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review 2018-10-09 16:04
"Hero" was a d-bag
In a Class by Itself (Loveswept, #66) - Sandra Brown

I've been posting my reviews online for about 10yrs now, I know I've liked books that could have some problematic characters, actions, and storylines (This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, comes to mind) but as I get older and in our current climate, I'm really having to challenge and make decisions on what I'll go along with for the sake of the story. 

 

Suddenly he bellowed and vaulted out of the tub. Reaching down, he closed his fist around her mane of hair and hauled her up with him. Furious, dripping water and rage in equal proportions, he shoved his angry face toward hers. His voice was surprisingly mild. She would have preferred shouting.

 

I wish I could say that this would have stopped me in my tracks at 25yrs old as it did at 35yrs old, but I'm not sure. All I know is that currently, it made me immediately put the book down. This is the "hero" acting towards the heroine.

 

They were high school sweethearts who ran away to get married but her parents forced them to get an annulment because they thought the hero was too poor and other-side of the tracks. They meet back up at their 10yr high school reunion where the hero not quite so teasingly demands a wedding night. They are being hot and heavy when the heroine tries to put the breaks on and she then tells him why she stayed after the reunion broke up at his house, the charity she helps wants to buy some land the hero owns. He gets angry because he thinks she was using her body to get a good deal on the land. He then basically holds her hostage claiming he'll sell her the land if she lives at this house as his concubine. 

 

It's a hurt revenge angle that was seen quite often in '80s romance, along with the endless descriptions of fashion (the heroine has an eel skin purse and matching heels!). After this scene, there really was no hope for me to ever connect to the hero, he physically assaulted the heroine in my eyes. I skim read the rest of the book (I rate books whether I read fully, skim, or dnf, it is the way I keep track of books so don't @ me) and wasn't all into the heroine still wanting the hero to love her. 

 

Everyone has their own opinions but please, let's all agree that this was assault/abuse and call it as so.

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review 2018-10-08 01:56
Heroine wanted to be TSTL
Forged in Desire (The Protectors) - Brenda Jackson

I wish in order to portray heroines as independent and fierce, author's didn't make them fall into the TSTL category.

 

Our heroine Margo was apart of jury that convicted a guy who announced to the court room that until his conviction was overturned, someone from inside the courtroom would be murdered every 72hrs. 3 people have already been murdered when our hero Striker comes into the picture to guard Margo. Is Margo happy about this and willing to take her personal safety seriously? Of course not, because that would somehow mean she is being bossed around. Ugh. 

 

The insta-attraction also felt a little out of place as it was mentioned over and over immediately in the beginning, it felt a little off when just jumping into the whole life in danger element. I can let go of realism to a certain extent in rom suspense, but let me settle in a little first. 

 

I also thought there was some uncomfortable casualness to some issues (rape, domestic violence) incorporated; they were jarringly, abruptly brought up, to seemingly add instant emotion. I'm needing a little more care and thought behind the why and how for the inclusion of these topics right now.

An example: 

Shep, as the other inmates called him, was a lot older than most of them and was serving time for murdering his wife. It didn’t take long for anyone who hung around Shep to know just what sort of man he was: a natural-born leader—a positive one. 

Not knowing at this time if Shep was guilty of the crime, reading about a man killing his wife in one breath and the next saying what a swell guy he is, was hard to read. 

 

I thought the idea of ex-cons going into the protection business was interesting but the insta-attraction, mesh of romance and suspense not working for me, and jarring moments kept me from getting into the story. I generally liked the character dialogue and interaction writing, the components worked for me but the structure did not. 

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review 2018-10-08 01:12
The Unholy Grail
Be Mine Tonight - Kathryn Smith

 

Just as they all knew the legend of the Holy Grail, so had they heard of the Unholy Grail.

 

Pru has cancer and is looking for any way to negate her grim diagnosis, when she starts up a friendship with Marcus, they begin in earnest a search for the Holy Grail. Our hero is a 600yr old vampire who was once a knight of King Phillips of France who was also on the search for the Holy Grail. What Chapel and his group of mercenaries found instead was the Unholy Grail.

