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review 2016-04-03 01:22
"Her Every Wish" by Courtney Milan
Her Every Wish (The Worth Saga) - Courtney Milan

If Courtney Milan published her grocery list, I'd probably read it. She's at the tippity-top of my auto-buy list. She's smart, funny, and unabashedly feminist: totally my catnip. 


Her Every Wish is a novella about Daisy, who was introduced in Milan's last novel, Once Upon a Marquess. One thing I loved about this novella is that it isn't set in the glittering ballrooms of the ton at all, but rather in the seedy, working-class neighborhood where Daisy shares a room with her aging mother. This gives us a view into a part of London that the historical romance genre rarely visits, and it's refreshing.


Daisy works in a flower shop and dreams of opening her own mercantile, but no one takes her ambitions seriously because she's a woman. Some time ago, Daisy had a liaison with Crash, but it ended badly in a way that isn't revealed until well into this novella. Crash is initially portrayed as a flirt and a cad, but as his character is revealed, it's clear he's not that simple. Crash is descended "from a long line of sailors and dock whores" and doesn't even know what race he belongs to, which is also a refreshing contrast to the typical aristocratic lords so much more common as romantic heroes. 


However, this story frustrated me because it revolves around a Big Misunderstanding trope. Daisy and Crash went to bed together, then one said something the other misunderstood, and suddenly their great love was over before it began. Big Mis stories generally don't work for me because they require the main characters to be poor communicators, and when you have characters as smart as those drawn by Ms. Milan, it's frankly hard to believe they could be so thickheaded. 


Her Every Wish also fell a little flat because of its structure. Crash and Daisy went to bed together and had a falling out, but the reader never gets to see the buildup of their relationship -- how they met, what attracted each to the other, how Daisy put aside her maidenly modesty and decided Crash was worth her virginity, what made Crash fall in love. Without that backstory, it's hard to feel invested in the rekindling of their relationship during the novella. 


Finally (and this is a very minor quibble), I am not a stickler for historical accuracy by any means, but lately Milan's witty dialogue sometimes strikes me as so anachronistic that it yanks me out of the story in a way I find jarring. For example, there was a variation on the phrase, "Come to the dark side. We have cookies," that made me roll my eyes. If this sort of thing makes you crazy, this may not be the book for you. 

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review 2014-11-24 14:56
Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth
The Temp - Part 1 (The Temp Series) - Lacey Wolfe

I won this in a Booklikes Giveaway last month, and so panning it feels like looking a gift horse in the mouth, but oh, boy, did this book not work for me. It's a boss/secretary trope, which is usually bad news*--I have real issues with the skewed power dynamic (not to mention the sheer unoriginality) of the notion of a male boss screwing his secretary. Here, the trope is even more cliched because the boss is some kind of billionaire and the secretary is a much younger, penniless, just-out-of-school-and-too-green-to-be-interesting neophyte.


As if that weren't bad enough, the writing itself is just ... not for me. So much passive voice! Run on sentences, some of which had more than one cliche! Purple prose!

If this were a spoof or satire that aimed to poke fun at some of the tired and overdone conventions of this subgenre of erotic romance, that might have been different, but alas, I'm pretty sure Lacey Wolfe intended this in all seriousness. Oh, dear.


This is the first entry in a three part series. Needless to say, I will not be continuing on.


*The only books I can think of that rose above my dislike of the boss-secretary trope are Charlotte Stein's Power Play (where 1. the boss is a woman and the secretary is male, and 2. it's Charlotte Stein, bitches!) and Jennifer Crusie's Fast Women (where 1. the secretary is in her 40s and isn't anyone's pushover, 2. she quits when her boss takes her for granted, and 3. I mentioned this is Jennifer Crusie, right?).

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review 2014-07-08 14:57
Very Entertaining YA Series (if you relax your grammarian standards)
When Lightning Strikes - Meg Cabot

I put this series in my massive TBR queue a long, long time ago, when Sarah Wendell mentioned it on a DBSA podcast. I finally got around to starting the books on Sunday night, as my vacation was in its final hours. Today, Tuesday morning, I have finished books one and two and started book three, so I'll give Meg Cabot props for grabbing my attention.


Protagonist Jess is a high school sophomore who just wants a normal life, but she isn't normal: she has an anger management problem that keeps landing her in detention, a schizophrenic older brother who hears voices directing him to kill himself, and a mom who likes to make Jess wear home-made, matching mother-daughter "Little House on the Prairie" dresses. -And all of this before Jess gets struck by lightning and develops the ability to look at a picture of a missing person (like the kids on milk cartons), and when she wakes in the morning, she knows exactly where they are.


The story moves right along as Jess discovers her "gift" and quickly discovers its drawbacks. First, not all who are missing want to be found, which she learns when she accidentally turns in a milk carton kid who was actually on the run from an abusive father. Second, she wakes up in the morning knowing a person's location, but she doesn't necessarily know whether that location will turn up a living person or a body. Third, when word gets out of her skills, the media descends, and all of the hoopla drives her schizophrenic brother into having an episode that lands him back in the hospital (and of course Jess blames herself). Finally, the US Government wants Jess to use her powers to locate dangerous criminals and terrorists, and they don't necessarily mean to give Jess a choice in the matter.


On top of all this, there is a mild romantic element: Jess has a crush on Rob, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He is entirely inappropriate: a 'Grit' to Jess's 'Townie', two years older and on probation for an unspecified crime, and determined not to get involved with Jailbait Jess. But he proves himself very good to have around in a crisis.


