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What Janine is Reading: June 2012

My June reading was a mixture of the good and the disappointing. Here’s what I read:

A Gentleman Undone by Cecelia GrantA Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant

I loved Grant’s debut, A Lady Awakened. This is the follow up, about the brother of the heroine from the earlier book, an officer in the Napoleonic Wars who sold his commission and finds it hard to reintegrate into society.

At a gaming club, Will meets Lydia Slaughter, card sharp and another man’s mistress. When he confronts her about her having cheated him of his winnings, he gets more than he bargained for, including lessons in gambling, and a gaming partnership meant to win Lydia her freedom and Will a much-needed redemption. From there on things proceed to a romantic relationship, though not in the usual ways.

I love the intelligence in this author’s voice, the specificity of her word choices and the freshness of her characterizations. I do feel that A Lady Awakened was a fuller (for lack of a better word) novel, with a greater range of emotional tones and a stronger sense of place. A Gentleman Undone had a moodier atmosphere, but there was so much I enjoyed in it, including that Grant does not shy away from showing the heroine not only engaging in but also enjoying sex with her “protector.” B+.

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Magic Bites Ilona AndrewsMagic Bites by Ilona Andrews
Having enjoyed reading all three of the books in Andrews’ Edge series with my husband, I suggested to him that we try Magic Bites, the first book in Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. I’ve had this book TBR for quite a while.

Unfortunately neither of us enjoyed this one anywhere near as much as the Edge books. The humor, charm, romance, and the fascinating contrast between two worlds that makes those books so much fun is missing from Magic Bites.

The heroine/narrator of the book, Kate, doesn’t show the same kind of wit I’ve found in Andrews’ other heroines, at least in this book. Both she and Curran, her eventual love interest, make some downright boneheaded decisions, and it was hard for me to care about either of them.

I’ve heard that the series gets better in later books, but if not for that, we might have stopped reading midway. We discussed quitting and came pretty close to doing so. There’s some snappy narration and a Buffyesque feel, so I can see that Magic Bites might have felt fresher when it first came out in 2007, but even so, it’s hard to understand how it made such a splash. Jane’s A- review can be found here. C-.

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About Last Night Ruthie KnoxAbout Last Night by Ruthie Knox

What a charming book this was, humorous, romantic and emotional. Nev and Cath, both Londoners, see each other on the train they take from home to work, and while running in the park. But they don’t converse until Nev finds a drunk Cath in a tough spot and takes her home.

The next morning, Cath wonders if they had sex. Although though they didn’t, they do soon enough, and it’s the best sex either of them have had. But Cath is recovering from youthful mistakes and doesn’t want Nev to be another in a long series of them. Will Nev convince her that he could be much more?

I loved the characters in this one. They felt real to me. Cath is a transplant from America who works at an art museum and wears tattoos chronicling each lapse of judgment in her past. I didn’t judge her as she did herself, but I could see why she did, and I wanted her to forgive herself.

Nev is a sweetheart and an artist trapped in his job at his family’s bank. He does everything possible to get past Cath’s defenses and tries to prove himself to her, but he makes human mistakes along the way. Nev’s family could be horrible, but even so his parents felt believable to me. His brother was less so.

There is a huge grand gesture at the end of the book . I was doubtful that something like that could be pulled off in reality, but somehow it still melted my heart. It’s very rare for me to enjoy a straight contemporary this much, and I’m now looking forward to Knox’s Ride with Me. Jane’s review of About Last Night can be found here. B+.

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Insurgent by Veronica RothInsurgent by Veronica Roth

I loved Divergent, but was disappointed with its sequel. While I still liked Tris, I felt that with much of her toughness and all of her competitiveness stripped from her, her characterization became less compelling in Insurgent than it had been in the prequel. Meanwhile, the characterization of Tris’s boyfriend, Tobias, was marred by contrived conflicts with Tris.

I also noticed a lot of other contrivances and inconsistencies in the story, such as, for example, members of the Dauntless faction apparently not thinking to post sentries at a tall building they were guarding, since they did not see an attack coming, or member of Erudite not knowing how to manufacture Candor’s truth serum, which led me to wonder, who invented it for Candor?

When I’m distracted enough to wonder about such things, it’s a sign I’m not absorbed in the story. Jia reviewed this one (she liked it much better than I did), and I have a review in the works as well. Grade: C-.

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Can't Buy Me Love Molly O'KeefeCan’t Buy Me Love by Molly O’Keefe

After enjoying About Last Night so much, I was in the mood for another straight contemporary (gasp) so I picked up Can’t Buy Me Love which has been strongly recommended by Janet/Robin. The enthusiasm in the comments was so great that I was hopeful I would enjoy it even though I rarely enjoy the sports trope, don’t love Texas as a setting for books, and as a vegan, can’t get excited about the leather clothing the heroine designs.

