By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I am almost finished, after plugging away at this for a long, looooong time. Even 220-some years late, and even knowing how it ends (SPOILER=Aaron Burr), I have developed a bit of a crush on Alexander Hamilton. Seriously, grab a $10.00 bill and check him out: the man was a hottie!
I loved this book. I was afraid it would start strong and then go south on me, since that's the luck I've been having lately, but no: I loved the end as much as the beginning, and every moment in between. The story is unique, the writing is wonderful, and oh, my lord, this one has All. The. Feels!
Des Burnside is in the middle of terrible spate of loss. Her mother died when she was eight. Her father died six months ago. Very shortly thereafter, Des lost her job, and her older sister Sarah nearly died in a bike-versus-car accident (Sarah was on the bike). Des had to sell her car, and she drives her father's old limo to the library every day, where she searches diligently for a new job. She's been on countless interviews and received countless rejections, and one day, upon receiving yet another rejection letter, she falls apart and starts to bawl, right there in the library.
Hefin Thomas is a woodcarver working to restore the panels in the library's atrium. He's a Welshman stranded in Ohio after the end of his marriage to an American lawyer. Their marriage crumbled when he came to resent her after being unable to find work and fulfillment in the US, and now that the marriage is over, he plans to return to Wales as soon as the library project is finished.
Des and Hefin had both noticed each other, but it took Des's breakdown to bring them together. Even though their attraction is strong and fast, Hefin's planned departure puts a damper on their passion because they both know their time together is so short. Having followed his ex-wife to America and had the marriage fail, Hefin knows better than to ask Des to come with him, and Des can't just leave: she cares too much for her sister, her two brothers, and the community where she's lived all her life. Similarly, Des would never ask Hefin to stay: she knows how unhappy he has been in Ohio, and having lost her own parents, she won't keep Hefin from his folks, alive but far away in Wales.
Because the reader knows early on that Hefin will be leaving, the pacing of this love story is different from a standard romance. It's not about the Happy Ever After, but about two sensitive, sensible people trying to figure out how to enjoy each other in the time that they have, all while guarding their hearts against inevitable loss. It's bittersweet, but also beautiful, and it works because rather than holding themselves back, and resisting love because they don't have a future, both Hefin and Des set out to experience the whole affair and all of the whirlwind emotions that come with it, even though time is short. I'd never read a romance like this before, and I loved it!
I also loved that the supporting characters and the community (the fictional town of Lakeside, Ohio, modeled after Columbus) were so well-developed. Des's neighborhood was so well-described and so present in the background of every scene, it is as if the setting is a character in the story. Supporting characters (such as the Burnside siblings, Des' landlady, and Des' friend Lacey) are not simply cardboard cutouts, appearing in the story only for advance the main plot between the lovers, but they are fully-drawn individuals with their own backstories, their own motivations, and their own subplots that only casually relate to Des and Hefin's love story.
I've read a few other reviews that suggest that the writing is pretentious and overdone, but I didn't find it so. Sure, there was the occasional sex metaphor that didn't work for me (but that happens all the time), and there were a couple of sentences that ran on a little bit, but those were rare. For the most part, I found the prose really delicious and beautiful, and I will definitely read more in the series!
***ARC provided by NetGalley in return for an honest review.***
This was on sale a little while ago, so I picked it up because I've liked Julie James' more recent stuff (this is her debut), but this was a disappointment. Partly I think that's my fault: as a lawyer/litigator myself, I have little tolerance for the overdramatized, oversimplified simulacrum of legal practice that appears in fiction. Because I know what happens in real life courtrooms, the heroine, Taylor, seems cartoonishly unrealistic: a hotshot lawyer who snarks at judges, disrespects opposing counsel, doesn't trust a junior associate to handle the simplest motion hearings, has never lost a case, is the darling of partners and juries alike, yet appears (by my lights) to have no grasp of nuance, ethics, or evidence. This has bothered me about other James novels, so there is a degree of should-have-known-better in my disappointment with this book, but it's worse here because Taylor's case is more central to the plot than the trial work of the Assistant U.S. Attorneys featured in James's more recent books.
