Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Fortunes of Francesca (Betty Neels)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is on the better end of Betty Neels’ books (see the “Other Things to Know” section where I talk about how the author’s a genre unto herself). There’s your damsel in distress (this time with an ailing aunt, an evil villain for an uncle, and a brother going to medical school) and the hero who rescues her (a doctor, which is standard in Betty Neels novels). It’s got all the elements that someone who likes Neels would enjoy: lots of old-world, traditional sentimentality, lots of food and tea, and a hero who wants nothing more than to protect the heroine by rescuing her from her family, showering her with nice clothes, and feeding her (these books aren’t really action-packed, but you always know what you’re getting with Neels).
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Posted in Romance

Hunted by the Others (Jess Haines, H&W Investigations #1)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Hunted by the Others is a very generic urban fantasy.  The female protagonist looks just like every other female-oriented urban fantasy female protagonist, she encounters the same duo of possible love interests in a werewolf and a vampire as the heroine in every other urban fantasy, and she stresses over the same gamut of familial and financial stress as every other urban fantasy female protagonist.  This is the first in a series, so I suppose later books might break the mold. I guess the main thing that set this book apart from the others I have read is that the protagonist neither possesses or develops any special skills or abilities during the course of the novel, so unlike most protagonists in this genre, she could literally be any random slob that happened to be doing her job on that particular day.  I just had the feeling that the author was doing paint-by-numbers for this sub genre, and it didn’t even occur to her to differentiate herself from everything else out there.  This isn’t a bad book, and if you really like the female-oriented urban fantasy genre and have read everything else then by all means pick up Hunted by the Others, but I can’t really recommend it because it adds nothing to the genre and was completely forgettable.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Sesame Street Night, Night, Elmo!

Not Recommended, Not Repeatable

My toddler loves this book. I do not. The story is very so-so (getting ready for bed, putting on pajamas). However, it’s bright and colorful, durable and has… well… Elmo. I can see the appeal to to young children (to whom even saying the word “Elmo” seems to be a gleeful experience), but I wish I had picked another durable flip/flap book. This story just isn’t involving, and it feel not-worthy-of-repeating after one time through, much less ten… twenty…

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

The Prometheus Project (Steve White)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Prometheus Project is an ambitious hard sci-fi adventure.  It takes the tired trope of a government conspiracy designed to keep the existence of aliens secret from the public and re-imagines it as something both compelling and rational.  The story is well developed and every scene is integral to the greater plot rather than just something tacked on to fill space.  There aren’t that many characters, but each one feels fleshed out and interesting.  The setting is really well thought out and something of a treat for fans of hard sci-fi world building.  I saw somewhere that this book was being presented as appropriate young adult sci-fi, but I would be somewhat apprehensive of exposing it to that audience without a warning that there is a bit of sex and violence that might offend some sensibilities.  Overall, I would heartily recommend the book; it was a treat to read and should please sci-fi fans of almost any variety.
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Lord of Scoundrels (Loretta Chase)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is a great example of animal-attraction/tyrant-male-is-tamed historical romance. I don’t always like the overly-dominant male hero (who, of course, has the tragic childhood backstory), but this was just one of those stories where you really get behind the characters. There’s a point at which a writer really has worked through and past the cliche to get to the heart of characters, and I think Chase really has achieved that here. You’ve got very strong willed protagonists fighting their attraction, a lot of meta-thinking-through from both main characters, and a couple of predictable plot twists, all wrapped in totally believable backstories, side characters, and historical details (oh, and lots of Italian…)
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Posted in Romance

Willful Creatures (Aimee Bender)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Bender’s writing is heavily stylized, and her situations make up a large part of the story’s effect – often they are metaphors for some more overriding emotion or experience, and sometimes it’ll click, sometimes it won’t. In general, I’m a fan: I think her prose is crisp and clear, and I can buy into the mystical universes because her characters are often, partially because they are featureless and nameless, more fully characterized and realized by their actions and what limited background we get.This collection however, is kind of hit and miss. It’s enjoyable at times, but nothing really stood out (unlike some of her other works) and nothing was grab-my-attention memorable.
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Posted in Literary Fiction

Crash: A Mother, a Son, and the Journey from Grief to Gratitude (Carolyn Roy-Bornstein)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Just as it was a difficult book to read, this is a tough review to write. In terms of the story being presented: a mother who was a nurse and is now a doctor  is trying to learn how to care for her son after a horrific car accident that kills his girlfriend and leaves him with a head injury that changes his personality and memory… it’s compelling and moving. Of course it’s compelling and moving. On the other hand, the writing felt uneven to me: there are sections that are beautifully sparse and sympathetically drawn, and there are other times when it almost feels as though she’s sharing her worst memories just to share them  (one particular example of a newborn she treated, though she knew the baby was dying comes to mind). Parts of it do come off a little holier-than-thou, which is tough, because so much of the novel is meant to be her struggling to care for her son (and her son telling her she’s a bad doctor) as a mother as opposed to as a doctor/former nurse. The story is compelling, but the writing and the pacing made it much harder for me to relate to the people.
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Posted in Nonfiction

Frederica (Georgette Heyer)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is one of my favorite romances to read and reread. You’ve got the beautiful younger sister who’s not the main character, a pair of younger brothers who get into all sort of hijinks, a mongrel of a dog, and Frederica, the managing older sister who oversees everything and everyone. She is slightly more than passably pretty, and definitely not the type of person you’d expect the Marquis of Alverstoke to fall for… but it all just works. This has an amazing, memorable cast of side characters, some of the funniest scenes and pairings I can think of, and probably is the seed of at least half of the tropes out there in the historical romance genre today. See where it all began!
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Posted in Romance

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (NK Jemisin, The Inheritance Trilogy #1)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is a somewhat surreal high magic political fantasy story.  This is a strange fantasy novel for two principal reasons: firstly, the story is all told within one palace, and secondly, the scope of the novel is quite a bit larger than most fantasy books.  Half of the characters are enslaved gods with miraculous powers, and most of the human characters are part of a large dynastic family that rules the entire world with the gods’ assistance.  This is the first in a series of books, and the conclusion to this book is satisfying enough that I really couldn’t begin to guess what the second book will cover, exactly, if it uses the same characters and if it doesn’t enlarge its scope even further.  The plot bogs down in a few places, but overall, this was a very pleasant read, and I would recommend it to fantasy fans who don’t mind palace intrigue and betrayal assisted by lots of magic and myth over heroic sword fights and monster slaying.
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But Not the Hippopotamus (Sandra Boynton)

Recommended, Repeatable

A cute little rhyming story about animals and their antics, and a hippopotamus who never joins in(“a hog and a frog cavort in the bog… but not the hippopotamus”). The pictures are simple but cute, and the rhymes are kind of infectious in a fun way; because the reader can’t help but make some funny voices and intonations while reading, the toddler will be very interested. Mine has asked me to read this book “again” so many times I have it memorized… and I think it’s a great addition into any toddler library.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult