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About Jennie

http://dearauthor.com/author/jennie/

has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

Posts by Jennie :

Reading List by Jennie for November and December

Reading List by Jennie for November and December

 

I also read and reviewed Addicted to You, Ricochet and Fallingand read The Luckiest Lady in London (review by Willaful; I gave it a slightly higher grade than she did, a B+).

babyitscold_200Baby, It’s Cold Outside by HelenKay Dimon

I’d never read this author but I must have come across this book in Daily Deals or somewhere cheap enough to tempt me to try her. I was influenced by the book blurb, which sounded vaguely old-school Linda Howard-ish, and the sort-of holiday theme hit the spot as well. The plot concerns a CEO and his assistant who hook up (very hotly, I might add); almost immediately after he discovers that she has been involved in passing company secrets to a rival (at least so he thinks), fires her and has her escorted off company property. From there the story unfolds in a rather typical old-fashioned way – he has second thoughts, goes to find her, discovers that there was a consequence to their tryst. I thought the writing and characterization were both kind of weak and gave it a C+.

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pictureThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I’ve only ever read The Importance of Being Earnest by Wilde, and liked it rather well; it was very funny. The Picture of Dorian Gray is of course, quite different, being really a sort of horror novel. The plot is familiar to most, but to summarize: Dorian Gray is a beautiful young man in London who makes an idle wish that the recently finished portrait of him ages in his stead. The wish is mysteriously granted. The horrifying part is not so much that the portrait ages in Gray’s place (though certainly the fear of aging is a theme in the story), but that Gray himself becomes more and more corrupt and evil, perhaps in part as a consequence of the fact that his dissipation never shows on his face or body. I thought this story was very effective psychological horror, and gave it a B+. The one quibble I had was that I think in real life being around people who speak constantly in epigrams and bon mots would be exhausting and actually really annoying after a while.

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book thief 2The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’m not sure what I expected from this book, but somehow I was left vaguely dissatisfied. I had heard of it for years but forgot until I started it that its conceit is that it’s narrated by Death. I found Death an irritating narrator at first and his constant interjections distracting. Eventually I did get used to the device, but it took maybe a quarter of the book. The story concerns Liesel Meminger, a young girl in Germany before and during World War II. It begins with Liesel traveling with her mother and brother to Molching, a town outside Munich. Her mother is giving her children up to foster care because she’s not able to take care of them. Liesel’s sick younger brother dies on the journey. It’s implied that her father, arrested earlier as a Communist, is already dead, and that her mother soon will be, arrested herself or done in by grief and loss. Liesel slowly fits in with her foster parents the Heubermanns – the kindly Hans and the stern (actually, stern is probably too faint a word; she’s really kind of abusive) but ultimately solid Rosa. She finds a place in the neighborhood, playing soccer with Rudy, her eventual best friend and first love, and the other neighborhood children. As war clouds gather, the Heubermanns make a dangerous decision that puts the whole family in jeopardy.

There was a lot I liked about The Book Thief – as I said, I eventually got used to the unusual prose style and actually came to appreciate it. I liked the characters – Death makes for an interesting narrator, skillfully balancing a sorrowful pity for the foibles of humans with an ironic and detached air. Liesel is lovely, tough and intelligent, Rudy is a charming partner in crime, and the Heubermanns are appealing as well, even Rosa who constantly insults her husband and Liesel. So what didn’t work? I guess I was expecting the book to work up to a denouement that was somehow more dramatically satisfying. Instead, it’s depressingly prosaic and honestly, just plain depressing. Somehow it didn’t feel right to me. My grade was a B.

