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review 2015-11-23 16:18
Too Much Melodrama
Knowing the Score - Kat Latham

I like what I've read so far of this series, and Latham's writing style is snappy and entertaining, but I struggled with this book because the main characters' tragic backstories, especially the heroine's, were just too tragic. I struggled to willingly suspend my disbelief with respect to both characters -- not that these bad things could happen to happen to them, but that they would shape the characters the way they did.


Caitlyn, the heroine, is a 27-year-old virgin. The first two-thirds of the book, the conflict is about why she's untouched, and whether she's going to lose her cherry with the hero. When they finally do the deed, it's sudden and anti-climactic. (Which, to be fair, is actually pretty true to real life, now that I think about it...) From there, the plot devolves into accidental pregnancies and miscommunications, only to be all tied up with a cliche epilogue.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-07-28 07:39
DNF at Page 174 — Severely Disappointed
Love Overdue - Pamela Morsi

There is nothing worse than looking forward to reading a book—especially for a long time—only to not enjoy it when you finally do get to read it. It's even worse when it is so I unenjoyable you have to flounce it.


I have been wanting to read Love Overdue for quite some time since I love library/librarian stories. But between plot elements I hate and how unlikeable I found the characters—as well as reading spoilers about the end of the book—this story doesn't seem to be salvageable for me.


First, the plot entirely hinges on the hero (Scott) and heroine (D.J.) having gross stranger sex eight years ago. You all know how much I hate that. To make matters exponentially worse D.J. did it to ~not he like herself~. On spring break, dressed like a hooker complete with plexiglass heels (who even?), encouraged by her friends she went out to find a stranger to fuck. (Here are my thoughts on that.) And she was a virgin. Just, why would you . . . just, why? That will never make any sense to me. Sorry I'm not sorry that I'm never going to find that to be in any way empowering and not stupid.


And Scott. He apparently cheats on his girlfriend in having that fling. Not that I abide or forgive cheating in any way, shape, or form, but worse—it didn't just happen, he set out to cheat. In reading other reviews apparently he had some convoluted reason: to get better at sex to please his girlfriend. Uhm. What? No . . . wait, what? I get his girlfriend made him feel insecure through no fault of his, but still! How in the world does cheating make things better??


So this entire scenario is off-putting, unromantic, and gross on a few levels. But I probably could have dealt with it as usual if the characters were at all likeable to me.


With Scott, the book had barely started when we're told he had carried on a sexual relationship with a married woman for sometime after his divorce. Given context clues, it didn't sound as if the woman and her husband had an open marriage, which makes him a homewrecker and he had no guilt about this at all. Worse, he got divorced because his wife cheated on him. What would possess him to do the same to someone else? So, between this and the previous cheating I did not like him at all. Add in what other reviews have said about the way he thought about women, particularly D.J., later on in the book and he apparently reaches dudebro levels of douchey.


D.J. was more actively awful, at least when it came to Scott. She, deservedly, feels stupid and mortified over her actions eight years ago. Lucky for her, Scott doesn't recognize her. So she takes her prim librarian persona to an extra degree with him so he won't remember. For some weird reason she thinks her life will be destroyed if he does. Okay. But on the other hand she gets pissed at him for not remembering! What? She already acted like an ass the morning after back then when she fled without a word. Now she meets him again and treats him like crap. With outright disdain. Initially so as not to tip him off, but then she starts making up shit about him in her head that makes no sense. According to her, because he jumped into bed with a stranger he's a liar (I still can't work out how she came up with that one), and a player. Then adds on more thinking he's a bigot against the town's lesbian couple. At no point in time, at least not before I DNF'd, does it occur to her that maybe he was pretending to be something he's not that night, too. That maybe she doesn't know anything about the guy whose name she refused to even hear then let alone learn anything else about him. That maybe there is some history between him and the lesbian couple that precipitated his attitude toward them. (Granted, it is a bigoted little town, of course, but she was just looking for more ammunition to hate him for no reason. Turns out half of that couple was his ex-wife, and the other half is the woman with whom she cheated. And she did get wind of the married woman affair, but it only reinforced what she had already convinced herself of.) Her whole bitchy, dismissive demeanor toward Scott and her nonsensical judgment of him made me really dislike her, too.