Leaving the Ally McBeal-esque courtroom shenanigans aside, I just didn't feel the romance between Taylor and Jason. Jason is a movie star, voted People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" (hence the title), and he has all the trappings of celebrity: buckets of money, women, a 12,000 square-foot mansion, women, a private jet, women, an Aston Martin Vanquish, and all the women he wants, and any woman he wants. (Again, there's probably an element of should-have-known-better here for me, because I've never been a fan of the current trend of "billionaire" heroes: if a romance is going to work for me, I need a lot more verisimilitude.) Jason is prepping for a role as a lawyer and needs to work with Taylor to see how it's done.
They get off on the wrong foot when the entitled Jason stands Taylor up twice. She'd have blown him off then and there, but because he's a big, important guy who could become a big, important client of the law firm, Taylor's boss won't let her. The story follows a pretty formulaic enemies-to-lovers plot arc, with both of them secretly attracted to the other even as they needle and annoy one another.
Jason's attraction to Taylor makes sense. I imagine it's refreshing, after years in the Hollywood bubble, to meet someone who isn't looking for attention, who isn't with him just for the reflected glory of being seen with the It-guy. Taylor's attraction to Jason was, in my opinion, far less believable. At the start of the story, Taylor is still reeling from a broken engagement to a man she caught banging his secretary, and her resistance to Jason's womanizing ways is not just self-protective, it's rational and entirely reasonable. The way she overcomes that resistance is just too hasty and too convenient for my satisfaction, and I just don't believe a woman who cares as much about her career and her independence as we're told Taylor does would blow everything she's worked toward just for the opportunity to be with a pretty face, especially when Jason has done so little, over the course of the book, to prove himself worthy of such sacrifice.
The only thing I enjoyed about this book was Jason's friendship with his much more down-to-earth wingman, Jeremy. Despite his comparatively minor role, he has a depth that the other characters in this story lacked. Jeremy holds this book together. He deserves a story of his own.
As I'm in the middle of reading Julie James' Just the Sexiest Man Alive, and seriously not enjoying it so far, it occurs to me that I'm in the middle of a streak of disappointing let downs by favorite authors. The books attached to this post are just a few of the books and novellas I've read recently, all by authors I love enough to consider auto-buys, and all of whose most recent efforts have been (in my not-so-humble opinion) well below their usual standards. I feel like my best girls are phoning it in! Is it just me?
All of this disappointment is contributing to the reading slump I've been suffering. Maybe I need to start over with some new people. What are you reading that excites you? Bonus points for authors I've never tried.
"Been there. Done that." Then he grinned slyly, unable to resist, and proudly pointed out several other Lakers girls. "And that. Oh, and that and that, too." He winked deviously. "Together."
"And amazingly, combined they total one brain." Jeremy replied dryly.
Jason shook his head regretfully at this.
"Unfortunately, not quite."
Yes, let's portray all cheerleaders as easy and stupid... because that's never been done before.
My Uncle Rob sent this to my boys as a gift. This is the same uncle whose favorite joke revolves around the phrase "Pull my finger." A bit to my dismay, Uncle Rob's brand of humor, including this book, is right up the average preschooler's alley.
Betty and Billy bring Walter home from the pound. At first they think he just needs a bath. Then they think he's just nervous. But no, it turns out he's just a farting dog. They take him to the vet. They change his diet. Nothing helps. Dad says Walter will have to go back to the pound, but then, amazingly, Walter's flatulence saves the day!
My three-year-old adores this book. He thinks it's uproariously funny. He would rate it a full five stars. He thinks about it long after we've finished reading, and always spends the next several days asking countless questions about Walter the farting dog, often at the most inopportune places and times... and that's why my rating is only three stars.
