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review 2018-05-21 11:19
Review: “The Lightning-Struck Heart” (Tales From Verania, #1) by TJ Klune
The Lightning-Struck Heart - T.J. Klune

 

~ 5 STARS ~

 

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review 2018-05-20 06:08
Charmed Bones (Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery, #18)
Charmed Bones - Carolyn Haines

They can't all be winners, but man, this one was extra-disappointing.

 

I don't care for romance for the sake of romance, but I do enjoy a good sub-plot, if the characters have chemistry and it's well written.  Many books ago, Sarah Booth had an almost-romance with a character, and I was hooked on their dynamic, and bummed when it didn't work.  Then after many, many books and many other romantic interests, I finally got my wish; sadly the joy was dinged by one of the most badly edited stories I've seen on paper in a long time (not being a reader of self-published books).

 

This could have been an amazing story: witches, spells, poisonings, there's-something-in-the-woods, huge claw marks on doors, old houses with secret rooms and tunnels, and my favorite romantic interest back in the saddle.  But if this story wasn't rushed to press, it was definitely neglected by management; major re-writes took place and nobody followed up with proofing to check for continuity.  The results include characters who explicitly remain behind only to suddenly be participating in conversation, and Sarah Booth commenting on kicking the bad guy, giving him a limp, when she never actually kicked him.  Unfortunately, these are just the two I remember - there were others, including a scene where characters change mid-paragraph).

 

Continuity errors aside, the plotting was a little bit of a mess too: too much going on and not tightly enough written, so the reader really has no hope of following events.  To be fair, Sarah Booth struggled too, so maybe this was deliberate and I just don't care for the device.  I also don't care for the plot twist at the end; it's the second time in as many books where it's been used, and it leaves me feeling played.

 

If not for the characters, whom I love (although I'm over Tinky and her baby angst), and the familiar landscape of Zinnia, the rating for this would be so much lower.  It's obvious that Haines didn't phone this in: nobody just phones in a plot as convoluted as this, but her editors and Minotaur screwed her and her readers by printing this half-finished effort.  And that's tragic; Haines is worlds better than this and after 17 books, readers deserve better.

 

Here's hoping #19 reflects previous efforts, and 18 is just an aberration.

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text 2018-05-18 18:07
The Country Girls / Edna O'Brien
The Country Girls - Edna O'Brien

Meet Kate and Baba, two young Irish country girls who have spent their childhood together. As they leave the safety of their convent school in search of life and love in the big city, they struggle to maintain their somewhat tumultuous relationship. Kate, dreamy and romantic, yearns for true love, while Baba just wants to experience the life of a single girl. Although they set out to conquer the world together, as their lives take unexpected turns, Kate and Baba must ultimately learn to find their own way.

 

I have absolutely no idea how to rate this book. Can I say that I enjoyed it? Yes and no. Can I say that I appreciated it? Yes indeed.

It was an important book for its time—published in 1960 and showing an Ireland that doesn’t exist anymore. One where the Catholic Church and patriarchy reigned supreme and women had extremely limited choices. You could get married or become a nun. That was pretty much it, at least for the country girls. Women weren’t admitted to be sexual beings and weren’t supposed to criticize how their society worked.

Edna O’Brien writes beautifully about the naiveté of the two rural girls when they come to the big city. Kate is the artistic, romantic, intellectual girl who has idealistic visions of what life should be like. She wants to discuss literature with her dates and they only value her sexuality. She becomes involved with an older married man from her village because he offers a window into the more sophisticated world that Kate longs for. Baba, on the other hand, is far more earthy—she wants to smoke, drink, and enjoy the company of men. The two women couldn’t be more different from one another, but small communities make for strange friendships. With few people of the right age to choose from, you bond with the most compatible person available and these relationships rarely withstand leaving home.

The poverty, the alcohol problems, the repression of women--The Country Girls reveals them all. No wonder this book was denounced and banned. It was hanging out the dirty linen for the world to look at.

Ireland is a country that is definitely on my “to visit” list. I love reading books which are set there and I will definitely read more of O’Brien’s work.

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review 2018-05-18 18:04
The Bloodsworn / Erin Lindsey
Bloodsworn - Erin Lindsey

As the war between Alden and Oridia draws to its conclusion, the fates of both kingdoms rest on the actions of a select group of individuals—and, of course, the unbreakable bonds of blood...
 
Unbeknownst to most of Alden, King Erik, in thrall to a cruel bloodbinder, is locked away in his own palace, plotting revenge. To save her king, Lady Alix must journey behind enemy lines to destroy the bloodbinder. But her quest will demand sacrifices that may be more than she can bear.
 
Meanwhile, as the Warlord of Oridia tightens his grip on Alden, the men Alix loves face equally deadly tasks: her husband, Liam, must run a country at war while her brother, Rig, fights a losing battle on the front lines. If any one of them fails, Alden could be lost—and, even if they succeed, their efforts may be too late to save everyone Alix holds dear...

 

I liked this book just a little less than the first book. And as I sat down to write this review, I realized why. I’ve accidentally read book 3 before book 2. Oops! That would explain all the references to events in the past that I was unfamiliar with. I enjoyed the book anyway (and I’ll read book two when it becomes available at the library), but that explains why I sometimes felt like I was in the fog.

The main reason that I would remove half a star from my rating is the amount of agonizing that Lady Alix, Prince Liam and King Erik do during the course of the novel. All three of them flagellate themselves over decisions they’ve made. Now, most people regret some actions from their past, but don’t most of us also realize that there’s no use dwelling on our mistakes and move on? Do what you can to right the situation and move forward.

I think perhaps this is the author’s way to prove to her readers that these are “good people.” Evil people are sure they are doing the right thing, good people are forever questioning their own motives.

Nevertheless, fantasy is my happy place and I have to appreciate that a woman with a sword saves the day as often as any of the men do. The author will be at a conference that I’m attending this summer and I’ll be most interested to hear what she has to say on any number of topics.

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review 2018-05-18 08:48
Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything
Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything - Nancy Martin

I enjoyed this as much as I did because I really love Nancy Martin's writing, her Blackbird Sisters series was one of my all-time favorites.  Unfortunately, it ended after the last book and even though the title of this one had me raising my eyebrows, I thought, why not?

 

Story wise... meh.  It didn't quite work, mostly because the twist at the end felt like an afterthought, bringing the whole story to an unrealistic conclusion.  The romance aspect didn't quite work either - the chemistry was there, but the manufactured obstacle's resolution lacked emotional sincerity; I was left wondering why it even existed at all.

 

But I did love the setting, the characters and the writing, which made it easy to lose myself for a couple of hours, so no regrets.  Mostly, this book felt like an accomplished writer experimenting; stretching her boundaries.  Not up to snuff, but not a waste of time, either.

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