Monthly Archives: April 2013

Dickens’ London (Peter Clark)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
If you’re a Dickens enthusiast, this is actually kind of interesting… very, very dense (despite the pictures) and with lots and lots of references to Dickens’ life and works. The book is organized via a series of “walks” and oscillates between quotes from Dickens’ works and brief historical notes about particular buildings, when they were constructed (and with what intentions), as well as how researchers deduced how Dickens’ fictional places corresponded with real geographical places (largely through letters Dickens had written and based on what travels Dickens had taken while writing).

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Posted in Nonfiction

When Beauty Tamed the Beast (Eloisa James)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Though the beginning of the novel is creative, it is also slow and unevenly written (okay, the first half).  There are some wonderful things about this book; the climactic scene (though moderately predictable) is fantastic, very gripping and a real page-turner. Also, there are some delightful side characters, and very well written banter. That said, you’ll have to decide if a solid back half of a novel is enough to wade through a beginning that is unevenly paced, and where the characters feel more like caricatures (our female protagonist is the sun and moon and the stars combined, and our hero is the limping, impotent beast) than fully-realized portrayals.


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Posted in Romance

Night Shift (Lilith Saintcrow; Jill Kismet, Hunter #1)

2 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Night Shift is another generic “magical heroine protects city” urban fantasy. I didn’t hate this book or anything, but there just wasn’t enough here for me to differentiate it much from the rest of the multitude of books that use an identical premise and have indistinguishable characters who do the exact same things. I recognize that this is a book designed to fit into a genre, but to me fantasy, urban or otherwise, is about exploring a multitude of fantastic possibilities, not trudging repetitively through the same tired premise again and again with characters who are mostly distinguishable by their hair color and the specifics of their troubled childhoods. This is the first in a series, and maybe the author is laying groundwork for something inspired and unique, but I honestly can’t see it if she is. I guess if you are an avid fan of the “powerful magical woman who hunts monsters” urban fantasy genre, I wouldn’t particularly warn you away from the genericness of Night Shift, but I really can’t find enough unique here to recommend it either.

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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Little Quack’s Opposites (Lauren Thompson)

Recommended, Repeatable

This is probably my favorite “opposites” board book (there are so many: Disney/Winnie the Pooh ones, Sesame Street/Elmo ones). The pictures (detailing two ducks: Little Quack and his sibling Puddle) go through a series of opposites: up versus down, awake versus asleep, etc. Though you do feel that Puddle gets the short end of the stick, they’re engaging and bright, and, as all toddlers seem to go through an “opposites” phase, this is a great book (and far more detailed, with more examples than some of the other ones).

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Broken Crescent (S Andrew Swann)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Broken Crescent is a swords-and-sorcery, through-the-looking-glass style fantasy adventure. The setting is very creative and engaging. The characters could be a bit better, and the plot has some noticeably slow spots, but overall it was still enjoyable. There is a nice juxtaposition and contrast between medieval thinking and fantasy magic with modern rationality and mathematics that I really enjoyed. Some of the initial establishment of the bad guys as evil is a little gratuitous and over the top, and I think I would have enjoyed a more nuanced portrayal. Still, I would recommend this to people looking for a distinct and unique swords-and-sorcery fantasy setting, but not people looking for a strong character study or an intricately nuanced plot.

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Impetuous Innocent (Stephanie Laurens)

0 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is, by far, my least favorite book by Stephanie Laurens. Granted, I don’t read all of her new stuff any more, but I’ve read well over half her books, and this really is the worst: our female protagonist is not just naive and innocent but downright dumb. She’s annoying in most of the scenes she shows up in, I have no idea why our hero and heroine are attracted to one another (and he’s soooooo all-knowing that he’s almost unbearable as well). I had a lot of trouble finishing this book.

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Posted in Romance

Empire Falls (Richard Russo)

5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is one of my favorite books — frighteningly believable characters who are flawed, layered, and so easy to relate to. These are characters who are middle aged and older, trying to live with the mistakes they made years ago: dropping out of college because of a crush, affairs, unrequited love in many forms… and also trying to reason through a variety of parenting decisions. The town that serves as the setting for this book has its own story to tell — a blue-collar town that is on its last legs.

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Posted in Literary Fiction

The Housing Trap: How Buyers Are Captured And Abused And How To Defend Yourself (Patrick Killelea)

1 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
While there are some interesting things in this book, and parts of it are educational (at least to me, since I have never before read things about mortgages, buying houses, various associations of realtors, etc), it is more of a rant than a traditional book. For every piece of interesting information and/or analysis, there are lots and lots of rants about how realtors are basically evil, debt is the new form of slavery, etc, as well as a healthy dose of misogyny… which is a shame, since the interesting parts were actually educational.

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Tangled Reins (Stephanie Laurens)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is an earlier work by Laurens that I really enjoyed! I do believe that Laurens only has a certain set of heroes and heroines, and so this was like seeing what they were like in the beginning (before endless iterations). Nothing is overly dramatic or prolonged, and the sensuality is somewhat toned down relative to  other Laurens works. It’s got a nice, feisty heroine who has kick and gumption throughout the novel, a managing hero who’s not actually an overly arrogant arse, and a well paced love story that’ll keep you interested throughout.

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Posted in Romance

Spellbent (Lucy A Snyder, Spellbent #1)

2.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Spellbent is an urban fantasy adventure novel that has some promise but ultimately tries to do too many things at once and loses its way.  The biggest problem is that the tone of the book shifts wildly from one section to another.  With these rapid shifts in tone, it really isn’t clear where the book is going, and it is hard to appreciate any of the world building or character development that the author tries to do.  This appears to be the first planned book in a series, and the author had quite a few ideas about how she wanted the book to end up and various things that should happen to the characters but had some difficulty in integrating all these things into this novel’s narrative.  I wouldn’t recommend this book, because although it wasn’t a horrible chore to get through, the author just tries to do too much and ends up not doing anything well.
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Posted in Sci-Fi/Fantasy