4 star review

Review – This is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland

This is All I Ask

Set near the Scottish border at a rugged castle on the edge of the sea, this is the story of a courageous lord who lost everything he held dear. Of a strong young woman willing to sacrifice everything for happiness. Two lost souls who find in each other a reason to live again, to laugh again, and to love for the first time…

I am not quite entirely sure how this book ended up on my TBR, particularly with none of the other books in the series read or an my TBR. But I suspect it somehow came to my attention after reading Candle in the Window and becoming interested in how blind protagonists are treated after reading The Arrangement.

It turns out that this is also somewhat a paranormal, and we have witches, I suspect from they way they are presented here they have been meddling along in the series and will continue to meddle. So yep, a historical paranormal with a blind hero.

Fortunately it is only a touch paranormal, the rest is just historical. We have the rough, tough cream puff hero, who protects himself due to prior emotional wounding. He also happens to be blind, and a little self-pitying. So while he will marry the heroine due to a long-standing promise and his honor, he is determined not to love her or care for her (beyond being a proper husband) or like it in any way. We have the kind, but living in fear heroine who initially fears the hero, but learns to first trust and then love, and then learns courage and her own self-worth. And then we have a cast of humorous and sympathetic characters, and of course the heroine’s father-the villain.

Man, oh, man, this book is almost painfully sweet. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just, it is so sweet, but you know the other shoe is about to drop sometime. It is also on occasion, whether intentionally or not, kind of humorous. Not like it is a comedy, but just enough to leaven the topics and make you feel happy reading it instead of entrenched in the doom and gloom of what are some pretty awful situations. And we also have a hero who is in touch with his own emotions on a level that I find delightful but that may leave readers who prefer a more traditional alpha hero feeling a little uncomfortable, YMMV.

And another thing I really enjoyed, we have no miracles here. Things are what they are, our characters have to live through and with the things that have happened to them, but separately and together they grow as individuals and find their way through and together. Which is a mishmash way of saying we have a delightful happily ever after with two characters who are more than happy to depend on one another but aren’t exactly dependent on one another, if you see what I mean. Looking at this objectively, I would probably have given this 3 stars, but , but for me this is one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and it is an emotional event that I will likely return to. However, the rest of the two series this book is entwined with seem to have a significant number of time travel books, so I doubt it will be a glommable series for me.

This Is All I Ask (de Piaget, #6; de Piaget/MacLeod, #3)

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2 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

Quality of SIlence.jpg

Set in the extreme landscape of Alaska, THE QUALITY OF SILENCEfollows the story of Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby. Yasmin arrives in Alaska to be told her husband, Matt, is dead, the victim of a catastrophic accident. Yasmin, unable to accept this as truth, sets out into the frozen winter landscape, taking Ruby with her in search of answers. But as a storm closes in, Yasmin realises that a very human danger may be keeping pace with them. And with no one else on the road to help, they must keep moving, alone and terrified, through an endless Alaskan night.

In a story that explores the very limits of human resilience, The Quality of Silence is as much about a mother learning to hear her deaf daughter as it is about their journey across the vastness of Alaska, and proves, once again, that Rosamund Lupton is a storyteller of class and elegance.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I picked this up because I am always interested in a books treatment of a Deaf character. So bear in mind, much of my perspective will be from my interest in that topic. FYI, this has previously been released, but for some reason it is being rereleased.

And the Deaf 10 year old is beautifully written. We get such fascinatingly clear insight into her perception of words and language, and it feels real to me. What I wasn’t so enamored of was how the narrative jumped between Ruby and her mother’s perspectives and Yasmin’s present and past. It was a jumble that was difficult to follow and often felt stilted and disjointed.

There’s a lot going on in this book though. There’s something very meta about Ruby’s linking of current events with her perspective of language, plus there is the relationship angst between Yasmin and Matt, and on top of that there is the mystery/thriller aspects. It is busy, so while I understand that this is literary fiction rather than genre fiction and that the author is trying to do something here, it is just too many things. I wish the author had stuck with only playing with the narrative structure with Ruby, and pared things down a bit. As it is, trying to cobble together the disparate narrative structures of the two heroines, while giving us insight that may have made Yasmin and Matt’s relationship more poignant, caused the story to drag in ways that often made reading this story a chore.

However, the portrayal of Ruby was evocative and compelling. She is what kept me reading, and I think that despite my misgivings about this book, I may recommend it to the older Deaf students in my life.

