Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Unclaimed Duchess (Jenna Peterson, Billingham Bastards #2)

0.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Sometimes a novel just sets off every pet peeve you’ve ever had about a genre.  This is one of those romances where the dialogue seems forcibly stilted (in an effort to remind you of the characters’ rank and the time period), where the heroine has been in love with the hero since childhood (and thus you’re given no real reason for the love), where everyone is either a duke, an earl or a duke’s bastard, where our protagonists confuse great sex with true love, and where all of the dramatic plot twists that have been culminating are waved away in the final scenes without rhyme or reason (simple solutions that just never occurred to anyone during the first two hundred and fifty pages).  I found the characters to be one-sided and underdeveloped, the dialogue boring, and the final climax actually a little insulting (though only if you’re in the medical profession, I suppose; spoilers below).
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Posted in Romance

After the Quake (Haruki Murakami)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a witty, amusing collection of short stories which alternates between lyrical prose and quick dialogue.  It’s an easy and quick read with at least a couple of stories that are emotionally compelling.  Yet it’s hard to decide if, in a time when there are so many authors to read, so many collections to choose from, this particular collection is worthwhile enough to be picked from the slush-pile of options. This collection could have been great: there are sprinklings of elegant, characterizing prose, like when a wife leaves her husband by complaining that living with him is like, “living with a chunk of air,” and a divorced doctor who learns, while taking a vacation to Thailand, that “living and dying are, in a sense, of equal value.” Yet many of the stories seem to lack substance – you finish the story and think: okay, what next?  Many of our title characters seem to have mini-epiphanies that you’re not sure are either earned or justified, so that even though several of the stories are well crafted, it’s a very borderline collection for me.
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Posted in Literary Fiction

Women Still at Work: Professionals Over Sixty and On the Job (Elizabeth F. Fideler)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Though it was an interesting concept — interviewing and delving into one of the faster growing segments of the US workforce — this ultimately felt more like a book pitch than a fully fleshed out work. While many of the women are inspirational for a variety of reasons (many are leaders in their field, are working because they’re supporting their mother, or just feel like they still have something to contribute), everything starts to blur a little together by the 10th or so interview, and though there are occasionally interesting charts and graphs, I’m not sure what I really learned by reading the book that I couldn’t have deduced from the back cover and maybe a quick glance at the graphics.

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Posted in Nonfiction

Taken by Storm (M.J. Schiller)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This was a well-written, fast-paced romance with truly likeable characters and an interesting plot progression. Set in the desert, it ever-so-occasionally falls victim to the stereotypes one might expect (the scheming vizzier who overthrows the king), but it is, overall, a creative novel with interesting, strongly written characters who have a wonderfully believable journey towards each other. There’s a fairly interesting set of side characters, believable tensions throughout, and other than a few small concerns and quibbles (mentioned below) this was one of the better romances I’ve read.
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Posted in Romance

Sir Stalwart (Dave Duncan, The King’s Daggers #1)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Sir Stalwart is, for me, a brief breath of fresh air in the often fetidly stagnant genre of swords-and-sorcery fantasy.  Somewhere along the way, many authors have convinced themselves that making fantasy fun and quick-moving is impossible, and that people only want thick ponderous tomes crammed full of angst and pages of maps and lists of innumerable characters.  Sir Stalwart is the complete antithesis to this moribund approach.  There are very few characters, the book moves very fast, and the story is so localized that, at least in my copy of the book, they didn’t even include a map.  There isn’t a ton of action, so if you are mostly drawn to the genre due to an insatiable thirst for constant swordfights and fireballs whizzing through the air, you might find Sir Stalwart too sedate for your tastes, but for everyone else I would heartily recommend Sir Stalwart.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Jumping Jenny (Ellen Bari)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is a lighthearted book about a young girl who just wants to jump!  Though everyone is initially annoyed with some of the accidents Jenny’s jumping sometimes leads to, she eventually finds a way to make a difference (by holding a Jumpathon to raise funds for the classroom charity drive) while doing something she’s passionate about (jumping on a pogostick).  The illustrations (by Raquel Garcia Macia) are fun and fabulous, and the story is repeatable as well — it’s all about helping a kid find that thing they love, sticking to it despite any criticism they might have to weather, and maybe even finding a constructive use for it (even if it is a Jumpathon).

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Wyrmhole (Jay Casselberg)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Wyrmhole is a forgettable detective novel set in the far future with a psychic detective.  The plot doesn’t really make sense, and the psychic aspect of the protagonist seems to be more of a method of force-feeding the reader large tracts of exposition that couldn’t come from any logical source.  To call the characters one-dimensional would be an exaggeration of their depth.  The protagonist is the standard uninteresting, brooding, disheveled, self-loathing, incompetent jerk that has taken over the detective genre, but the other characters are so sketchily drawn that you really couldn’t form any sort of attachment to them because there just isn’t enough there.  The world is sort of imaginative, which I liked, but the author consistently has characters do things that make no sense given the technology at their disposal, so it somewhat ruins the effect.  Just like everything else in the book, the conclusion was unsatisfying and didn’t quite make sense.  Where it wasn’t bland and uninteresting it was bad and counterintuitive, I can’t in good conscience recommend Wyrmhole to anyone.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

If You Give a Girl a Viscount (Kieran Kramer, Impossible Bachelors #4)

1.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
There’s some funny banter, and there are some fairly creative plot twists… but there are also some crazy, bizarre, kind of nonsensical plot twists, and some dialogue that’s trying so hard it’s super-farcical and hard to take seriously.  Though I was very interested in the beginning and set up (a viscount has been cut off from his family’s money and accepts a bet to help his grandmother’s goddaughter; the goddaughter in question is living some terrible Cinderella-like story), things just seemed to get more and more exaggerated, to the point where I had to take multiple breaks to finish it. Points for creativity and clarity of writing… but that’s about it.
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Posted in Romance

Jernigan (David Gates)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
A dark portrait of suburban life gone awry, Jernigan’s misery is due in equal parts to bad luck/unfortunate circumstance as well as chronically bad life choices on his part.  Jernigan is self-deprecating, yet kind of a bully; he’s intelligent but completely underutilized; he’s psychologically damaged but also simultaneously aware and oblivious in a way that’s hard not to identify with.  Though Jernigan is plagued with specific psychoses and vices (his bunny-killing lover, alcoholism), there is an everyman quality about him and his circumstances where you can’t help but relate to him, and even root for him. Both depressing and hilarious, this is a brilliant novel that is compulsively readable.
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Posted in Literary Fiction

Oh Myyy! (There Goes The Internet) (George Takei)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This book is everything fans of George Takei would expect: irreverent, hilarious, conversational, and thought provoking.  Oh, and also pictures of cats.  Takei tells the story of his experiences with building and maintaining a web presence, first on Twitter and then on Facebook, and shares lessons about EdgeRank, Grammar Nazis, and an annoying impersonator he refers to as George Fakei.  You definitely don’t need to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy this; references to his time as Sulu are few and far between.  Rather, this is the story of an engaging civil rights activist in his 70s playing with the new tools the Internet has to offer.

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Posted in Nonfiction