At this point I'm not enjoying the book and I don't think it's going to get any better. The only thing I do like is D.J.'s dog, Mr. Melville Dewey. So I go and look at reviews and thank the Book Gods I did. Turns out the only reason to even attempt to push through the book—Scott finally realizing who she is, the big reveal, and working things out—is completely absent. Most reviews lament the sudden abrupt end when he realizes it's her and it cuts to an eight years later epilogue. The climax is entirely absent. What?! Why would you do that?!?! I . . . am SO happy I didn't waste my time finishing this book. I think everyone would have felt my indignant rage. On top of that, everything to do with Scott's mother, D.J.'s landlady/boss, is so utterly ridiculous I almost started beating my head against something hard just reading reviews! (She tries to commit suicide with a botulism pie?! WHAT ARE YOU I CAN'T EVEN!!!)


So, yes. One very emphatic and heartbreaking DNF for me. Dammit.


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review 2013-10-06 19:46
This Book Undermines My Faith in Humanity
Own the Wind (Chaos #1) - Kristen Ashley

This is one of those books that everyone loves but me. Usually I'm fine with that; it happens. Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath -- these are great works that I just didn't like at all. Sometimes, though, a book comes along that is so bad, so lacking in redemptive qualities, that the fact that so many other people like it seems like an assault on all I hold good and honest in the world. This is such a book.


Kristen Ashley is kind if a big deal in Romancelandia these days. This book in particular was really hyped. Read it, people said: Kristen Ashley has such a great voice, so different, so hot. Um, no. I read it, and that's six hours of my life that I'll never get back.

I should have known better. I looked at the Goodreads reviews before I read it, and I knew that among all of the book squee, the voices of the one- and two-star minority warned that this book is rife with all the things I can't stand: rampant sexism, poor plotting, crimes against grammar. I can't say I wasn't warned.


I hate this book. I hate Shy for being a violent, misogynistic ass. I hate Tabby for always bending over. I hate that women are described as either "bitches" (skanks whose purpose is recreational sex) or "old ladies" (the kind of girl you can settle down with, so long as she knows her place: i.e.,knows to shut up and not ask questions or express opinions). I hate that the women of Chaos can't join the Club of their own right and don't get their own bikes (or even get to drive). I hate that every time Tabby calls Shy on any issue in their relationship--from the major ("I'd rather you not beat the crap out of my boss, honey") to the minor ("how come you never help with the laundry, buddy?")--Shy's response is that she should suck it up because he gives good sex, and I hate that Tabby lets him pull that shit.


I hate the run on sentences and the incomprehensible dialogue and the hail of misplaced commas (I swear, Ms. Ashley must think she gets paid by the comma) and the rambling plot. I hate the cliffhanger-wrapped-in-a-cliché ending that deprives me of any sense of closure or accomplishment after I forced myself to finish this drivel.


I hate this book so much I'm tempted to argue with all the positive reviews, especially those who say that Shy is the shit, because actually, Shy is a shit, not the shit. But we are all entitled to our own opinions. I may be in the minority, but this is mine: 1/2 star.

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review 2013-10-06 15:53
Not Nearly as Good as I Remembered
Nobody's Baby But Mine: A Novel - Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The "Cereal Killer" bit was funny, and that's the only reason I'm giving this two stars instead of one.


I first read this about 10-15 years ago, when I was first starting to read romance. I remembered it fondly, and it's stayed on my "keeper" shelf through more moves than I can count. Rereading it now, though, it's abundantly clear that I'm a much more discriminating reader, and much more in tune with sexual politics than I used to be, because I really didn't like it this time around.


My major issue with it is the premise. Dr. Jane Darlington is a wicked smart physicist with an IQ in the stratosphere. She's determined to have a baby, but she wants to find a stupid father because she doesn't want her kid to be freakishly smart like she was. (This isn't the way genetics work, and a genius scientist like Jane ought to know that.) She doesn't want to use a sperm bank because she thinks all sperm donors are medical students, so they'd be too smart. (I used a sperm bank to conceive my sons, and donors, like people, come in all sorts of varieties.) Her solution? She poses as a prostitute, sabotages a condom, and sleeps with Cal Bonner, the quarterback of the Chicago Stars. (She heard him on the news, and assumed--based on his downhome southern drawl and his profession--that he must be a moron.)


Taking away a person's reproductive autonomy is morally reprehensible. It's a violation akin to rape. In SEP's lexicon, it's "bunny boiler" crazy and wrong. In my professional life as a domestic violence prosecutor, I see cases where abusive men sabotage condoms or hide contraceptive pills in order to impregnate their girlfriends, the goal being to keep them tied to the abuser and financially dependant upon him, though in books and movies, it's always women who get pregnant on purpose, usually to "trap" a man into marriage. It doesn't matter whether women or men do it more often (it's appalling either way), but the perception that women do it contributes to the widespread rape-culture belief that women are untrustworthy in sexual matters such as whether we're using contraceptives when we say we are, whether we're faithful in relationships when we say we are, whether our lovers can trust us when we tell them they're the father of our babies, and whether (and these are the big ones) we really mean it when we say no and whether we're truthful when we claim we've been raped.