“CREEPY: looks like hands turning into jellyfish; tastes like cakes that are alive; feels: too close”

“I don’t want Mum to hear something on the radio again or on Mr. Azizi’s CB and for me not to know what’s happening till later. So I’m going to use Voice Magic. That’s what it’s called, like, “Hey, presto! I can hear and speak! Ta-da!” It’s this program I have on my laptop that turns someone’s mouth-voice into typed words on my screen. That’s the magic part. And because the screen is lit up it’s my secret weapon to hear even in the dark. Though it’s not always convenient to be carrying a laptop around. And it doesn’t work if there are lots of voices, because it scrambles them all up together. But if there’s just one person, you’re OK, so I can just imagine me on a dark night with a boy wanting to whisper lovey-dovey things to me, and I make him wait while I pull my laptop out of my enormous handbag. That’s a joke! I don’t have a handbag. And I don’t have a boyfriend. I AM TEN and I think it’s really silly that people in Year Six have boyfriends or handbags.”

Ruby is simply delightful. And as irked as I was with her mother, who was so focused on forcing her to fit into the hearing world, the “real” world, so someday others would hear her, that she refused to hear her daughter herself, in many ways it was lovely to see her learn her daughter. And relearning herself. So the meandering narrative mirrors the journey of discovery; not only of the mystery, but of relationships, and of self. But frack, it drags in so many ways. If the author had tightened things up I think the suspense would have had greater impact, driving the story as a whole.

Things picked up I guess at around 65-70% in, and from there things really moved. And we get a really poignant punch from the continued use of language from both Ruby and Yasmin as a metaphor for their lives and selves. The mixture of use of sign language, text, and voice really hit me in the feels. And I thought perhaps this would be a book I was glad I had read, even aside from my love for Ruby as a characters.

Fair warning though, the ending was left almost wholly in the air. We never find out what happened to Mr. Azizi, or Coby or secondary characters. And we don’t even get any resolution for our main characters. There were no neat resolutions and I was entirely discomfited by where things were left. If you are looking for a love conquers all, heroines prevail over the bad guys, righteous winners, etc, well this isn’t your book. And it was painful, because in spite of the irritating meanderings, or maybe because of them, you really get to know the characters, and feel for and with them, so to be cut off from them so abruptly was literally, physically painful. Consequently it isn’t my book either. I don’t necessarily require a happy ending (though I infinitely prefer them), but personally I do require resolved endings. It was what made me so nuts about Gone with the Wind, a physical pain I still feel all these decades later, and why I pined until a librarian kindly directed me to Scarlet, and why I accept that as cannon…but that is perhaps a post for another day. In any event, the plot twist at the end downgraded my overall rating even further.

I honestly want to cry, but I am also remarkably angry at how it all played out. So 2 very personal stars, mostly only that high because of Ruby. But I would add, if you can handle an ambiguous ending it is well written, and if you enjoy books that play with the actual use of language itself, not just the words but the actual use of language, then this might be your book instead of mine.

The Quality of Silence

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2.5 star review

Review – Nexis by A.L. Davroe

Nexis

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

In the domed city of Evanescence, appearance is everything. A Natural Born amongst genetically-altered Aristocrats, all Ella ever wanted was to be like everyone else. Augmented, sparkling, and perfect. Then…the crash. Devastated by her father’s death and struggling with her new physical limitations, Ella is terrified to learn she is not just alone, but little more than a prisoner.

Her only escape is to lose herself in Nexis, the hugely popular virtual reality game her father created. In Nexis she meets Guster, a senior player who guides Ella through the strange and compelling new world she now inhabits. He offers Ella guidance, friendship…and something more. Something that allows her to forget about the “real” world, and makes her feel whole again.

But Nexis isn’t quite the game everyone thinks it is.

And it’s been waiting for Ella.

YA/NA, can we ever really escape this genre. It is so ubiquitous and so tempting. Look at that cover, check out that blurb, can you see why I would be tempted?

So this is a post-apocalytic dystopian where there are strict class rules and little to no room for upward mobility. Ella, grew up on the lower fringes of the Aristocracy, and is a Natural, meaning that unlike most of the Aristocrats (particularly the Elites) she has not been Altered or Modified-though she does still have a thought modification chip as everyone is her world does. But her father, in one of those rare opportunities for upward mobility, creates a society altering virtual reality game that raises them to the heights of their society.