 

"You do not frighten me."

"I think I do, but not in the way I should."

 

This started off darkly intriguing with the French band of mercenaries and grail that turned them all into vampires. I read this with the anticipation of a danger filled dark and stormy search and chase, filled with villains coming out of the woodwork. Instead this turned out to be a character driven story with a slow burning romance between Pru and Chapel; read this for the romance, not the adventure.

 

The Silver Palm. Chapel had heard of them before in whispers and old texts. They named themselves for the silver that crossed the palm of Judas Iscariot— coin imbued with the essence of Lilith, mother of all vampires. The same silver that had been melted down to make the chalice from which he and the others had drunk.

 

The first half was all about the romance while the second gave us a peek into, what I imagine is the set-up between the villains and future heroes of the series. I was vastly curious about the Silver Palm villains but they only make a very brief appearance and other than their name, not much else is learned about them.

 

The Brotherhood of Blood.

 

Even though I was a little disappointed in the balance of romance and action in this one, the set-up of Chapel's friends, The Brotherhood of the Blood, being pitted against the Silver Palms is darkly intriguing. Don't get me wrong, I thought the vast majority of the romance was done well here, Pru is a tough, daring woman willing to fight for what she wants, while Chapel was a more lost in his self-loathing for what he was, but they did have a connection that was felt. I thought the ending was needlessly dragged out angst as a sudden change of heart by Chapel gave us a quick perfect bow ending. I'm going to read the next in the series because, like I said, I'm intrigued by the set-up but I'm going to hope the continuing plot thread plays more heavily.

 

He smiled— just for her. Every woman should know the joy of having a man be joyful just for her presence.

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review 2018-10-06 16:14
Out, damn mad ghosts!
Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett

 

 

She gave the guards a nod as she went through. It didn’t occur to either of them to stop her because witches, like beekeepers and big gorillas, went where they liked.

 

Part of the Discworld but also the Witches series, Granny, Nanny, and Magrat run and steal the show. I would describe this as kind of a Monty Python take on Macbeth and Hamlet (with a little bit of King Lear, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, and probably splashes of more I missed). If you're a reader of the Discworld, you'll be ready for the little bit chaotic, humor, brick wall bleakness, and underlining too true takes on humanity.

 

A kingdom is made up of all sorts of things. Ideas. Loyalties. Memories. It all sort of exists together. And then all these things create some kind of life. Not a body kind of life, more like a living idea. Made up of everything that’s alive and what they’re thinking. And what the people before them thought.”

 

We start off with the murder of a King, who becomes a ghost, our three witches taking a baby from soldiers, the new mad King and his reveling in her evilness wife, and a wise fool. Even though the witches normally try to stay out of things, Granny decides that she needs to set things to rights and have the true heir on the throne. I enjoyed the first half, which was more Macbeth, than the magically fast forward 15 years Hamlet like second.

 

The duke smiled out over the forest. “It works,” he said. “The people mutter against the witches. How do you do it, Fool?”

Jokes, nuncle. And gossip. People are halfway ready to believe it anyway. Everyone respects the witches. The point is that no one actually likes them very much.”

 

Shining through and underlining all these seemingly chaotic going-ons, are some excellent hot takes on propaganda and how history is recorded, by who, why they are writing events and figures the way they are, and how this influences and shapes future attitudes. This is an aspect of history that I don't think is talked about enough, questioning the motives behind historical recorders.

 

But I’m his Fool,” said the Fool. “A Fool has to be loyal to his master. Right up until he dies. I’m afraid it’s tradition. Tradition is very important.”

But you don’t even like being a Fool!”

I hate it. But that’s got nothing to do with it. If I’ve got to be a Fool, I’ll do it properly.”

That’s really stupid,”said Magrat.

Foolish, I’d prefer.”

 

Granny is the immediate stand-out in this but the Fool is the dark horse. In all this spoofing, he has some of the most thought provoking quotes; they bordered on dystopian at times. I couldn't help reading this through a current political climate lens and it hurt at times reading the scenes with the Fool, the new King, and his wife. Even when we get the second part of the witches work to change things, it doesn't end up quite to their preference but maybe for the best? This would be a great book club selection as I highlighted the heck out of this and could have endless discussions about it.

