5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Open Season by Linda Howard

Open Season.jpg

Be careful what you wish for….On her thirty-fourth birthday, Daisy Minor decides to make over her entire life. The small-town librarian has had it with her boring clothes, her ordinary looks, and nearly a decade without so much as a date. It’s time to get a life — and a sex life. The perennial good girl, Daisy transforms herself into a party girl extraordinaire — dancing the night away at clubs, laughing and flirting with abandon — and she’s declared open season for manhunting. But her free-spirited fun turns to shattering danger when she witnesses something she shouldn’t — and becomes the target of a killer. Now, before she can meet the one man who can share her life, first she may need him to save it.

This is one of my favorite books of all time, not the least of which is that much like Cry No More, it has excellent treatment of birth control, though in very different ways. I figured I would come back to it after the way I had to shelve a few of Howard’s books in my Shame Files.

Daisy Ann Minor is a 34 year old librarian who has sadly let her life pass her by. She lives at home with her aunt and mother in something of a rut. She wakes up on the morning of her 34th birthday and decides she has to MAKE her life different. And the banter between her hormonal side and her sensible side is just too hilarious for words.

Fortunately for dear Daisy, she IS a librarian, and as such a researcher. So she sets out a plan to get a freaking life, and it is cuter than hell. And her mom and her aunt are fantastic and feisty, and completely on board with the plan, I’d be thrilled to have both of them in my family.

Chief Jack Russo is a jock, and alpha, and a grown up with some sexy grey in his hair, and underneath the gruff exterior doesn’t take himself too seriously. And between him and Daisy the sparks fly right from the beginning. And they keep bumping up against each other and rubbing each other the wrong way. We have the prissy classy librarians with a plan and the chief keeps getting completely, if sometimes obliviously, in the middle of it…until it is entirely on purpose. This jock really wants the librarian.

But on to one of my favorite components of the story-the birth control. There’s this one particular scene with condom buying (it was part of Daisy’s plan to let the community know she was looking-and if you ever lived in a small town you know how accurate it is) that is too funny. I thought about quoting it here, but really, it should be read in its entire glory. And then when they do decide to have sex, there is frank talk about birth control AND expectations if it should fail, but rather than being clinical it is just fun and funny and as little raunchy.

The mystery is perhaps solved a little too simply, like dominoes falling in a row it is lined up and knocked down in short order, but the characters are just such a riot that I don’t even care.

Seriously, it is a delightful book that I recommend to anyone.

Open Season

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1 star review, 5 star review

Openlibrary Review – After the Night

After the might

FAITH DEVLIN: A poor, outcast child in Prescott, Louisiana, she’d always adored the town’s golden boy from afar. But he called her white trash that sultry Southern night when his rich, respected father disappeared, along with her pretty Mom. Now Faith wanted to hate Gray Rouillard…not to feel a powerful surge of desire. But she couldn’t quench her passion, any more than she could hide the truth about the past she had waited so long to unravel.
GRAY ROUILLARD: Even when he raised hell, he did it with style. Reckless, charming, and backed by Rouillard money, Gray controlled the town of Prescott — and Devlin was a name he never wanted to hear again. But when he gazed at Faith Devlin, all he saw was a swirl of tangled sheets and her silken flesh beneath him. To care for her was impossible, unthinkable…because Gray Rouillard planned to use all his power to ruin her.

So this one is another Openlibrary (read for free legally-just get pdf not epub) AND Shame File. And unlike Shades of Twilight, I am just going to go ahead and admit, yes, I have actual shame for enjoying this book, despite the fact I’ve gone back to it on numerous occasions like an addict looking for my next fix.

Here’s my obligatory warning, there will be spoilers here. I can’t very well discuss the issues if I can’t say what they are. Also, trigger warnings, all the trigger warnings.

So it starts with Faith Devlin as a small child. She is infatuated with Gray, and as she grows older (she is a young teen now) this infatuation turns sexual in nature-of course. In any event Faith grew up in the town’s trashy family, and her mother is having an affair with the town scion who happens to be Gray’s father. When the two disappear, it starts a chain reaction that culminates in Gray and law enforcement going out to the shack the Devlin’s live in and running them out of town. It is the middle of the night and Faith is in a nightgown trying desperately to get her family’s thing packed as LEOs are throwing their stuff in the dirt. The cop cars have their headlights on and it turns her nightgown transparent and all these grown damned men, particularly the “hero”, are gawking and lusting after this teenager, thinking how she looks sexy like her mother. Hence the title – After the Night.

