjoy it as well.

For more information on the Lucy Valentine series, visit Heather Webber’s site