Saturday, October 24, 2015

Review: Harlot by Victoria Dahl

A new book by Victoria Dahl is always cause for excitement as far as I'm concerned. This one being labeled as an erotic historical western, I was a little bit apprehensive. I do like historicals, but am not usually a fan of westerns, though I did enjoy the cowboys in her contemporary novels. And sometimes I find myself a little put off by books labeled erotica - I need a good story and some real romance in order to enjoy the steamy sex. But my worries were absolutely and completely unnecessary.

This book is so good. The story, the romance, the tough heroine who refuses to be a victim. Very good stuff.

The title and the description of the book are a little misleading. I mention this only because it almost scared me off. I was picturing some sassy, tough as nails whore, a Miss Kitty sort of character who was now an expert in all things sex-related. I'm not saying that would be a bad thing, but maybe not the type of story I would want to read.

Jessica isn't running a whore house nor is she a working whore. She had to do something in order to survive - but it isn't like she took it on as a profession. I don't think I'm giving anything away by mentioning that. While Jessica's former boyfriend thinks this is the case, it's pretty clear from the beginning that it isn't.

But nonetheless, Jessica feels guilty about what she did. She feels like nothing more than a whore. She can't show her face in town and everyone talks about her. And when Caleb, the only man she's ever loved returns, he's disgusted by the stories about her and furious that she didn't wait for him. He shows up at her home, angry with her, and in an attempt to punish her, offers her money in exchange for sex.

Because she's desperate and in need of money, and knows that she at least doesn't have to be afraid of Caleb, she takes him up on the offer. Also, there's part of her that wants to know what it would be like to be with him. She spent so much of her life imagining that someday she'd share a bed with him as his wife, but now she believes that chance is gone, so she may as well take what she can get.

What makes this story stand out as something much more than erotica, and makes it something I love, is the way Dahl handles the emotions and thoughts facing Jessica. She's conflicted because in a way she enjoys the sex she's having with Caleb, even if he did pay for it. On the other hand, she's furious with him for treating her as a whore when all she did was survive when placed in a position in which she felt she had no alternative.

Even better than the dirty/hot sex happening in this book is Jessica confronting Caleb about his opinions of her. While, sure, this is erotica and the sex is wow, for me, this is more importantly a story about a woman who is tired of people - especially people she thought she could trust - treating her like she's worthless and finally having the courage to demand that she get the respect she deserves.

Really good story. Liked it a lot. Highly recommend.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

I started reading this story when it was released in parts a while back. A serial I guess you might call it. I don't usually like things like that, but Margaret Atwood is a favorite author of mine, so I was willing do something I normally wouldn't.

But then the parts stopped and a few years later, this book came out.

I decided to read it from the beginning because it had been so long since I'd read those first few chapters. And I heard it had been re-written. Not sure if that's true, but no harm in re-reading.

I enjoyed this story. While this is a startling futuristic scenario, it isn't quite as terrifying as some of Atwood's other futuristic novels. I found Oryx and Crake so disturbing, I can't even read the other books in the series.

The world in Heart Goes Last is plenty scary, but the story told in this setting is a actually kind of humorous. Atwood seems to be having a lot of fun with this story. The characters, in their attempts to get some enjoyment out of their lives end up in some pretty bizarre situations.  It's very weird, with teddy bears and Elvis costumes and sex robots.

Interesting story. Not really earth shattering or mind blowing, but still good.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

I liked Jojo Moyes' Me Before You so much. I don't know that a book has ever made me cry quite like that one did. The emotional impact was intense. I was so excited when I found out she was writing a sequel.

I was very excited to read After You, but my expectation might have been too high.

I enjoyed that book for the most part, but the emotional intensity of Me Before You wasn't there. Lou seemed to change so much in Me Before You, becoming a stronger, more confident person. I had looked forward to seeing how she utilized that new found awareness.

But instead we learn that Lou didn't really continue on the path she'd been on. It makes sense that she's still sad, but she's struggling and in many ways still clinging to Will.

I was especially bothered by the story line involving the teenager who enters Lou's life. It seems to be another excuse for Lou to not move on and not take care of herself. She's more concerned with this teenager who really is not her responsibility at all. I work with teenagers on a daily basis and this characters behavior didn't make much sense to me at all. I disliked her so much and the whole bit about her feeling pressured to behave the way she did because of something caught on video. I'm not in any way saying bad things deserved to happen to her, but she wasn't the type who had previously cared about people's opinions and took pride in behaving badly. So why now all of sudden she felt ashamed and willing to commit criminal acts to hide what she'd done? Also, teenagers grow up in a world now where their idols are people made famous by sex tapes, most of them are not that upset by being caught performing sexual acts. That Lou was having to deal with all of this just upset me a lot.

On the plus side, this is a book written by Jojo Moyes and she writes in such a way that even if you don't like the characters or what they're doing, you still care because they feel real.

I'm glad the story was written, I'm glad to see where Lou is in her life, but I'm sad that her situation isn't a little better. In the end of the book, things are looking up for her considerably, and I'm going to choose to believe it continues it that upward direction because she's such a great character, she deserves a good life with people who love her and don't take advantage of her.

I received a copy of this via NetGalley.