Saturday, October 25, 2014

Review: The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

I liked this book a lot. Very well written. I wasn't sure what to expect from it - I put off reading it because I thought it was another "new adult" romance. It isn't at all. It's actually a very thoughtful story about a woman dealing with what might be the end of her dance career, and figuring out what she wants and needs in life. More about forming important bonds with family and friends and not a romance story.

Penny ends up in a hospital bed and she's told that she jumped off the balcony in a suicide attempt.  She's certain she wouldn't do that, but at the same time, she isn't sure what happened.  As she recovers from her fall, and bits of her past are revealed it becomes clear to the reader and to Penny that she was in a very dark place before she fell and landed on the baker's car under her apartment.

She spent her whole life dancing, trying to fit into a world that had no place for someone with her body type.  Despite all her work, she's horrified by reviews which describe her as "huge" - her presence on the stage assumed to be a contrast to the smaller dancers.  Even worse than the reviews was being left behind by her lover who used her to create his show but didn't need her anymore when he was ready to go on tour.

The story isn't simply about her size and her struggles with her weight, or even her struggles within the dance world.  As she is forced to leave dance in order to recover physically, she also begins to repair her inner self.  She sees the damage she's caused herself as well as the emptiness in her life.  She forms a deep friendship with her roommate from the hospital, as well as the baker, on whose car she landed.  She starts to see the world from a different perspective.

The characters are so well written, this is the sort of book that when it was over, I felt an emptiness.  I missed them.  I wondered what they were doing now, because they felt so real I knew their existence wasn't gone simply because the book had ended.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for a thoughtful story about a woman putting her life back together after thinking all of her dreams have fallen apart.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Review: To Defy a Sheikh by Maisey Yates

Maisey Yates' Harlequin Presents novels are some of my favorite romance novels.  Lots of romance and angst in extreme settings.

To Defy a Sheikh started a bit slow, but even so, for much of the book, I was thinking Ferran was one of my favorite heroes.  But that didn't last.

Things got a little too complicated toward the end.  He was switching emotions every five seconds, he wanted her to be happy, but he didn't want to her to want him, he wanted to be married, but he couldn't love her.  For me, it didn't make sense and didn't fit in with the character that we'd been reading about for the first 60-70% of the book.  Also, it was all so quick.  We had all this build up and development of their relationship and then it all fell apart.  I remember my kindle saying I only had ten minutes left in the book and thought, how in the world are they going to resolve all of this so quickly?

They did, but not in a way I found satisfying.  If anything, in the end, I didn't feel like their love was geniune at all.  For her it was simply the result of him being the first guy she'd ever been with and for him, it was more out of obligation than anything else.

I still enjoyed the book, but not quite as much as I usually enjoy these books.  Still provides all the necessary ingredients for a fun, quick, escape: a palace setting, tragic history, passionate characters.

If you're a fan of Yates' Sheikh books, then you'll probably enjoy this.  If you haven't read any of them yet, and want to try some, I'd suggest Heir to a Desert Legacy or Forged in the Desert Heat, those are some of my favorites.

I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review: Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce

Once I started reading this book, I could not put it down.  I had plans to do some shopping and maybe go see a movie today, but I decided to use this sudden cold front as perfect excuse to not leave the house so I could keep reading. 

And yet, the story is so disturbing.  I've been reading a lot of romance novels lately - stories about good, tough women and men who may struggle with their feelings and have great sex and eventually live happily ever after.  This book is not that, this book is the exact opposite of that.  Maybe I was in need of some variety in my reading.  There are no lessons learned, no sign at all that there is some end to this woman's downward spiral.  If anything, I suspect my interest in the story is some sort of voyeuristic appeal.  It’s like watching a train wreck, a really well-written train wreck.  It’s gruesome and horrible, but you can’t look away.  Marie’s life and her behavior is so incredibly self destructive: drugs, sex, cutting.  And there isn't even the typical story of a bad childhood or abuse to explain it.  She chose all of this.  She had a supportive family, and a husband who loved her.  But she didn't want that.  She walked away from it and entered her own personal hell. 

While Marie clearly seems to love her daughter, she doesn’t love being a mother.  In fact, it was the realization that she didn’t want to be a mother that prompted her path of self-destruction.  She was a good girl who got pregnant shortly before graduating from high school.  Instead of going to college, she got married, had the baby, tried to live the life she was supposed to live and it didn't feel right.

This is one of those books I would place in a category I refer to as, "all their problems could have been avoided if only they'd had an abortion." (I seriously considered making this one of my goodreads shelves because for a while I felt like I was reading a lot of books about women who were in terrible situation that resulted from unplanned pregnancies.  Never do the characters mention abortion, that’s simply my opinion upon reading the stories.)  Let’s be honest, a lot of women’s problems are the result of having unwanted children – in fiction and reality.  I say this as someone who has always known that I didn’t want to have children.  My two attempts at having a pet had me on the verge of nervous breakdowns.  If a dog or a cat left me feeling like that, I can’t even imagine trying to care for a child.  Maybe that’s why this book was so appealing to me.  Because maybe it isn’t so difficult for me to imagine how life might fall apart when forced into a role that isn’t right, a role that the rest of the world claims is great and wonderful, but feels so wrong that a person will do anything, absolutely anything, to try and escape.

Another thing I really liked about this book was the setting.  The story takes place in Dallas, a Dallas that was familiar to me.  I recognized the streets, the restaurants, the people – and I don’t mean specific people, but rather the type of people.  This was the Dallas I knew in the late 90s, early 2000s, when I was in my twenties.  There was so much money in this city, so many men flaunting their money, new money trying to fit in with old money, and the women wanting so desperately for a connection to some of that money.  Maybe that still happens in Dallas, but a few years ago, I left my job in Dallas and became a school teacher in the suburbs, so reading this book was a bit nostalgic. These people weren't a part of my world, but I saw them, they were at the clubs, entering the VIP rooms, and at the Mavs games - not in the cheap seats.  I never set foot in any of the expensive eating establishments like where Marie works, but I was aware of those places (and now I’m really glad we never ate at any of those places because they don't seem all that special after reading about what happens behind the scenes).  My friends and I were more the Café Brazil than Dream Café sort.  
This book isn't for everyone and I suspect there are plenty of people who will hate it.  I enjoyed the book and yet part of me feels like I shouldn’t have.  It’s wrong to view someone’s disaster as entertainment, isn’t it?  But people enjoy horror stories, right?  And that’s considered acceptable.  If some sort of redeeming quality is necessary, view this as a cautionary tale.  This is what happens when a person loses control of life, tries to live a life others consider to be right and fails, and then has to self-medicate to try and forget that failure. 

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.