I ended up feeling torn about this book. On the one hand, I appreciated that O’Keefe tackled flawed characters and portrayed them with honesty. We need more of that in the romance genre. As Robin points out, the reality of sports injuries wasn’t sugarcoated, and that was another thing I appreciated. I also liked the heroine, Tara Jean, for her courage and pluck. I kept reading to see how her happy ending would come about.

On the other hand, the hockey-playing hero, Luc, did not jell equally well for me. He started out so angry and misogynistic toward Tara Jean that I had a hard time fully buying his sweetness toward her and his worry for her later on. I kept waiting for the guy with the anger management issues to make another appearance in their relationship, and I also didn’t understand how he maintained such calm control on the ice.

The characterization in this book reminded me of SEP’s pre-Avon writing and of other books I read in the late eighties, American romantic sagas whose characters were larger than life but still messed up and flawed. I am glad to see that kind of character development being brought back, but because I read a fair number of books with characterization in this vein as a kid, it didn’t feel as fresh to me as it might to some other readers.

I also found myself wishing the characters had not been based in stereotypes – the competitive athlete, the trashy girl from the trailer park, the spoiled socialite, the taciturn cowboy, the poised former model. While I appreciated that the main characters were full enough to be more than these stereotypes, and that in particular, Tara Jean’s growth was lovely and convincing, I was also hungry to encounter a character who wasn’t based in a type at all.

Between that and my issues with Luc, as well as some hiccups in the prose, I admired the thoughtfulness that went into this novel more than I enjoyed reading it. It’s hard to know what to grade a book I feel that way about, but maybe a C+/B-?

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What about you guys? How was your June reading-wise? Have you read any of the books I mentioned above, and if so, what did you think of them?

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

48 Comments

  1. Isobel Carr
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 13:31:44

    Interesting about the Kate Daniels vs. The Edge books. I had the direct opposite response. Absolutely adore the KD books, but simply could not get into The Edge. DNF’d the first one (tried it three separate times because I just couldn’t accept that it was as dull as it was).

    I just glommed all of Miranda Neville’s books and can’t praise them highly enough. Just adored them.

  2. Sirius
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 13:36:45

    Hi Janine. Just wanted to note that I am of the school of thought that Kate Daniels series definitely get better after book one too :). I heard even authors recommended not to start with book one heh. I started with book three (simply because I have no patience not because I heard that part before I started reading) and then went back and yes, to me book one was while still part of the series much weaker.

    I enjoyed first book in Edge series, but second one may have put me off them.

  3. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 13:41:41

    @IsobelCarr: Wow, that is interesting. I read the first Edge book twice and liked it even better the second time than the first. The beginning feels slow the first time you read it, but there is more going on under the surface than appearances would lead one to think, so the second time it’s even more exciting. You might try the second Edge book though — they each follow a different couple so I don’t think you have to read the first one first (although it doesn’t hurt). The later ones don’t have the same fairy tale feel that the first one has. They are grittier and more violent.

    With regard to Magic Bites, I found Kate boring, not that bright, and not anywhere as kick-ass as she made herself to be. I much prefer the Edge heroines — especially Cerise from Bayou Moon, but all of them, really.

    Re. Miranda Neville — I’ve read and enjoyed all her Burgundy Club books. I reviewed three of them and put The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton on my list of favorite 2011 books. So you are definitely preaching to the converted there!

  4. Lorenda Christensen
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 13:42:38

    @Isobel – You aren’t the only one. I liked the Kate Daniels books better, though it could be because I read them first. I’m a “rut” girl and it takes time for me to mentally switch settings.

  5. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 13:48:43

    @Sirius Thanks. Ilona Andrews did make the comment that of the books in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Bites was “the worst of the lot.” I remember because Andrews said it in comment #10 in this comment thread.

    ETA: I meant to ask, was it the violence that put you off book two in the Edge series? Or something else?

    @Lorenda Christensen Glad you (and Isobel) enjoyed Magic Bites more than I did. I expect you’re in the majority since that series is so popular.

  6. Angela
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 13:50:25

    Put me down for liking the Kate Daniels’ series better than The Edge series, too. And I fell in love with the series and with Kate instantly – from the very first book I was hooked. However, I do agree that it continues to get better as the series goes on. Every book is better than the last, and while I was instantly hooked in the first book, I do think it’s the weakest of the series when I do re-reads.

  7. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 13:55:27

    @Angela: As I just said to Lorenda, I think you guys are in the majority and I’m in the minority. I want to make it clear though that I’m only referencing Magic Bites in this conversation. I haven’t read the rest of the Kate Daniels series so I can’t say whether or not the series as a whole is better than the Edge books in my opinion. Comparing the Edge books to Magic Bites alone, I think all of them are stronger.

  8. Kati
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 14:00:40

    Janine – I’ve tried to read the Kate Daniels book 1 about four different times. I found it to be difficult to invest in. But then I see all over Twitter the “SWOON Curran” comments, and I feel like I’m missing the party. I’ve also had multiple parties tell me to move on from Book 1 and try Book 2. Perhaps she’s like Meljean’s Guardian series where some books are not as beloved as others. I had Meljean herself urge me to start with Book 3 after not really liking the first one. Maybe that’s the case here as well.

  9. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 14:07:19

    @Kati: A kindred spirit! I didn’t finish the first book in Meljean Brook’s Guardian series, so I’d say we’re on the same page with both these series. Like you, I wonder what I’m missing with all the Kate and Curran fuss. I don’t think I would have made it through Magic Bites if my husband and I hadn’t been reading it together (and we came close to quitting as it was — he didn’t like it as well as the Edge books either). Have you tried the Edge series? Since I liked them so much more, I wonder if you might prefer them too.

  10. Isobel Carr
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 14:12:12

    I discovered Ilona Andrews via their novella in MUST LOVE HELLHOUNDS. The story is about Andrea/Raphael, both of whom I absolutely adore. So when I started MAGIC BITES, I was already “into” the series. I’ll download the sample of the second book in THE EDGE series and see if it sucks me in. Thanks!

  11. Kati
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 14:12:36

    I love the Edge series.

    See? TWINSIES!

  12. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 14:19:49

    @Isobel: I hope you enjoy Bayou Moon.

    @Kati: LOL!

    Lest this thread become exclusively focused on the Ilona Andrews books, has anyone read any of the other books I mentioned in the post? If so, what did you think of them?

  13. Kati
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 14:29:35

    I adored About Last Night by Ruthie Knox. I think she’s one of the most promising new voices in contemporary romance. I haven’t read the Cecilia Grant, although I only hear raves about her books. I have Can’t Buy Me Love on my Kindle, but haven’t gotten to it yet, even though I hear good things.

  14. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 14:37:45

    @Kati: Re. Ruthie Knox — yes! I haven’t read Ride with Me yet but About Last Night was my favorite contemporary in many a moon. I’m psyched to have found an author whose work I’ve enjoyed so much. And it’s only her second book!

    Cecilia Grant is a marvelous writer. I urge you to try her but I’d say start with A Lady Awakened. It’s the first book in the series and it did feel richer to me.

    I wish I’d enjoyed Can’t Buy Me Love more. The craftsmanship was there for the most part, especially in Tara Jean’s characterization. I didn’t warm to Luc, but also, I just don’t think it’s my type of book and I was hoping it would win me over despite that. It didn’t but I don’t want to recommend against reading it. It’s one of those books which I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as I hoped to, but I can still see why others love so much.

  15. Barb in Maryland
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 14:55:03

    Hi Janine–
    Re: Cecilia Grant–could never get into A Lady Awakened, but loved A Gentleman Undone.
    Re: Edge vs Kate Daniels–I have loved all of Kate’s books, but agree that the series just gets stronger. I enjoyed the first Edge book, DNF’d the second, but romped through the third–go figure.
    Re: Ruthie Knox. Am I the only reader old enough to be totally put off by the hero’s full name?? I just couldn’t get past it At All. Spoiled what could have been a good read.
    Re: Miranda Neville–I’ve loved some, felt blah about others, but I always read her.

  16. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 15:05:16

    @Barb in Maryland:

    Re. A Lady Awakened, was that because of the characters or the setup?

    The third Edge book was a romp. But the first was the most romantic to me. Book two — I loved Cerise but was less keen on William. And it was really violent, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

    Neville Chamberlain is a horrible namesake for a hero, but since the character goes by Nev, and half the time the heroine thinks of him as “City,” I got over it.

    Re. Miranda Neville — I have a couple of friends who loved the first two Burgundy Club books but not the last two. For me they just keep getting better.

  17. cleo
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 15:12:13

    I agree with you about Can’t Buy Me Love. I also wanted to like it more than I did. I just didn’t care that much about the romance – I wanted Tara Jean to succeed, but I didn’t really care if she ended up with Luc. I couldn’t connect to either of them – perhaps because of the stereotyping you mention. They didn’t seem like real people to me. Which reminded me of SEP and her larger than life characters. CBML definitely has a strong SEP vibe and SEP is hit or miss for me.

