Sunday, March 05, 2017

Review: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

I read this books months ago, I decided to hold off on writing a review until closer to publication date and then waited too long. Now I feel compelled to finish the review because I'm seeing this book everywhere. I didn't enjoy this book much at all. I found the love story to be weak and the story line to be very predictable. I was describing the book to someone else, and they kept guessing what happened, and they were right each time.

Sometimes I read a love story, and I find myself thinking I may be missing out in life because it all sounds so wonderful, even if things do end badly. (My favorite love stories are those that end badly - Wuthering Heights, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, English Patient, you get the idea.) But other times, I read a story in which the primary love story is so unsettling, it gives me a brand new appreciation for my single status. This book falls into the latter category.

I was looking for something romantic and tragic, and hoped this would be it. But for one, while I understood that the events in the story were pretty dreary, I never felt a strong emotional connection to the characters or their situation. The love, which seemed like more of an infatuation, seemed very one-sided.

The main character, the person telling the story, was such a weak character. Throughout the entire story, she continued to allow things to happen to her, never taking control of the situation. She meets Gabe in class, and it's a very intense situation. They share a moment on a day they'll never forget, and she thinks she's met the love of her life. Next time she speaks to him, she learns he's returned to his ex-girlfriend. They eventually do get together, but Gabe leaves her to pursue his career. For the next few years, they're in and out of each other's lives, but their whole history together seems to be about him turning to her when he's alone and can't find anyone better.

This character marries someone she doesn't love because she feels like she's expected to marry him, she has children because it's expected. I was so bothered by the situations in which she became pregnant. Despite being secure financially and loving her job (which her husband wants her to quit), she has a fairly awful life. So of course she continues to think the relationship that ended shortly after her college days is the ideal situation. To me, it didn't seem like a great love affair, but rather a desperate need to escape.

A lot of people seem to like this book. I'm not one of them.

I also don't like the way it's being marketed as "the next Me Before You." Seeing this, you know there must be some sort of tragedy. But other than that, there isn't anything similar.

I received a review copy via NetGalley. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review: The Harlot and the Sheikh by Marguerite Kaye

First a disclaimer of sorts: I've been having some trouble reading romance novels lately. Once, they were my perfect escape, but now, what used to work so well does not. I'm finding it more difficult to disconnect from the real world and slip into these fantasy worlds. But I'm trying.

I selected this book because I wanted something indulgent. Something completely unrelated to anything in my real world. I needed a dirty, sexy fairy tale. The title made this sound like what I needed. I was thinking escape to Arabian Nights or something like that.

I found the beginning of the book to be slow. (But see my disclaimer at the beginning, this could be a me problem and not necessarily a book problem.) The book wasn't grabbing my interest. Too much about the horses, not enough about the characters or any sort of development in their relationship. I was beginning to think the book was entirely too tame for what I was wanting.

But then, somewhere around the 40 to 50 % mark, the book became exactly what I needed.

This is the story of a strong, intelligent heroine trying to move beyond her past mistakes, and a sexy prince, looking to redeem his family name and bring honor back to his kingdom.

After a mysterious illness strikes his prized horses, Prince Rafiq sends for an English veterinarian. Stephanie Darvil arrives in her father's place. She views this as a fresh start, and a way to spare her family disgrace. She foolishly fell in love and allowed herself to be seduced by a man who used her, thus earning her the reputation of a harlot. The prince isn't quite sure what to make of her at first, having not expected a woman to appear to tend to his horses, but her skill quickly wins him over. Rafiq though is having trouble seeing her as only his horses' veterinarian, and the attraction is mutual as Stephanie realizes that there are advantages and an element of liberation to her ruined reputation.

What really won me over with these characters was Rafiq's reflections on how women are treated by society. He's furious when he finds out about what happened to Stephanie, certain there must be a way to punish the man who lied to her to get her into his bed. Also, he becomes aware of how she's treated in her profession, and how she has to work harder than a man to earn any sort of respect. At the same time, he's guilt-ridden about his deceased wife, who married him as part of an arrangement and had to give up so much of what she loved to satisfy a deal made by her father. Suffice it to say, Rafiq is understanding and respectful, reflective and willing to change, as well as being an attentive and skilled lover. This, along with being a prince, makes him just about perfect. Strong women and men who love and
appreciate strong women are essential for me to like a romance novel, and this book does well in that area.

While the book may have started out slow for me, in the end, I really liked it. Great, strong, intelligent characters; angsty backgrounds the characters need to overcome, and some very steamy sex scenes.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Review: Playboy on her Christmas List by Carol Marinelli

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Carol Marinelli writes really great characters. I've enjoyed everything I've read by this author.

I liked that the playboy doctor, Daniel wasn't too awful or too perfect. He was a nice guy who was sincerely interested in Holly - a nurse at the hospital where he sometimes worked - and he wasn't quite sure how to handle his feelings for her after a one night stand starts to feel like something much more. Holly isn't really a one night stand sort of person, but she thought she'd never see Daniel again - he kept saying he was going to take off on a year old holiday - and she had a moment in which she decided to take a chance.

The holiday setting worked well as the hospital employees enjoyed their advent calendar chocolates and put together a Secret Santa exchange, all while planning the holiday work schedule and trying to figure out how to fit in time with their families.

Definitely would recommend to anyone in need of a fun, sexy holiday read, with believable, likable characters and an interesting story.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley. 

Review: A Cotswold Christmas by Kate Hewitt

I loved this book. The setup for the story is a bit absurd - in real life you should probably never do what Anna did. The bed and breakfast she booked for Christmas was flooded, so she goes off with Colin, a relative of the owner - thinking he's got a vacation cottage where she can stay. Turns out it's not a vacation rental, but rather an empty, unfurnished house. Colin feels bad about the situation, realizing Anna is alone for the holidays and her plans have been ruined, he does his best to try to make her comfortable in the empty house. The two quickly hit it off, feeling comfortable in each other's company, despite barely knowing each other.

This is a sweet story, very romantic and sexy without being explicit - which seems to work well in this story. This is the perfect, feel good holiday romance. An American attempting to run away from her heartbreak and be alone for the holidays meets the perfect man - who isn't at all what she ever would have considered to be perfect.

I liked this story a lot and would readily recommend it to anyone wanting something sweet and romantic, and quick, as it isn't a very long story. Perfect for an afternoon or evening read when the real life holidays get to be too much.

I believe this is the first in a series of books set in the same village. I'm looking forward to reading more. This is a very nice beginning and introduction to this area and characters.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes

I was really looking forward to reading this because I love Paris, and I ended up not liking this book very much at all.

The descriptions of Paris at Christmas were very nice. While I've spent time in Paris and am familiar with the city, I've never been during Christmas, so it was nice to visualize those areas I knew decorated for the holidays.

I also, for the most part, enjoyed the descriptions of the food. However, I got tired of the use of the word "bowl" - it got to the point where it was really starting to bother me by the end of the book. They had numerous "bowls of soup" as well as a bowl of chocolate mouse, and a bowls of cafe au lait. Couldn't they just have soup, isn't a bowl of soup implied?

As for the things that I didn't like - the characters. They were so shallow and obsessed with name brands. The main character, Isabel, did so much shopping. And her obsession with marrying a French aristocrat? She behaved like a spoiled teenager, not an adult who had a successful career.  And Alec, the man who was supposed to be the hero in the story - I guess - wasn't a pleasant person at all. He was bitter and angry and I'm not sure why anyone would fall for him. Actually, not sure why either of the characters would be considered at all appealing.

The romance in this story was not at all convincing. Most of the story is focused on Isabel trying to persuade a French aristocrat to propose marriage - even though she's known him for about three days. Alec sits in his hotel room and pouts about everything. Another large portion of the story is devoted to the characters' past relationships, especially their sexual activities with those characters - which is odd because there's not any sex between Isabel and Alec.

This was a strange book. I didn't find it romantic or heartwarming or anything like that. Very disappointing. Beautiful cover though.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley. 

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Review: Suddenly Sorceress by Erica Lucke Dean

I didn't enjoy this book very much. Never felt much of a connection to the main character. I thought the situation was a little too abrupt - there needed to be more of an explanation as to the cause of magical things that were happening. I saw this as someone who reads a lot of paranormal novels - so it takes a lot for me to think something is too out there.

This really just wasn't the type of book I enjoy, a little too light and fluffy for me. The characters were a bit too silly and I found that boring rather than entertaining. That might be more of a problem with me and my usual tastes and expections than the actual book.

I received this via NetGalley. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Review: Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reiz

The sex in this book is very hot and very good and well written. But other than that, there isn't much of a story at all. Main character returns home for brother's wedding, hooks up with brother's friend. And that's the story, which is fine if all you're wanting to read is something hot and sexy.

I was disappointed though that despite the title mentioning Halloween, the holiday had very little significance in the story. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays and there aren't a lot of Halloween romances out there. I knew it wasn't a paranormal story, but had thought it would have something more to do with the day. Instead, at the very end they attend a wedding on Halloween and people dress up as characters from 80s movies. Halloween is supposed to be spooky and creepy, not Pretty in Pink.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Review: The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag

As soon as October begins, I like to read nothing but witch themed books. I make a few exceptions, but I tend to set aside these books until this time of the year.

I started with Menna van Praag's Witches of Cambridge. I'd been looking forward to reading this for a while. I love academic settings. One of my favorite books is about a witch in Oxford. I'd hoped for something similar with this book in regards to intellectual stimulation. Didn't happen.

The book started out well, and I enjoyed the first half. Very light read, focusing on relationships and babies and baking. In the beginning though, it reminded me a bit of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic, which I loved. But about midway through, I began to lose interest. I thought the beginning was written in the way it was as a way to introduce characters and establish  the setting, but it never moved beyond that style of writing. In fact, about halfway through, it became even more distant and choppy.

There are six different witches in this story, and each of them have their own story lines, with some slight overlap. It was hard to follow their stories though because we would get about four to eight paragraphs about one character, and then it would jump to a completely different story line. This happened for a significant portion of the book. It made it difficult to stick with the book. I think it would have worked much better as a collection of short stories, each character getting her or his own story, with the same characters making a few appearances. Had I not already been about 70% into the book, I would have simply stopped reading because I didn't care about the characters. I never felt any kind of emotional connection to what was happening with their characters. They were suffering with problems in their families, their marriages, problems with their children and lovers, and I simply didn't care because I never felt like we learned enough about the characters to understand what they were feeling.

Also there were a few factual errors that bothered me. One person is a professor of art, another is a student, so in the beginning, there are several mentions of art. As an art lover, I thought this would endear me to the book, but instead, I was just annoyed with the mentions of art. Klimt's The Kiss is not on display at the Fitzwilliam (it's in Vienna), nor is Van Gogh's Starry Night (that's in New York City) or his Church at Auvers (Paris). I know the story is fiction, but if someone is going to mention real works of art, maybe at least explain why they're on display in other places - special exhibition or something. For other people, this might not be a big deal. But I travel to a lot of art museums and have seen these paintings, and I teach art, and when I show students works of art or have them look up information about paintings, I also require that they find out where the painting is currently located. So maybe don't mention specific paintings if the rest of the info about the paintings isn't accurate?

Overall, I didn't enjoy this all that much. Started out well, but by the end, was kind of wishing I hadn't read it.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.