May 20, 2014

General Thoughts on Some Current Reads


Today I don’t have a proper review ready, but I do have things to say about the books I’ve been reading, so you get four mini-reviews for the price of one.

***** 
Claiming the Duchess by Sherry Thomas

Cover description: Soft pink background that looks like wallpaper with a flowery print. On the foreground there's a woman wearing a period dress that looks suspiciously like a wedding dress. She's holding a pink bouquet.
Romance has the bad habit of using prequel novellas as samples, which usually backfires because novellas aren’t easy to write and they end up working as samples of bad writing. But I like Ms. Thomas’ books, so I was more than happy to read this prequel novella.

I really liked most of it, but the short length really hurt the story, because at its core there’s an act of deception and betrayal that needed more than one paragraph for the climax and ending to be satisfying and to do justice to a heroine that deserved much better. On top of that, the novella (or short story) ends around the 50% mark and the rest is promotional material, so having the book unexpectedly end when you think there’s still half of it to go, doesn’t make for the best reading experience.

On the other hand, it’s a lovely story with a subtle, quiet romance, and I think it’s worth reading despite its subpar ending. Also, it’s free and very short, so it doesn’t demand a huge investment.

Grade: 3
Purchase: Amazon


*****
Live by Mary Ann Rivers


I really liked Ms. Rivers’ debut novellas, and having followed her on Twitter since before I knew she was a writer, I was excited to read her first full-length novel.

I want to comment on a few elements:

Cover description: Pink background a woman is looking at the landscape, which consists of some trees, and her back is to us. She has long blond hair and she's wearing a pink dress.
First, this is the start of a small town Contemporary Romance series. I’ve made my thoughts on those series clear before, so when I delved into this book I was equal parts hopeful and worried. Fortunately, it turned out to be the type of book I like: strong secondary characters that play important parts in the book; quirky background characters that aren’t entirely obnoxious, but still manage to infuse the story with what I guess is the small-town trademark (frankly, I could do without these, but at this point they are unavoidable); and a lovely romance that, much like its couple, was quiet but intense.

Second, Ms. Rivers has a very distinct, embellished voice. It is the type of voice that has cero subtlety and it seems to be constantly drawing attention to itself, as if the book wouldn’t want you to forget that this is someone telling you a story. The third person point of view tones down the intensity, and, in my opinion, it’s a better fit for Ms. Rivers’ style, but it can be distracting.

And third, there’s the caregiver element that at this point is a clear fixture of Ms. Rivers’ books. The heroine’s sister is a careless daredevil, so is no surprise that she had an accident. Our heroine struggles with the (apparently) conflicting needs of having to take care of her sister and putting herself first for once in her life. This situation causes conflict for everyone, and it’s at the expense of this secondary character. The only reason why it isn’t entirely dehumanizing is because the sister has a strong personality and presence, so it is difficult to reduce her to a plot device even though the narrative kept throwing clich├ęs at her (caregiving as a selfless act of sacrifice, disabled or injured characters portrayed as constantly angry and frustrated, etc.).

The romance is fabulous, though, and the romantic conflict was interesting and felt real, so although my overall feelings are mixed, I had a great time reading the book.

Grade: 3.5
Purchase: Amazon
*****

Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers

Cover Description: Close up to a man wearing a gray sweater. He's smiling and has a lot of dark brown hair. The background is faded but looks like a farm or a fenced field.I debated whether to talk about this one or not, because I DNF’d it early on, but since I’ve already mentioned the problematic and repetitive caregiver theme in Ms. Rivers’ books, I wanted to mention that whereas this aspect gave me much to think about when I read Live, encountering again in Laugh made me hit an impossible wall.

Early on in the novel the heroine’s best friends is diagnosed with cancer, and although strong and supportive female friendship seems to be an undercurrent of the story, the cancer diagnose is immediately used as an excuse for the heroine to call the hero so that he can offer comfort, thus giving them a convenient reason to be together.

As I said, I didn’t read past that part, so I don’t know how the subplot develops, but if the way the story introduces the subject is by using it as a convenient plot device that doesn’t even involve the character with cancer, then it’s difficult for me not to be wary of what’s to come. Maybe once I find some distance I’ll be able to finish the book, but right now I don’t know if I want to continue the series.

Grade: DNF
Purchase: Amazon
*****

 It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

Cover description: A bride or a bridesmaid (we can only see her arm and part of her dress) walks away holding her shoes. The shoes are white and have hot pink soles.
What I love about Ms. James’ books is that they are filled with successful women that are usually more powerful and rich that their respective heroes. This book is no exception, and it has tons of great dialogue and banter, including a fabulous meet-cute. The problem is that at this point I feel like I’m reading the same book over and over. Her heroines and heroes have great qualities, yes, but they are always the same great qualities. I honestly can’t tell them apart, and that’s a problem. It’s hard to think of a book as memorable when you know that next year you will get one just like it. Unless Wilkin’s book comes next (it won’t, but a girl can dream) I’ll probably be taking a break from the series.

