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Robin York

Reading List by Rose for May & June

Reading List by Rose for May & June

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikHis Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

I’m a bit late when it comes to this series, since I somehow managed not to hear about it until recently. A series set during the Napoleonic Wars, only with an aerial corps of dragons, sounded like a fantastic idea. Novik has managed to give the dragons character and personalities and to integrate them into history and the military scenes so well that it’s hard to believe that they were not, in fact, a part of the Battle of Trafalgar, nor did they roam about in Qing Dynasty China. I’ve heard conflicting views about some of the later books in the series, but so far I’m really enjoying the adventures of Temeraire and Capt. William Laurence. B+ (for the second book, Throne of Jade, as well), mainly because battle scenes are not my cup of tea. Even if they do involve dragons.

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written in my ownWritten In My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

About three quarters of the way through this one, I wrote to a friend and fellow Outlander reader and told her that I never thought I’d see the day when Claire’s scenes were the least interesting ones in an Outlander book. But it’s true: Claire and Jamie’s relationship seems to be on repeat, and I’m not particularly interested in the various medical scenes, especially not 18th-century surgeries, or in how everything smells. On the other hand, I did enjoy some of the other storylines, especially those involving Lord John Grey and his brother Hal, the Duke of Pardloe. The good news is that they, and several other (formerly) secondary characters, play a large role in the book. This may not be good news to readers whose interest is mainly in Claire and Jamie, however. There were some interesting and entertaining scenes sprinkled throughout, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood does have an actual ending, which is more than could be said for the previous entry in the series, An Echo in the Bone. This one is borderline C+/B-.

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ladyNever Less than A Lady by Mary Jo Putney

The second book in Putney’s Lost Lords series was a nice if not particularly memorable read, with a hero and heroine who are mature and mostly act like it. It was never quite clear why the bad guys kept going after the heroine Julia for so long, but Julia herself was a lovely character –strong despite what had happened to her, and resourceful in her ability to adapt to changing circumstances and come out the better of it. B-

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Betrayal By Sandra SchwabBetrayal by Sandra Schwab

I’d been meaning to read this book since it was reviewed here last year, mainly because it’s based on Erich Kastner’s Das Doppelte Lottchen (which was adapted as The Parent Trap). The idea of telling this story with a focus on the parents’ romance was nice. The problem is that too much of it was devoted to angsting and monologuing, followed by short bursts of action and revelations that were resolved very quickly – this struck me as rather similar to the narrative of a children’s book, and was perhaps intentional, but it’s not a good structure for a romance. I especially disliked the super-speedy resolution after the hero learns the truth, and how quick the heroine was to forgive him. The German-set parts were entertaining and I would have enjoyed more of that. C+

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Deeper Robin YorkDeeper by Robin York

reviewed Deeper in May and will probably read the next book, Harder, once it is published.

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splendidSplendid by Julia Quinn

Quinn’s 1995 debut novel was among the only books of hers that I hadn’t read. As it turns out, I wasn’t missing much; you can tell that it is an earlier book, and it lacks the polish of much of her later work, and it read a bit like a Judith McNaught book, which is not really something that suits Quinn’s style. On the other hand, it did feel a bit less paint-by-numbers than some of the more recently published historicals that I’ve read (no thanks to the hero, though – he was a standard-issue rake) and had some fun dialogue. C

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Take Me On cover - Goodreads Take Me On by Katie McGarry

I reviewed this book last month. I keep confusing the title with that of the A-Ha song.

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In For a Penny coverIn For a Penny by Rose Lerner

I enjoyed In For a Penny and gave it a B.

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REVIEW:  Deeper by Robin York

REVIEW: Deeper by Robin York

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Spoiler (Trigger Warnings): Show

The heroine of Deeper is the target of revenge porn and subsequent slut-shaming; this is a major part of the book and is discussed in the review.

Dear Ms. York,

I enjoyed several New Adult books when I first discovered the genre, but my interest faded pretty quickly and I began to feel like many of the books were so similar that I may as well just re-read my favorites. The premise of Deeper sounded interesting enough to give it a shot, however, and I’m glad I did.