One pet peeve I have to mention: When reading contemporary books written for and about high school girls, there's a superficiality and casual slangyness that one just has to expect, and that's fine. What isn't fine is the characters' use of 'gay' and 'retarded' to mean 'uncool.' Jess's best friend refers to Jess's prairie dresses as "gay outfits." To her credit, Jess immediately corrects her, pointing out that most gay people actually have very good fashion sense. However, a few pages later Jess herself describes school discipline as "kind of retarded" -- apparently without any sensitivity to the inappropriateness of that description, which is especially rich since the very reason she's in detention so often is that she gets into fights when anyone calls her older brother a retard.


Oh, and one other annoyance: Cabot's grammar sometimes sucks. The whole book is littered with sentence fragments and atrocious statements such as "It [my scar] hadn't faded hardly at all." I found this an entertaining read, but I had to take off my Grammar Police badge to do it. (I really do have a badge: see?)



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review 2014-03-10 12:41
Entertaining Treatment of Annoying Tropes
Neanderthal Seeks Human: A Smart Romance - Penny Reid

This is the first book in the Knitting in the City series, but I read the second, Friends Without Benefits, first. It's funny: Friends Without Benefits employed some of my favorite tropes -- second chance romance, friends to lovers -- but I found the book pretty uneven and only rated it three stars. By contrast, this one employs several tropes I generally can't stand -- boss/employee, big misunderstanding/mistaken identity, heroine with self-esteem issues -- but I liked the book better. (Granted, it's still a bit uneven and I'm not sure it deserves a full four stars -- maybe more like three and a half -- but it was funny and I enjoyed it.) 


Neanderthal Seeks Human starts on the worst day of Janie's life: she's caught her boyfriend cheating on her, moved out of their shared place, lost her job,  broken the heel of one of her favorite shoes, and there's no toilet paper in the bathroom stall when she needs it. The only silver lining is that the security guard who escorts her out of the building after she's been fired is the hottie she's been admiring from afar for weeks, and he kindly calls her a car to take her home so she doesn't have to tote her Box of Shame across Chicago on a broken pair of heels. 


Janie didn't fully work for me as a heroine. She's very, very smart (she can look at an account balance sheet for a few seconds and spot the errors as quickly as if they were printed in bright red ink, and she is a fount of random trivia, which she regurgitates when she gets nervous), and there were things about her I admired (she loves comic books and hates cell phones), but she's always putting herself down (she's the neanderthal referred to in the title) and she's very judgmental. She explains: "I liked labels; I liked putting people and things into categories. It helped me calibrate my expectations of people and relationships." (Page 101) She believes there are four kinds of people, based on their actions and their intentions: good (good actions + good intentions), bad (bad actions + bad intentions), lazy (good intentions + bad actions), and stupid (bad intentions + good actions). It's not a very nuanced worldview, and it made it hard for me to relate to Janie. 


Quinn (the Hottie security guard) isn't actually a security guard at all: he's the millionaire CEO of his own security company, which seems to provide security both in the traditional burly-guys-in-uniform-patrolling-your-building sense and in the cyber-security-so-secret-I-could-tell-you-but-then-I'd-have-to-kill-you sense. He's got company cars, company jets, company high rise buildings, but when he's not jetsetting around meeting with top secret corporate clients, he likes to hang out in the security desk of Janie's office building pretending to be a rent-a-cop, which is how Janie mistakes him for a blue collar guy. 


Janie's mistake was initially understandable: she makes lightning fast judgments about people, he, in that moment, looked and behaved like a Regular Guy. However, rather than clearing up the mistake early, the story milks it for conflict: Janie ignores mounting evidence that Quinn's a Big Deal, even after he gets her a sweet new job with his company. Quinn knows Janie is missing the obvious, and he doesn't correct her. Both characters are diminished in the process: Janie's obliviousness doesn't ring true for a lady as smart as she's supposed to be, and in order to let the confusion persist so long, Quinn must be either dishonest or meanspirited, or both, and I know the author does not intend for him to be either. 


I was also troubled by the fact that all of the things that bothered Janie about her relationship with the cheating ex she's just dumped at the start of the story persist in her relationship with Quinn: Jon had tons of money, she didn't; she was financially dependant upon Jon because she had a job in his father's company, now she is financially dependant upon Quinn because she has a job in his company; Jon always wanted her to get a cell phone so he could contact her whenever he wanted, Quinn makes her get a cell phone as a condition of her employment. Really, the only tangible differences between the two men are that Quinn seems better in bed and isn't cheating on Janie (yet). 


So now that I've written all that annoyed me about this book (and I haven't even written all that annoyed me: there were distracting proofreading errors, some gratuitous slut-shaming, and a subplot involving Janie's sister and Quinn's shadowy past that didn't add much to the story) you may be wondering, "Why give it four stars?" The truth is, I don't know, except that I enjoy Penny Reid's writing style even as her characters and plots sometimes set my teeth on edge. One thing that this series does well (in fact it's the theme that holds the Knitting in the City series together) is its treatment of female friendships: Janie is a member of a knitting club that gets together every Tuesday, and the relationships between the women of that club are deeper and more interesting than even the romances the stories focus on. 

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photo 2014-03-05 16:30

One of my work colleagues got me a BADGE! 

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