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Search tags: fish-out-of-water-outsider
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review 2016-07-11 13:17
"Never Seduce a Scot" by Maya Banks
Never Seduce a Scot - Maya Banks

If you're looking for engrossing, well-researched, vividly detailed historical accuracy, Maya Banks is not your girl. However, if you're hoping for a quick escapist romp that's reasonably well written, with a plot that moves right along, likeable characters who don't forget to bring the feels, and a generous dash of CrazySauce to keep things interesting? Well then, this is a good bet, especially if you can pick it up on sale. 


The Montgomery and Armstrong clans have been feuding for decades. Determined to put a stop to the infighting, King Alexander decrees that Laird Montgomery must marry the Armstrong's only daughter. Unfortunately, Eveline Armstrong is rumored to be daft. Luckily, it turns out she's not daft, just deaf, and luckier still, she can read lips flawlessly and kinda-sorta-almost hear the hero's voice (and only his voice), so of course their happiness is assured... just as soon as they swim through the CrazySauce.


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review 2016-03-04 14:08
"Uprooted" by Naomi Novik
Uprooted - Naomi Novik

I'm very conflicted about this book. I had heard great things about it, and when I started it, it was immediately clear why so many readers sing its praises. It's beautifully written, and the Wood is the most chilling, most disturbing, and most imaginative villain I've ever encountered in literature. I also loved the bond between the narrator/heroine/Chosen One Agnieszka and her best friend Kasia, which is the central relationship in the story. (This book easily passes the Bechdel Test.)


And yet, as I read, I developed some serious reservations that lead me to warn that this book is not for everyone. First, it's pretty gruesome and violent. That doesn't bother some readers as much as it bothers me. It wasn't gratuitously violent, and the violence was in keeping with the plot, but it was disturbing enough that I couldn't read this book before bed -- and since bedtime is when I do the lion's share of my reading, it took me about five times as long to read Uprooted as it usually takes me to read a book of this size. That always reduces my enjoyment a little, because the more I have to stop and start, the more disjointed the reading experience feels.


The second thing that really, really bothered me, was the "romance" aspect between 17-year-old Agnieszka, and the Dragon, the centuries old wizard who takes a 17-year-old girl as a servant every decade. Because of the age difference and the vastly differential power dynamic between the two of them, the physical aspect of their relationship was super squicky and inappropriate. It also wasn't very believable or compelling. The Dragon was grumpy old goat, and Agnieszka could have admired his wisdom and guidance without wanting to get in his pants.


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review 2016-01-31 20:35
"Pairing Off" by Elizabeth Harmon
Pairing Off - Elizabeth Harmon

I picked this up on sale at Amazon this week, and I really enjoyed it. It's kind of like that 90s skating movie, "The Cutting Edge," except the plot's a little more complex. Yet it certainly targets the same audience, and it hits the same sweet spots. 


I was skeptical when the hero and heroine hook up in a coat room at a party in Amsterdam during the prologue, because while I'm no prude, I think a drunken one night stand is generally not a good way to start a relationship. I kept an open mind and kept going, and the story improved. Years later, Anton (Russian) and Carrie (American) are reunited after each is betrayed by their long-time skating partner. In order to salvage their careers, they partner with each other, even though it means Carrie has to move from balmy Georgia (US) to frigid Moscow and become a Russian citizen. After a rough start, they find their skating styles compliment one another far more than the styles of their prior partners, and they begin enjoying their sport and excelling at it more than ever before. 


"Pairing Off" employs a TON of romance tropes: kiss-kiss/slap-slap love-to-hate-em initial tension, ruined reputation (Carrie's), mistaken identity (it takes Anton forEVER to realize Carrie is "Amsterdam Girl"), fish out of water (Carrie is an outsider in Moscow), damsel in distress, infidelity (Anton's), sabotage by ex-lovers (both), tragic past (Carrie's), marriage of convenience, sports rivalry, secondary romance between supporting characters, and probably several others I'm forgetting. Still, they're all woven together in a way that feels fresh and keeps the plot moving along, though the romance itself is fairly slow-burning. 


This was certainly well worth the $1.99 I paid for it, and I will seek out Elizabeth Harmon's work again. 

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review 2016-01-20 20:26
"Take Me On" by Katie McGarry
Take Me On - Katie McGarry

I think some authors, in their zeal to avoid the cardinal sin of telling too much and showing too little, err on the side of brevity so much that they leave the reader hanging. This fourth installment of Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits series, which I have totally devoured this week, is an example of such a book. This story has an interesting premise: both the hero and heroine are homeless, though by very different circumstances. Haley's family has been on a slow slide from lower middle class stability since her father lost his job, and they've been bouncing around from shelters and friends and finally settle in an overcrowded two bedroom house already occupied by Haley's mean-spirited and controlling uncle and his family. Meanwhile, West goes from being the pampered scion of Louisville's wealthiest family to living in the back of his car overnight when his rebellious behavior gets him kicked out of school, which is the last straw for his father, who kicks him out. There are so many issues this book could have explored about the similarities and differences between West and Haley's positions and their attitudes toward their shared circumstance, and it's not that the book didn't touch on these things... but it only touched on them, it didn't sink its teeth in.


That's true of so many of the subplots as well. There's a lot going on in this story: issues with Haley's family and West's family, Haley's history of domestic violence with an ex-boyfriend and the trauma associated with it, West's discovery of a deeply guarded secret regarding his past, West's sister's recovery from an almost fatal car accident, Haley's efforts to find a way to pay for college, Haley's history as a champion kickboxer (a sport she's walked away from) and West's introduction to that sport, a final confrontation between West and Haley's ex, and West's and Haley's developing feelings for each other. "Take Me On" deals with all of these things, but only glancingly. The plot skips right along, but all of these issues are too weighty to be addressed as summarily as they are. The whole book whet my appetite, but didn't satisfy.

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review 2016-01-19 17:48
"Crash into You" by Katie McGarry
Crash into You - Katie McGarry

My full-on glom of this YA series continues. This third installment focuses on Isaiah, who is about to age out of the foster care system. (Readers of prior books in the series will know Isaiah as the best friend of book one's hero, Noah, and the boy who was in unrequited love with book two's heroine, Beth.) Needing to come up with rent money, Isaiah enters his Mustang in an illegal street race, where he meets Rachel. Rachel is the precious daughter of one of Louisville's most privileged families, but when she can sneak out from under the parents' and brothers' overprotective thumbs, she likes to race. She winds up at the street race more or less by accident, because Plot.


When things at the race go sideways, Rachel and Isaiah end up indebted to a scary crime boss who will hurt/rape/kill them if they don't pay him back. (Also because Plot.) This makes them unlikely allies, who eventually become unlikely lovers. (Well, unlikely heavy petters, anyway -- this is YA.)


I was fond enough of Isaiah from the previous books to be excited to read his story, and mostly this didn't disappoint, though this whole series is a little angsty for my tastes. (Again, it is YA.) I thought Rachel's backstory was interesting and well done. (There are only so many ways you can make a "poor little rich girl" a sympathetic figure, and McGarry did well in taking an unexpected route.)


I really disliked the ending, which was abrupt and rather of the deus ex machina variety, but otherwise this book was fun. On to the next!

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