Caroline Piasecki sees herself as a good girl, a driven student, with career ambitions and her life mapped out. Then at the beginning of her sophomore year in college, she gets a text, and a link, that changes everything: her ex-boyfriend has posted pornographic pictures of her online, along with identifying information. The pictures were consensual, but making them public was obviously not. Caroline had gone along with what her boyfriend wanted to do, even though she had reservations about some of it - and when the relationship ended, he used that to strike out at her.

You write in the author’s note that non-consensual pornography – better known as revenge porn – sucks, and it does. It is a horrible invasion of privacy, an attempt to embarrass and shame people (and especially women) about their sexuality, opens them to harassment (or worse), and can make it very difficult to trust people in the future. For Caroline, every interaction now carries a subtext: has this person seen me naked, having sex, do they think I’m a slut, are they judging me, are the pictures why this cute guy wants to talk to me? She gets emails with obscene photos and has a constant soundtrack in her head of men slut-shaming her. Caroline doesn’t want to be a victim, and she wants to move on in her life. Her challenge is in coming to terms with the fact that legally, she can’t do much, and the internet never forgets; she has to find her way to deal with what happened, and come out stronger in a different way.

Caroline’s first reaction is to try and make everything go away, which turns out to be a lost cause. But she doesn’t hide, though she does want to. She becomes closer to West Leavitt, whom she met when they first started college. He knows about the pictures, and she knows he’s seen them, but she feels right with him. Here’s how she describes it on one occasion:

Insomnia has made me her bitch, but it doesn’t matter so much when I can hang out with West and study in my little nook. I nap after class. I’m turning into a creature of the night. It’s all right, though. I guess I’d rather be Bella Swan hanging out at the Cullen place than, you know, school Bella—all pissy and defensive, clomping around Forks High, convinced everyone hates her.

West and Caroline had kept their distance from each other on purpose. She was in a relationship and had also promised her father to stay away from West; for West, there’s no place in his life for someone he could potentially feel strongly about. He’s seen his mother’s obsessive and unhealthy relationship with his father wreck her life, and he wants better things for himself: an education, a career, financial stability, and the ability to make a good life for himself and for his younger sister, Frankie. In his world,

Assuming you’re going to get into med school is like assuming you can walk on water. It’s a fairy tale, and people who believe in fairy tales are idiots.

To accomplish his goals, West will do just about anything: work multiple jobs, almost never sleep, deal drugs, do sex work – and all of it takes a toll. Still, I wasn’t as invested in West’s part of the story as in Caroline’s, and I felt at times as though you’d gone overboard with his difficult background and its effect on him. But Caroline only takes so much of his sending mixed signals and acting like a jerk before she starts calling him out on things, which was good.  I could see how these two characters that came from very different places fit together, and I wanted them to find a way to be happy. Also, I liked that Caroline’s character arc wasn’t just about her relationship with West but also with her best friend and with the new friends she makes as she tries to figure out who and what she wants to be.

In addition to West’s background, a few other things didn’t quite work for me – one is the introductions to each chapter. In several of them, the character narrating would basically give a preview of what was about to happen, which I thought that was odd. Another is the various references to things being deeper, a deeper connection, etc. in the second half of the book. I get that this is the title and a major theme of the book, but it was repeated a few too many times. Finally, I felt that as the novel progressed, there was too much focus on Caroline and West’s sexual relationship than was needed to advance the plot, the relationship or the characters. Again, I can see why this was done: West is used to thinking of sex as a tool, Caroline wants to take charge of her sexuality after what happened to her, and both are figuring out their relationship as they go. But it was just a bit too much at times.

I should point out that Caroline and West do get a happily for now interlude, but the book does not have a happy resolution, and although the two care for each other, each of them has to head in a different direction. Their relationships with their families are also not settled, and Caroline still has to deal with the aftermath of her ex’s actions. Despite my reservations about certain aspects of this book, I’m interested enough to continue and see how things work out for them in the next one. Deeper gets a B.

Best regards,
Rose

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