Anyway, it takes two tries (where Jane's lies are increasingly desperate and the sex is bad in a way that SEP intends to be comic but isn't) for her to succeed in getting pregnant. Jane knows her behavior is reprehensible, but she somehow rationalizes that it's okay as long as she doesn't let herself enjoy the sex. ("If she permitted herself to derive even a moment's pleasure from his caress, she would be no better than the prostitute she was impersonating. This had to be a sacrifice, or she could never live with herself." p. 50.)


As an aside, given that Jane is a genius scientist, I might have been more okay with the secret-baby premise if SEP had written her as truly lacking in social skills, perhaps on the autism spectrum, a la Jennifer Ashley's The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. It wouldn't have made it right, but if Jane had some sort of clinical lack of empathy, I might have been able to write off her behavior as misguided rather than bunny-boiler evil.

Needless to say, when Cal finds out about the pregnancy, he is righteously furious and bent on revenge. He hates Jane, but he's determined to preserve his rights with regard to the baby, so he marries her with the intention of divorcing her as soon as the baby is born. (I would have demanded proof of the pregnancy from a doctor before marrying such a crazy liar, but that's just me.) When the press breaks the story (because he's a hotshot sports God), he forces Jane to move with him to Salvation, North Carolina, his hometown.


For a few months, they live together in a state of open warfare that reminded me of The War of the Roses, a movie I hated. Jane gets Cal's goat with a prank involving Lucky Charms which is, frankly, inspired, but it's about the only bright spot -- otherwise, their conduct is meanspirited and bloodthirsty. Nevertheless, Cal's moral code requires him to be faithful even in the bonds of a fake marriage, and Jane is a weak woman, so they have plenty of sex even as they snarl and humiliate each other.


Apart from the cereal prank, the only other thing I enjoyed about this novel was the subplot involving the conflict in Cal's parents' marriage. They've been together 37 years but are reeling from a family tragedy, and their history is rich and compelling and about a million times more interesting than the games Cal and Jane are playing.


Jane and Cal obviously have a lot of issues to work through before they can have a happy ending (and to tell the truth, I'm just as skeptical and as squicked out by the very notion of a HEA in these circumstances as I am by those Old School romances where the heroine falls in love with the hero after he rapes her), and I won't spoil the plot by going into detail except to say that, in the end, Cal is the one who does The Grovel, which sucks because Jane's transgression is so much more offensive and unforgiveable.


Funny how a reader's feelings about a book can change so drastically over time, isn't it?

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review 2013-10-05 02:29
Fun, but Overhyped, Aussie Contemporary
Boomerang Bride - Fiona Lowe

This won a 2012 RITA Award for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance. I thought it was good, but not earth-shatteringly good. Plot Summary: Matilda (Tildy), still grieving the loss of her beloved Nana, comes from Australia to Wisconsin to meet her online fiance, Barry. Surprising no one but Tildy, Barry is a conman and, having emptied their joint account, he is long gone by the time Tildy arrives to find herself jilted, penniless, and alone in a strange (and cold) new land. Marc is a hotshot architect from NYC who returns to his hometown once a year, for a few days at Thanksgiving, to visit his family out of a sense of obligation rather than devotion. This year, though, his visit gets extended by his sister Lori's revelation that she has breast cancer, is about to undergo a double mastectomy, and needs Marc's help to watch her teenager while she recovers. Marc's philosophy is why-do-anything-when-I-can-pay-someone-else-to-do-it, and so he shortly hires Tildy as a housekeeper/nurse.


If you think Marc sounds like a bit of an ass, you're right. As romance heroes go, he didn't ring my bell at all. But, Tildy's plucky and funny and smart (despite the book's premise, which might trick the unsuspecting reader into thinking she's Too Stupid To Live), and I love that she doesn't sit around feeling sorry for herself when jilted by Barry, and she doesn't take Marc's sh*t, either.


The best part of this book, though, is the secondary romance between Marc's sister Lori and the town's policeman, Brian. They are much more sympathetic characters, and their romance is a lot more interesting and compelling than that of Tildy and Marc, and I wished they'd been the main focus of the story rather than a subplot that occurs mostly off-page. Lori's emotional journey from cancer diagnosis through surgery and the beginnings of recovery was so much more heartrending than Tildy's stranger-in-a-strange-land/pull-oneself-up-by-ones-bootstraps story, and Brian is so much more likeable and romantic a hero than stuffy old Marc. Ah well.

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