James Marshall's George and Martha stories were some of my favorite read-aloud books when I was a kid (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). I thought the idea of pouring split pea soup into one's loafers was hilarious, and I loved the way Martha got revenge on George for violating her privacy in the bathtub. Now, I am delighted to find that these stories are truly timeless, and my little boys (1 and 3) love them as much as I did.
It is that time again! Time for a chance to PIMP your booklikes blog. You know you want it!!!
Check out the last winner - what do you think? Pimped?
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Extra bit of awesome. If this giveaway reaches 1K entries - another winner will be added. That means two people will have their booklikes blog pimped. Here is hoping, right? If I only get 100 entries, I will form a support group for rejected designers. Anyone can join...
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I have enjoyed what I've read so far of Julie Anne Long's Pennyroyal Green series, but Between the Devil and Ian Eversea really didn't work for me. I formed a visceral dislike of the heroine--well, both main characters, really, but mostly the heroine--very early on, and it took most of the book for me to overcome that animus enough to root for her happy ever after.
Titania "Tansy" Danforth is an orphaned American heiress who has to marry well in order to secure her inheritance (which, of course, will then not be hers at all, but rather her husband's--but that's a legal reality which the story entirely glosses over). In order to meet suitably eligible bachelors, she's come to stay with her late father's friend, the Duke of Falconbridge, whom Long's readers will recognize as the new husband of the youngest Eversea sister, Genevieve. (Falconbridge and Genevieve's story was told in Long's What I Did For a Duke.)
Tansy is seriously annoying. She is Mary Sue beautiful on the outside--blonde, blue-eyed, statuesque (snore)--and vapid and shallow on the inside. In her first scene, the newly-arrived Tansy's introduction to Falconbridge and Genevieve is interrupted by a lovesick swain crooning to Tansy outside the window. This Italian stud fell in love with her on the crossing from America and followed her to the Eversea estate, and Tansy tells Falconbridge, with wide-eyed innocence, that she has no idea why the fellow would do such a thing. Except that it turns out that she absolutely does know why: she invited Giancarlo's attentions, enjoyed his flirtations, and completely led him on, because the sea voyage was boring and Tansy likes to be the center of attention.
Once installed in Sussex, Tansy's self-absorbed coquettishness continues. She isn't happy unless everyone acknowledges that she's the prettiest girl in the room. She flirts and flatters incessantly, determined to turn the heads of every bachelor around, even if some of those bachelors aren't "eligible" (including at least two men who are already engaged to other women). Don't get me wrong: I like a confident heroine who knows how to handle herself around men, and I know it's the men, not Tansy, who are breaking their commitments, and that they don't have to return her flirtations. Yet there is a competitiveness to Tansy's behavior. She is jealous of other women, and she collects suitors in order to build herself up and "win" a competition that no one else is playing. Worse, she doesn't appear to notice or care that she's hurting people and wrecking relationships in the process.
So, who is the perfect match for this princess? Why, jaded rake Captain Ian Eversea, of course! Long's readers will know Ian from previous books in the series as an inveterate manwhore whose most notable prior accomplishment involved getting caught in bed with Falconbridge's fiancee (prior to Genevieve) and being forced to climb out of her chamber, naked, and do the ultimate walk of shame back to his lodgings. Even within the pages of this book, he sleeps with two other women before his attentions become snared by Toxic Tansy. Like Tansy's flirtations, his sexual adventures are conquests without affection or deeper emotion, so in a way, maybe these two are perfect for each other.
To be fair, neither Tansy nor Ian are as one-dimensional as this review makes them out to be, and that's why I kept reading despite my dislike of both characters. Tansy is an orphan who was never secure in her parents' love, and I suppose her flirtatious behavior can be more charitably characterized as a damaged, lonely girl's misguided attempts to secure the affection she so desperately craves. Ian is a veteran tormented by memories of war, determined to hold himself aloof because he's already suffered too much loss in life. When they finally come together, their courtship is believable, though it fell flat for me because I disliked them both too much to care very much if they found happiness together.