 

I've mentioned before how humor is a tough one for me, so that hurt my overall enjoyment along with the frenetic/chaotic tone pushing against my more structured self. Many friends have said this is one of their favorites from the disc world and I can see why, the three witches will delight you, I felt the second half let them down a bit. Even though things may not have worked out exactly like Granny wanted, I leave you with some inspiration from her,

 

Granny Weatherwax was often angry. She considered it one of her strong points. Genuine anger was one of the world’s great creative forces. But you had to learn how to control it. That didn’t mean you let it trickle away. It meant you dammed it, carefully, let it develop a working head, let it drown whole valleys of the mind and then, just when the whole structure was about to collapse, opened a tiny pipeline at the base and let the iron-hard stream of wrath power the turbines of revenge.

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review 2018-10-06 02:10
Clockwork Caravan Carnival
The Mysterious Madam Morpho - Delilah S. Dawson

 

Criminy’s Clockwork Carnival was in full swing.

 

This is a novella, so the shorter page count (100ish pgs) hampers character and plot depth a bit, but I think the author did a fantastic job with what she had. This is listed in the Blud series as coming before Book 1 – Wicked as They Come but as the main couple from Wicked is already together, I wasn't sure why. Even if familiar or not, you'll get an introduction and refresher on the various characters that make up Master Criminy's Clockwork Carnival. The world building leaves a little bit to be desired as it isn't fully explained how Blud people and animals (vampire like creatures) exist in this other world; it is like Victorian time period Earth but not quite.

 

She stared down into the nest of books and hidden miracles. Before, the trunk had held hope. Now, in the wrong hands, it held evidence enough to hang her.

If you’ll trust me, I think I know how best to keep your charges safe.”

Their eyes met over the trunk. She felt as if she stood on a precipice, one step away from freedom or doom. “I find that I trust you, Mr. Murdoch.”

God help you, Madam Morpho.”

 

You'll feel for Imogen as you learn her story, Mr. Murdoch less so as I don't think he ever fully emerged from the shadows and fully showed up on the pages. He builds the clockworks and mechanics for the caravan carnival, I would have liked to have seen him interact more with his creations and what was the story behind his partner/friend Vil? They were a calm, cool, and tentative couple and I liked how they worked together but, again, the page count wasn't quite there to build their relationship.

 

Arm-in-arm, they watched Torno lift his weights, his strength defying physics thanks to Criminy’s magic. Emerlie juggled hedgehogs and rode her unicycle high up on the wire, her lime and magenta costume glowing against the velvety night sky. Next up came Abilene and Eblick and the two-headed Bludman, each waiting behind a curtain to amuse and entertain and, in the twins’case, terrify. A collection of bizarre creatures floating in large jars of liquid was surrounded by a crowd so deep that Imogen caught only a glimpse of the horrors within. They passed Letitia in her turban, telling fortunes in a sequin-spangled tent.

 

Even though the overall world building was somewhat absent, the immediate caravan carnival world was delightfully detailed and created. There was a sense of unknown, magic, wildness, freedom, jovial companionship, and troubles. I wish I could see the shows.

 

Her name is Madam Morpho,” Henry said sharply. “And she doesn’t speak to the riff-raff.”

 

The main story thread comes from Imogen on the run from her former boss and hiding out in the caravan. I thought the sense of danger and romance was eclipsed by the descriptions of the people and clockworks that made up the caravan carnival. I also thought the magic and wonder of the butterflies Imogen stole got lost in the mix, they could have brought more sense of wonder if utilized more. The ending brought an extremely gruesome conclusion to the issue of Imogen being in danger. I suggest reading this in October to appreciate and enjoy the grisly ending, the spooky vampire like creatures, and the sense of magic and wonder.

 

Imogen,” he said, voice ragged as he stepped closer to her, his feet brushing the wide swing of her skirts. “Are you aware that I haven’t seen a woman this close in more than six years?”

That seems excessive,” she murmured. “Are we such fierce creatures?”

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