If you note all the random capitalizations, that is as the author intends, as there is an explanation in the initial info-dumping of the story about how they spell things differently now and they use more capitalization.

There are a ton of really interesting concepts, it is kind of like we are plopped down into a hyper technical Panem Capital, but instead of the 13 districts we have a virtual wasteland which all but the Aristocrats must scrabble to survive in. And I suspect that if I read more YA/NA I might recognize more of the motifs. It wasn’t that it is a poorly done mashup, the world building is cohesive enough. It is just that some things seem vaguely familiar, as if I have read the blurbs or seen the movie trailers, not enough to make me think of something directly, like I did with the Hunger Games, but just enough to catch my attention. And I think that all these concepts being jammed in were what made it such a slog. Plus, it took about the first quarter of the book to really feel like things were going anywhere and it just about bludgeons you to death on the life lessons of loving yourself and humanity’s penchant for destruction. There’s no subtlety at all.

But then we hit the 25% mark and things seem to speed up. I spent a good bit of that section with an uncomfortable lump in the pit of my stomach. Basically what is happening is this: Ella has her Real Life which is unabashedly awful, and Nexis Life which is mostly very good. In Real Life she has basically no one, and in Nexis Life she has friends in the form of the Trickesters and a boy she loves. In Real Life she needs to find out why the bad things are happening (that is very obtuse but I don’t want to spoil it) and in Nexis she is on a quest with her fellow Tricksters. I make it sound prosaic, but it isn’t it is really good and there is quite a bit of emotional growth.

And then at around the 50% mark things slow back down to a crawl. There is still a lot of emotional stuff going on, but the story itself seems to revert back to its snail pace and I almost couldn’t force myself through it. Yes we were able to see the relationship between Ella and Gus (her love interest) deepen. But somehow that didn’t seem like enough. And there were some action adventure sequences too, but that didn’t seem enough either. I know the whole thing is only around 300 pages, but it seriously feels like the longest book I have ever read.

And then bang, at around the three quarters mark we are back to warp speed and an enormous head trip. Actually several of them, and it was very well done, interesting and exciting. I became excited to see how the book would end and where the series would go. Then the author sets up for a freaking love triangle for the next book and the love interest I like better does something boneheaded too.

Honestly I struggled with how to rate this. It was hard for me to finish and there were parts I didn’t like. But there were parts I absolutely enjoyed too. And the entire concept was really interesting, and I genuinely like Ella and Gus, though his absolute enrapture over her is a slightly off-putting and one of those NA tropes I don’t care for. And I will almost certainly read the next one because I am fiendishly curious where this whole thing is going. But you know what? I have a feeling that I will start out a bit miffed when I do start it and I hope the author resolves the whole love triangle thing PDQ.

So where does that leave me? Not a stellar rating, but an OK one. And I think this may turn out to be a popular book, probably deservedly so. It is well written, intricate, and has some heft to it. It is just that I am at least a half step out of sync from this book’s primary audience.

And if you want another perspective and some more information on the history of this world, check out this blog.

Nexis

 

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3.5 star review

Review – Only a Promise by Mary Balogh

Only A promise

While I have read some very good books of late, they have been decidedly less optimistic in tone and I felt the need for change. Fortunately the Houston Public Library was able to come to my aid. Since the previous four books gave me the warm fuzzies, I figured this would hit the spot.

Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on . . . and find a wife to secure an heir to his family’s title and fortune.

Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother’s godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.

Yes, I figured there would be a high degree of angst, this being book 5 in the Survivors Club series (a group of friends who survived the Napoleonic wars at great personal cost). But based on past behavior I expected an unmitigated happy ending, which of course this being Balogh I got.

The survivor here is Ralph, but Chloe has survived more than her fair share of heartache. They are two abjectly lonely people, no matter how they fill their lives with people and things to do. And much of their romance and being in their heads was lovely. But damn me if this wasn’t absolutely depressing for the first three quarters of the book. Chloe and Ralph, along with us readers are ran through the proverbial ringer. There are no Big Misunderstandings, no Big Secrets, just two lonely and damaged people finding their way, often painfully, to each other. And then we see the turn, and for me at least I realized that that turn had been inexorable, it was only when mired in the midst of tragedy that there seemed to be no way out of the morass. I can only suspect that our two protagonists felt much the same way.