One quote I have to point out from this book, in the vein of WT-everlasting-F: Tansy wins a marksmanship contest and explains, "Americans. We're born knowing how to shoot things, I suppose. All those bears and wolves and Indians from which we need to defend ourselves." (page 160). Yup, she did just list "Indians," along with wild animals, in the category of "things Americans like to shoot." I'm sure Long, through Tansy, meant this as a joke, but hoo-boy, did I not find it funny.
It's been about a week, and for reasons unknown, I suddenly have no attention span for reading. It's not that I got discouraged reading boring stuff: I have new books on my TBR from writers I'm excited about: Rainbow Rowell, Meredith Duran, Julie Anne Long, Julie James, Kit Rocha. All favorites, but every time I have a few minutes to read, I can't seem to concentrate, and I go off and do something else.
I hate when this happens. Sometimes my brain just turns off to reading, as if a switch got flipped, and it can take forever to turn it back on. Law school sucked away any desire I had for pleasure-reading for years. I so hope this slump is temporary!
Help pull me out of this slump. What are you reading? Tell me all about it, as enthusiastically as you can!
This is an important, sweeping history and condemnation of the War on Drugs, full of real-world anecdotes and statistics to back up the premise that every time the government or prohibition movements manage to crack down on one substance, Americans shift to using another, making "progress" in prohibition impossible. The chapters on the hypocrisy of U.S. global policy vis-à-vis U.S. drug policy to be especially thought provoking--(e.g., evidence the CIA aided and abetted opium/heroin traffickers in Laos in the 60s-70s, aided and abetted cocaine traffickers in Latin America in the 80s by working with the Contras, and the U.S. military turning an intentional blind eye to opium use and trafficking in Afghanistan today--even though the narcotics trade funds the Taliban). As entertaining as it was informative, I found myself laughing out loud page after page.
My one fairly significant complaint (and it's a doozy) is Mr. Grim's laissez-faire approach to source attribution. Although this book is brim-full of statistics, there are no footnotes, endnotes, or even a bibliography. The 250-page book is followed by a 3-page "Notes" section that provides references to major sources in only glancing detail, but without anything approaching the specificity a reader would need to go look up the source on one's own. I suspect this stems from Grim's background as a journalist: no one wants their newspaper all cluttered up with footnotes and parentheticals, of course. However, a serious academic endeavor such as a full-length book requires far more detailed source attribution. In the "Notes" section and at several points in the text, Grim writes that he will post links to sources--particularly the numerous studies from which he gleans his many statistics--on his website,YourCountryOnDrugs.com, but as of this posting, that website appears not to exist. My own experience and world view make me predisposed to agree with most of Grim's theories, but the lack of attribution leaves me skeptical: I fear that those who support the country's current drug policies will point to the lack of citation (as well as Grim's unapologetic narratives of his own drug experiences) to undercut the legitimacy of his argument, and that would be a shame.
Wilbur's favorite story is the Legend of the Golden Snail, a magical "snailing ship" controlled by the Grand Enchanter. Wilbur's mother makes him a tricorn cap, and Wilbur and his trusty sidekick (his cat) gather supplies and embark on a flight of imagination, sailing to the Ends of the Earth to find the Golden Snail. On the journey, they encounter strange and wondrous sights: a wilting butterfly tree (which Wilbur waters), a sea monster snared in a net (which Wilbur cuts free), and lantern fish beset by pirates (whom Wilbur routs). All of Wilbur's good turns result in help when he and his little boat get into trouble, subtly teaching kids the lesson that kindness pays.
The story is great, but the best part of this book is the illustrations, which are simply gorgeous: beautifully composed, full of brilliant color and rich detail. My son often asks me to wait before turning the pages just so he can stare at the pictures for a while. Also, every page has a snail hidden somewhere in the illustration, so when the story is done, kids can go back and find them, adding yet more fun to an already pretty great book.
I just opened my email to find I have a $73 Amazon credit as a result of an Antitrust legal settlement with various eBook publishers. I'm not sure I've ever been so excited to have been ripped off!
I wanted to like this much more than I actually did. It came highly recommended by a good friend from college, and I'm always sorry when friends and family recommend books to me and I end up not sharing the love. The other reason I really wanted to like this is that it's clear the author did a TON of research. This book is set mostly in the early 1790s in the wilds of upstate New York. The protagonist, Elizabeth, comes from England hoping to find more freedom for women in the New World, but alas, her father has plans to marry her off to extricate himself from financial difficulties. Elizabeth foils his plot when she elopes with Nathaniel Bonner, a white man raised by Native Americans and the son of Dan'l Bonner, whom readers may recognize as the character played by Daniel Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans (and in James Fenimore Cooper's book by the same name). (The Publisher's Blurb touts this as a sequel to Last of the Mohicans, but it really isn't: Donati borrows some characters for cameos -- including bizarre, distracting appearances by Ian Murray and Claire Fraser of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series -- but the story is her own.)
Anyway, as I was saying, Donati plainly did sh*t-tons of research before sitting down to write this epic: she clearly knows what was going on in the English society Elizabeth left, in the rugged settlements white farmers were carving out on the western frontiers of the fledgling United States, in the Mohawk and Mohican cultures threatened by those white settlers, and even a little bit about the Jacobite uprising in Scotland and the French Revolution that were shaping European politics and whose impact was felt even in the New World. In addition to these global developments, Donati demonstrates an impressive grasp of microcosmic detail as well -- she describes white settlers' homes and Native longhouses (and all the sights and scents therein) with equal vibrancy, and how to track, kill, preserve, and prepare big game, and includes countless other details that bring history to life.
... And yet, for all that, I found this epic (and at 877 pages, "epic" is not an overstatement) to be rather bloodless and cold. I'm the kind of person who cries at sappy greeting card commercials. I'd guess, on average, romance novels bring me to tears at least twice a month. It isn't hard. Into the Wilderness had plenty of plot twists that should have turned on my water faucets -- there are perils, there are cruel injustices, there are deaths of blameless innocents -- and yet I was unmoved. Donati's attention to historical detail may actually have been part of the book's undoing: she is so busy telling the reader all about the setting and the history and the minute details, that she forgets to bring the feels, to show why we should feel invested in her characters' lives and struggles.
I liked Elizabeth and Nathaniel, but their love didn't engage my emotions. Honestly, it had an insta-love feel to it (which is hard to explain since they didn't marry until about 300 pages into the book), but from their first meetings, Elizabeth aligned her loyalties and her trust with Nathaniel even above her family, in a way that seemed precipitous. (Not so much why she wouldn't trust her family -- her father and brother are pompous fatheads -- but why she should ally herself with Nathaniel on such short acquaintance.)
The failure to engage the reader's emotions persisted throughout the entire book, and while I was interested in the story, now that I've finished it, I don't care what became of the characters and I likely won't read the rest of the books in the series.
As parents, we all have different things that push our buttons and make us crazy. My three-year-old's propensity to interrupt adult conversations is one of my big, red, parenting buttons. My wife is trying to tell me about her day? "Mumma? Mumma! MummaMummaMummaMumma!" Grammy is trying to explain how the baby got a big swollen goose egg on his head when he bumped into the coffee table? "Mumma! Mumma! MUMMMMMAAAA!" The adults at the dinner table are talking about how it is possible, in this day and age, to just lose an enormous passenger jet? "Look, Mumma! Mumma! Look at me, Mumma!" I'm on the phone with state police, taking an after-hours call about a fatal car wreck? "Mumma! Who's on the phone, Mumma? I wanna talk, too, Mumma! MUMMMAAAA!!!"
Enter Interrupting Chicken. Because as long as I am able to keep a sense of humor about this thing that makes me nucking futs, I will be able to resist the urge to abandon my son in a snowbank.