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let'sLet’s Spend the Night Together by Pamela Des Barres

Long, long ago I read Des Barres’ groupie memoir I’m with the Band, and I’ve always remembered it with fondness. It’s a trashily entertaining depiction of the 1960s and 1970s rock star lifestyle from the point of view of one of the most famous groupies of the era, and details Des Barres’ tortured romances with, among others, Jimmy Page, as well as flings with Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger. (She was also Don Johnson’s girlfriend until he dumped her for a 14-year-old Melanie Griffith. Yuck.) This book covers a number of other groupies, both from Des Barres’ age of prominence and other eras, up to the present day. I had a couple of major problems with Let’s Spend the Night Together. The first was Des Barres’ prose style, which is godawful overwritten and flowery. I don’t remember having that issue before, but again, I read I’m with the Band back in the Paleozoic Age. The other issue is perhaps also a by-product of my advanced age: several of the stories are less entertainingly seamy and more just kind of gross. Despite protestations to the contrary (which are numerous and plentiful from a number of the subjects Des Barres interviewed and the author herself) groupiedom comes off as less like being a noble “band-aid” (ala Kate Hudson in Almost Famous), and more, well, pathetic. That isn’t true in all of the stories, but certainly a number of them, particularly the interviews with more contemporary groupies. I’m not sure if that’s because the ’60s and ’70s groupies are able to gild their reminiscences with the passage of time, or it really was a more innocent era (even given all the sex and drugs). I just know that some of the younger or current groupies seem troubled, beset by drug, mental health and self-esteem issues. It ended up kind of depressing to read about. I gave this a C.

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REVIEW:  Falling by E.K. Blair

REVIEW: Falling by E.K. Blair

FALLINGDear Ms. Blair,

I read and reviewed the first book in this series, Fading last year. When I heard that there would be a sequel from Ryan’s POV, I was intrigued. I am a bit cynical about romance sequels that tell the same story over from the hero’s perspective, but having liked Fading so much, I was interested enough to want to know what was going on in Ryan’s head during the events in that book (particularly because the storyline had Ryan keeping a secret from Candace for the better part of Fading, albeit one that was pretty obvious to the reader).

The story opens with a prologue; Ryan Campbell is still a teen, and though he doesn’t know it yet it’s the last night of his despised father’s life. Ryan leaves a party where he has taken drugs and hooked up with a random girl and rushes home; he feels that it’s his responsibility to protect his mom from his abusive dad. When he arrives Ryan finds his father beating his mother; in the ensuing altercation, Ryan is actually stabbed and ends up in the emergency room. His drunken father flees in his car, drives into a tree and dies.

The story proper opens on Ryan in the present day – 28 years old and a successful club owner in Seattle. While his career is going great, Ryan’s personal life isn’t so hot – while he has given up his teenaged drug habit, he continues to engage in random hookups with women he doesn’t care about and has only superficial friendships. He’s only too aware of his fear that he might turn out like his father. It’s why, even though he’s close to his married cousin Tori and dotes on her children, he can’t imagine settling down and having kids of his own.

Ryan’s world is upended the night that he hears a woman screaming in the alley outside his club, long after it has closed. He rushes to the alley and finds a man assaulting a naked, bleeding woman. He fights off the attacker, who escapes, and calls 911. The victim is unconscious at this point; Ryan covers her with his shirt and waits for paramedics to arrive.

In the weeks after the attack, Ryan is shaken up by what he’s witnessed. It makes him rethink the meaninglessness he perceives in his own life. He even fears that he is similar in some ways to the rapist; after all, he just uses women. He finds himself halting a quickie with a pretty bartender when memories of the assault flash through his mind.

While he’s working his way through these feelings, Ryan meets Candace, who is working at a coffee shop he stops by one night (the Seattle setting is well represented – everyone drinks a LOT of coffee). He is struck by the barista’s superficial resemblance to the alley rape victim – both are small and brown-haired – but shakes off the eerie feeling, telling himself that it would be too much of a coincidence.

Ryan meets Candace again after he develops a friendship with Mark, whose band plays at Ryan’s club. Candace is best friends with Mark’s newish boyfriend, Jase. Ryan finds himself inexorably drawn to Candace, in spite of the fact that she’s very self-contained and even skittish.