And damned if I don’t sound overwrought and melodramatic. I suspect it is just that Balogh makes me feel that way. The ending though was rather delightful, if wrapped up a bit too neatly. But I just didn’t care if it was overly perfect and overly neat, I wanted the sweetly sappy and romantic and that is just what I got. And I felt that Ralph’s PTSD was handled very sensitively and that while he found true love and happiness, it wasn’t that he was cured by true love.

This was another satisfying read by Balogh and I can’t wait for the 6th one to come available from the library.

Only a Promise: A Survivors' Club Novel

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3.5 star review

Review – Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend

Wolf Signs

Talk about getting your signals crossed…

Robyn Maxwell doesn’t care that her brother has to cancel out on their backcountry ski trip. She can do it alone. The fact she’s deaf doesn’t make her survival skills any weaker. The chance to get away from it all and relax in the Yukon wilderness is just what she’s been craving.

Meeting wilderness guide Keil at the cabin starts cravings of another kind. Keil’s one hot hunk of ripped, tasty male. Now she has to deal with raging hormones as well as strange questions about wolves and mates and challenges to the death.

Keil was trying for a nice reflective retreat before challenging for the Alpha position of his Alaskan pack. He wasn’t planning on meeting the woman destined to be his mate, or finding out she’s not aware she has the genes of a wolf.

Between dealing with his accident-prone younger brother, a deaf mate with an attitude and an impending duel to the death, his week—and his bed—is suddenly full.

Far from the relaxing getaway any of them had in mind…

I am pretty sure that this was the story that first introduced me to Vivian Arend. I was searching for disabled protagonists and it popped up. And since I am an audiologist and fairly fluent in American Sign language it caught my attention.

But Arend’s characters and world building are what kept my attention. These characters were fun and feisty, and Arend packed an enormous amount of characterization and plotting in what is a relatively short book (96 pages). You’ve got the meet-disaster of a Deaf heroine who thinks she’s all alone at a mountain retreat quite literally running smack dab into the hunky hero…while naked. A Deaf heroine who doesn’t know precisely what she is, a hero who can’t use sign language and no interpreter in sight, and a clumsy brother who could inadvertently destroy the world with his accident prone nature. There’s also pack drama and intrigues, but those don’t eclipse a really sweet story about a heroine who finds herself, and finds love.

Overall, this is a satisfying romance and the characterization of Robyn as a Deaf woman was a hit for me, and it definitely got me hooked on Vivian Arend.

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5 star review

Review – Candle in the Window & Castles in the Air by Christina Dodd

Candle in the Window

Candle in the Window came to my attention after reading The Arrangement, which piqued my curiosity on how authors handle blind protagonists. I had a bit of trouble getting my hands on a digital copy of this book, but lo and behold, once I got logged in with my shiny new Houston Public library card, there it was! Continue reading

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Review- A Man Like Mac

A Man Like Mac
by Fay Robinson


This book is frequently found on lists about disabled heroes, particularly on positively rendered disabled heroes. It was published in 2000 and is not actually released as an eBook nor is it currently in print. While there are plenty of used copies for very cheap, isn’t it better to be able to get things for free? So, I found a copy of this on OpenLibrary. It’s available to anyone for check out with a free OpenLibrary account. There is only one copy so if you are looking for it, you may have a bit of a wait, but still, free is free.


So first, practical considerations. This is a scanned copy of an older book, so you will definitely want to read in browser or download the PDF version. It’s well scanned and clear to read, but the color if the pages and some slight text fading is likely to make OCR text recognition for the epub version rather dodgy.

As for the story itself, it’s pretty good. Mac agrees to train Keely following a devastating accident despite the fact that he knows she’ll never run professionally again. Keely isn’t a particularly sympathetic character, so that balances out the rather heart breaking situation so this isn’t an overly saccharine book. Mac isn’t perfect either, he’s a little too irritatingly self-sacrificing and a bit too manipulative with Keely. He also has some of the worst timing known to man. I enjoyed how prosaically their respective disabilities were treated both in general life and in their intimate lives. It’s discussed very frankly and in fact, there’s one extremely humorous situation where Keely does something completely crazy to make Mac feel better when something embarrassing happens. There’s also no magic cure for either of them. They certainly get their happily ever after, and their own version of miracles (It is a Harlequin Superromance after all), but they’re practical and plausible sorry if miracle, which is refreshing in a romance novel.

If I were strictly rating this based on writing style and characterization I’d probably rate this 3 stars, but the deft handling of the disability gives added depth to what would otherwise be a somewhat mediocre book so I’m giving it a solid 4 stars.
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