Grade: 3
Purchase: Amazon

9 comments:

  1. Great thoughts, Brie. Do you ever feel like some authors use their most fabulous setups for those introductory novellas? This flummoxes me, because I often feel like not only was it too short, but there was such MEAT there for development. Then I go and read one of their full-length novels and think, really? This was the idea you decided to go whole hog with? Sigh.

    That said, I'll probably pick up the Thomas because I love her writing.

    I really enjoyed LIVE, but stalled on on LAUGH as well. And that's the first of hers I had trouble finishing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that some prequel novellas have setups that could use more pages to develop, but usually the issue is with the execution. I think you can have a complex premise and worldbuilding and still manage to pull it off in a short length. My go-to example of a prequel novella done right is Here There Be Monsters by Meljean Brook, which introduces a very nuanced world while still having characters that shine through and a very satisfactory ending.

      On the other hand, the Thomas novella is a good example of a premise that would have made a wonderful novel. You will see why when you read it ;-)

      Delete
  2. I was currently debating about whether or not to purchase Laugh, because I DNF'd Live. While I enjoyed the plot and the characters themselves, for me, the writing got in the way. I thought her novellas were pretty strong, but... yeah, the way it was written was distracting, and it bothered me enough that I had to put it down.

    I was totally lukewarm on the Julie James book. I thought how they first met was somewhat more obnoxious than it was cute, but the banter was fun and it's much like what she's written before. The sameness takes over - if you like reading about pretty, middle -class to wealthy people - then she should do it for you. I'd really like to see her try something different, she's certainly talented enough.. but yeah, I'll probably take a break from her as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If Live didn't work for you, chances are Laugh won't either, although I can only say that from the perspective of someone who didn't finish the book. For all I know the parts I didn't read are awesome.

      I would also like to see JJ try something different and outside of what's clearly her comfort zone. What did you think of the sister? I've seen readers praise the healthy family dynamics, but I thought the sister was a bit of a self-centered asshole and that she was there as a foil for the heroine.

      Delete
    2. Eh, I actually thought that was rather believable. If there's anytime where you'd focus more on yourself, well - yeah, a wedding and a baby would certainly do it.

      I didn't think the sister was an asshole so much as she was immature and young. It was nice to see love reflected in that relationship, but also irritation and exasperation. Had it been perfect, I might have noticed it more because well - Sidney pretty much has it all.

      So in that respect, it worked better for me than it did for you.

      Delete
    3. Oops! I almost accidentally deleted this comment instead of replying to me. That's what happens when you disagree with me, though...

      Well, when you put it that way, it's hard to disagree. I think maybe I was nitpicking, but I thought the sister was used to make the heroine look better and even if, yes, wedding + baby = you have a right to be as selfish as you want, I still thought she was super bratty and asking too much of her sister (not to mention that her motivations to do so were as ridiculous as they get), but you're right that it was immaturity and even privilege speaking.

      Delete
    4. *Replying to *you*. Gah! It's too early to comment.

      Delete
  3. I'm in the middle of reading LAUGH and I'm not sure yet. Says it all, right? lol I can't decide if I like the book or hate it. I definitely had problems with LIVE but it was more the writing than the book itself. It was kind of messy and confused me more than it helped me understand the characters. This isn't the case with LAUGH but I'm finding myself a lot thinking wtf just happened here. I like what the author is doing with the whole small town setting. It's not this picture perfect little town with nosy background characters who post the newest romantic development in their quirky little town on fb. *eyeroll* It seems all more real. I think I'll keep on reading and see where this is going. Like you, I loved her novellas and maybe had too high hopes. I don't know.

    Also, yes to the JJ book. As much as I love her books, they are getting boring. I'm also nodding along to your comment about how selfish the sister was. I hated that she expected her sister to be ok to have her wedding at the same venue the heroine was supposed to have hers.

    Now that I've dumped that on you, happy Thursday! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do love the more realistic small town, and I particularly love that it's not filled with cutesy, clogging minor characters and their social media accounts ;-)

      As for IHOW, yep, I was bored, even though I would recommend it to new readers, because there were many good things about. I would like to see her try something different.

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

FTC Disclaimer

The books reviewed here were purchased by us. If the book was provided by the author or publisher for review, it will be noted on the post. We do not get any type of monetary compensation from publishers or authors.