From there, the two develop the same very slow, tentative relationship that readers of Fading will recognize. Honestly, the story is not hugely different as told from Ryan’s POV. The reader does get an insight into what Ryan is thinking during this slow semi-courtship, but none of the thoughts are radical or unexpected.

As he indicated in the previous book, Ryan only became aware that Candace *was* the same person as the alley rape victim when he recognizes the small heart tattoo on her hip. Which may or may not be credible; on the one hand, I understand that it seems like an unlikely coincidence. But on the other hand, so much about Candace – particularly her fear of intimacy and Jase and Mark’s repeated warnings to Ryan that she’s “been through a lot lately” – should spark Ryan’s memories of the initial connection he made between Candace and the rape victim. His inability to make that connection made very little sense. I finally had to put it down to a subconscious refusal to even think about the possibility on Ryan’s part.

Anyway, the discovery that Candace was raped causes Ryan, understandably, a lot of anguish. Not only the knowledge of the trauma that the woman he’s falling in love with has suffered, but his uncertainty about whether to tell Candace who *he* is, and that he was there in the alley. He feels stuck between a rock and a hard place – he knows he’s lying to her (if only by omission), but he also knows that telling her the truth will hurt her.

I could understand why Ryan was so unsure about what to do. It wasn’t like Candace was even remotely open about the rape; when she does eventually tell Ryan about it, he’s only the third person in her life (the other two being Jase and Mark) that knows.

I recall kvetching about Ryan’s attitude towards women in Fading, and it’s an issue for me here, too. Early on, before he meets Candace, he flip-flops between being not too bad, for a lothario, and really kind of ugly. On the one hand, he does show concern about the possibility of a casual hookup becoming too attached; he doesn’t want to lead anyone on. But at other times he characterizes the women he sleeps with as “ditching (their) self-respect”, which I think goes too far. He doesn’t know these women well enough to know why they are having sex with him (maybe they just want sex), so he really doesn’t need to be making moral judgments. He has some crappy, outdated ideas about women and sex that are never really examined, and I wish they had been.

I can often accept ugly attitudes better from a first-person perspective than a third-person one; even if it’s the same character’s POV, first person reinforces for me that it’s a flawed, fallible human being with baggage whose opinions we’re getting, and so I’m a little more forgiving. Third person feels more like the author is making those judgments, and that sometimes bugs me.

At times the stereotypified gender roles aggravated me. Ryan’s Thanksgiving with his family features the women cooking and the men watching football. Later the ladies excitedly get together to plan their Black Friday shopping. Ryan just shakes his head in amusement. Seriously? In any news coverage of Black Friday shoppers I’ve ever seen, men are just as prominently represented as women. But in the somewhat black-and-white world of gender roles in Fading, women just love to shop.

Also, Ryan does go on at length about how tiny and fragile Candace is. Now, this makes a certain amount of sense and is sort of relevant – Candace is a ballerina – but, still, I didn’t need to hear about it all the damn time. She’s small; I get it.

Though I was interested in Falling for the reasons I’ve already mentioned, I was also a little hesitant about reading the same story over from a different POV – might it be boring? I would say no, but honestly it did lag a bit in the middle. Once Ryan’s personality and thoughts are established, and the reader gets a sense of what he’s feeling at some of the key moments we’ve already read once in Fading (and again, there weren’t really any surprises there, not that there had to be), then there isn’t a lot to look forward to.

Events in Falling do extend beyond the ending of Fading, and that was both a good thing and a bad thing. It wrapped up Ryan and Candace’s romance with a definite HEA, and that was fine (there’s even a probably slightly-too-saccharine, kids-and-all epilogue). It showed us the development of Candace’s career, which was nice given that I had some reservations about the choices she made at the end of Fading. After feeling conscious, for much of the book, of the fact that we were treading familiar ground, it was nice to read new material. But it goes on for a bit too long and features what feels like several natural stopping points, only to continue on.

Ultimately, this was a satisfying companion piece to Fading, but not one that I think I just *had* to read. My grade for Falling is a B-.

Best regards,

Jennie

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