Eventually Faith grows up and finds out her mother actually didn’t run off with Gray’s father, so she heads back to her hometown to find out the truth. And back home all anyone can think about is how Faith looks like her mother and must be a trashy whore like her too. Sparks immediately start striking off Faith and Gray, and while Faith may be a feisty one in any other situation, when it comes to Gray she is a perpetual and unremitting doormat. He pushes her, and coerces her, and manhandles her and is in general a misogynistic a-hole toward her. And basically she just lets him treat her that way and the least little bits of anything remotely resembling kindness she just soaks it up like a sponge-forgiving his every transgression. Never mind that he and his family would have cheerfully bought out her house and run her out of town if she hadn’t bought it outright, that they would have messed with her banking if she hadn’t kept that out-of-state, that he turned the entire town against her so that she couldn’t buy gas or groceries in town, never mind any of that-he says he’s proud of her and she preens. This is a woman who needs freaking therapy, not the dubious love of a jerk who holds literally all of the power in the relationship.

Eventually they do end up together, but he never really apologizes for any of it, and then there is quite possibly the creepiest thing EVER said by a so-called hero. They are talking about the night that her family was thrown out of town and he tells her it wasn’t all bad because he wanted her then. That’s right the most traumatic night of her entire life wasn’t all bad because she gave him a boner when she was 14 years old. Add to that the fact that apparently the villain had been using Gray’s sister as a sexual surrogate for their mother, and she felt compelled to let him so her wouldn’t leave like their father supposedly did, and there are entire levels of sexual creepiness here. And that last was just gratuitous, there wasn’t a real need for it to further the story.

So why do I keep circling back to it? Damn but there are sparks there. And their banter is often hilarious. And Gray could also be funny and humorous, and once he quits trying to run the heroine out of town he’s oddly likable. And there is this just intense and funny and bonding intimate scene that I always go back to. Linda Howard just has a way of writing characters that I can always come back to.

In this case I think I shouldn’t come back to it. There is everything wrong and really nothing really redeemable about this story. And looking at it objectively, the things I enjoy about it should never have outweighed the bad. It is just that I never looked at it objectively. As it always left me on an emotional high, that is the way I always think of it, and I never went past the surface of the emotions I was left with.  ANd now I am looking at it objectively, and it is objectively horrifying…and yet…I still enjoy it. What does that say about me I wonder?

In any event, I should probably quit picking exclusively on Ms. Howard, whom I still love and who has some of the absolute best and favorite books, the author who got me to see that birth control in romance is a good thing and that it can be sexy and funny and good, and that heros could make me cry too. It is just that I have read and reread her books so many times, and her characters and stories are complex so that it was inevitable that some would have issues. So I think I’ll pick another excellent one next, and then try to pick on someone else next time.

After the Night

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2 star review, Miscellaneous

Review – The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

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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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3.5 star review

Review – Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb

Brotherhood in Death

The new novel featuring homicide detective Eve Dallas from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Devoted in Death.

Sometimes brotherhood can be another word for conspiracy. . . .

Dennis Mira just had two unpleasant surprises. First he learned that his cousin Edward was secretly meeting with a real estate agent about their late grandfather’s magnificent West Village brownstone, despite the promise they both made to keep it in the family. Then, when he went to the house to confront Edward about it, he got a blunt object to the back of the head.

Luckily Dennis is married to Charlotte Mira, the NYPSD’s top profiler and a good friend of Lieutenant Eve Dallas. When the two arrive on the scene, he explains that the last thing he saw was Edward in a chair, bruised and bloody. When he came to, his cousin was gone. With the mess cleaned up and the security disks removed, there’s nothing left behind but a few traces for forensics to analyze.

As a former lawyer, judge, and senator, Edward Mira mingled with the elite and crossed paths with criminals, making enemies on a regular basis. Like so many politicians, he also made some very close friends behind closed—and locked—doors. But a badge and a billionaire husband can get you into places others can’t go, and Eve intends to shine some light on the dirty deals and dark motives behind the disappearance of a powerful man, the family discord over a multimillion-dollar piece of real estate . . . and a new case that no one saw coming.

This series is an auto for me. I adore Eve and Roarke and the whole gang. But, this is Book 42 in the series, and while the mystery stands alone and you probably COULD read this without the rest of the series, I would say it is inadvisable, because the STORY doesn’t standalone.

And this one features a favorite character that we haven’t had a whole lot of insight into. And I adore that part, although he was even more befuddled then I would have expected (it was a bit over done). I have to admit though, I am becoming frustrated by the increasingly fast and loose way Robb (AKA Nora Roberts) handles the police procedural part. Yes, the way Eve works with her husband and friends is part of the appealing aspects of the story, and part of watching her grow into herself, but now since so many of her friends are not cops, it is just becoming unsettling. Because the other part that is important about Eve, is that she is a great cop. The balance is getting shifted a bit too much in my opinion. If this is about the balance being shifted further to the home life and making the changes that will end the series, then I am OK with that, much though I will miss the series. But if we are going to hang out here for an extended length of time with Eve playing faster and looser with the police procedural side, I fear I am going to start getting very irked.

Anyway, beyond that, I really enjoyed this one. Mr. Mira (who it turns out is actually professor Mira) was a delight. There was lovely friendly banter between everyone, particularly noteworthy between Eve and Roarke, and Eve and Peabody. And the mystery part was fast paced, interesting, and it kept me engaged-even though the psychoses are horrifying. And we do get more character growth from Eve as she really talks to both Peabody and Dennis Mira.

And Eve and Roarke’s relationship seems to have reached a turning point. He’s not so perfectly inexplicably tuned to her as he has been before, and their relationship has become decidedly less adversarial.

So, as I’ve said before, much though I’ll miss this series, I’m hoping it’s a sign of things coming to a close and getting that final happily ever after for one of my favorite romance couples… before it loses the things that have made it so successful and wonderful. 42 books is one hell of a run, but I think it’s time to be letting go now.

Brotherhood in Death (In Death, #42)

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4.5 star review

Review: Love Finds You in Calico California by Elizabeth Ludwig

Love Finds You in Calico California

By Elizabeth Ludwig

I have been living on the edge lately! I have started to browse different sections of my local library and came across a local authors shelf. That is where I discovered Elizabeth Ludwig’s Love Finds You in Calico, California. This is Ludwig’s first  full length novel and I say she did a fantastic job.The cover really caught my eye, with a pistol and bold red boots!  I decided that I had to give this western a chance. I am glad I did! While this is not something I would have usually gone for, I could appreciate the author’s work and style throughout the novel. I generally don’t read books with a strong religious presence, but in this storyline, it worked really well. If I had to describe this title in a single sentence, it would probably go something like this, “Ludwig captures the purity and innocence of budding romance, set against the backdrop of sorrow and mystery”.

Abigail Watts and her father Anson, made their way out West to reap the benefits of the booming silver mining business found in Calico, California. Without her mother’s guidance, Abigail relied heavily on her father, and he on her. However, when a tragic, albeit suspicious, accident claims the life of Anson, Abigail must fend for herself, alone, in the Wild West. With the help of Nathan Hawk, widower and father to a young daughter Lizzy, Abigail is determined to uncover the truth about her father’s demise. Together they will find truth, and maybe true love.

I really, really enjoyed this book. There weren’t any steamy romance scenes, or foul language, nothing that would make my Grandmother blush, and I don’t think adding any of that would have worked with this couple. They each needed simplicity, honesty and love; nothing more. If you were looking for a quick, heartwarming read, this would be a great choice. My only critique is that it was too short. I want to know what happens to this small town, and the book really offered a lot of opportunity to expand on that.

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4.5 star review

Book Review: Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler

The Bleeding Heart

By Christopher Fowler

Usually, I am not one to pick up a book by an unfamiliar author unless someone I trust recommends them. I took a leap of faith this week and checked out Christopher Fowler’s Bleeding Heart, after the local librarian suggested it. I could not be happier with her recommendation! Fowler has quite the bibliography under his belt with several standalone novels and a long running series centered on a specialized detective unit in London. The PCU, or Peculiar Crimes Unit, helps to protect the citizen of London from crimes, which may otherwise cause fright or distress. There is a team of investigators that handle these crimes, usually unbeknownst to the majority of Londoners.

Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart is the eleventh or twelfth installment in Fowler’s Bryant & May series. I could not find where this distinction was mentioned, but after looking at Fowler’s website, I realized it had not been updated with this title. Even though I had no previous knowledge about Detectives Bryant and May, I did not feel lost picking up this late in the sequence. At various points throughout the story, there were hints and minor remarks made to events I can only assume took place in the earlier books, but it did not affect this specific storyline. The investigative nature of this plot gave many opportunities to understand the inner workings of the detectives’ thought processes. Bryant is a little unconventional and often looks outside the box during the investigation. These alternative methods included trips to see a self-proclaimed witch and a magician, amongst other adventures. He also consults bizarre books that date back centuries to find connections to this modern crime. May, on the other hand, is more of a “by the book” detective who doesn’t give much credence to the dark arts and mythologies. He is an anchor of sorts for Bryant and helps to keep him out of trouble with the higher-ups. These old-timers are sticking together to make their way in a changing city, the only way they know how.

Fowler is very skilled in his character development, without being drawn out or excessively wordy. A great many number of conclusions can be made based solely on the features of an individual’s appearance, their home space or even working environment. These nuisances truly connect the reader with the characters. If I can get my hands on some of the earlier installments, I would love to see how the main characters have evolved from the beginning up until this current title.

All in all, if asked if I would recommend this title it would be a hands down yes. The only draw back that I experienced were the differences between American and English English. Some of the spellings, phrases and terminology threw me, but after a few chapters it wasn’t as noticeable. So, grab a cuppa and check out Bryant and May!

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