  18. Angela
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 15:32:10

    @Janine: Based solely on discussions I’ve had with friends, I don’t think you’re in the minority on Kate Daniels at all. Nearly everyone I know had a hard time with the first book. Those that did read further in the series love it now though. Everyone I know had a really hard time connecting to Kate at first.

    I love The Edge books too, just in a much different way.

  19. Lynnd
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 15:40:18

    I loved A Lady Awakened, but am really struggling with A Gentleman Undone. It’s very well written, but I am struggling to finish it but I can’t really don’t know why. I may try it again at a later date.

    I really like both the Kate Daniels series and the Edge series, but if I had to choose (and I hope I never have to), I’d say I like the Edge books a bit better.

    About Last Night and Can’t Buy me Love are on my wish list (I have to get my TBR down to a manageable size before I add anything more :-).

  20. Patricia
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 16:15:15

    I am partway through About Last Night, and so far I’m loving it. I did note the hero’s full name and thought it an odd choice but it’s not nearly enough to put me off the book. If I remember correctly, doesn’t the author have a PhD in modern British history?

  21. Brie
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 16:27:18

    I felt so, so alone! And then this post came…

    I love everything Ilona Andrews except the Kate Daniels books. I read book one and didn’t like it, yet everyone said keep going, it gets better, wait until book three! So I read book two and it was the same thing. But still I wasn’t ready to quit. I barely managed to read book 3, it’s just not for me. It was my secret shame, me not liking the Kate Daniels books, especially since I love their other stories including the Alphas novella everyone else seemed to hate. I had a different experience with the Guardian books, though. I saw the potential in book 1, liked book 2 and loved everything else. It’s my all-time favorite series.

  22. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 16:30:04

    @cleo: You’re the first person I’ve come across who felt the same way I did. It was hard for me to warm to Luc, and although I liked Tara Jean better, I felt at arms length from the romantic relationship, if that makes sense.

    I agree that this book shares larger-than-life characters with SEP’s books. SEP”s books are hit or miss for me as well, but they can drive me crazy with their unbelievable premises, and I didn’t have that kind of response to Can’t Buy Me Love. I was also glad that the heroine wasn’t humiliated the way SEP’s heroines frequently are.

    I’m not sure if I’ll be reading Victoria and Eli’s story. It’s one I’m on the fence about.

    @Angela: That is good to know.

    @Lynnd: Are you in an early part of A Gentleman Undone? I was riveted almost the whole time I read it but Robin felt the pacing flagged in the first half, and picked up a lot in the second.

    I hope you enjoy ALN and CBML.

  23. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 16:43:27

    @Patricia: About Last Night was my biggest find in the romance genre since I read A Lady Awakened last autumn. And the last time I liked a straight contemporary so much was years ago, when I first read Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation. I’m so glad you’re enjoying it too!

    @Brie: LOL. And hugs! It’s nicer not to be alone… I need to try the later Guardian books sometime.

  24. Readsalot81
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 17:28:39

    It’s funny because I actually prefer the world building of The Edge/ The Weird over the KD books. I have an easier time picturing that particular world and it’s fascinating. But that’s pretty much where it ends. Fate’s Edge was probably my least favorite out of all the books that they’ve done. But often times I find with authors that have 2/3 + series out, that I definitely have a strong preference for one over the other. (Singh, Briggs, Butcher, Caine, Armstrong, Mead etc etc)

    Insurgent for me was a big fail. Talk about 1 step forward, 2 steps back. I won’t disagree with your assessment about Tris. It was like everything that I loved about her in Divergent just seemed to disappear in Insurgent. Adding Will’s sister into the mix didn’t add or enrich the story in anyway. And the way she ended it? I’m not a fan. Big reveals/cliffhangers right at the end make me cranky and question why they chose to do so.

    I’ll have to try out Cecilia Grant’s books. I’ve heard many good things about them, but haven’t picked one up yet.

  25. Janine
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 17:47:20

    @Readsalot81: The worldbuilding is more vivid in the Edge series for me as well. But obviously it doesn’t end there for me! I too usually have preferences in authors’ series — for example I love Briggs’ Charles and Anna series but I could take or leave Mercy.

    I have a longer review of Insurgent running this Friday, and I go into my issues in greater depth there. But yeah, agree with everything you said about it. Also the big reveal at the end of the book did not surprise or shock me. I was hoping for something more fresh.

  26. Kathryn
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 18:17:34

    I absolutely adore Cecilia Grant. I was so pleased when Dear Author put me onto the first one and I’ve demolished each one since with a couple of rereads!

    About Last Night was great fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I also though the hero’s name was a bit much (so much so that it was a distraction whenever she called him that instead of City).

    Kate Daniels vs the Edge: have loved KD all along including the first book. Enjoyed the 1st Edge, tolerated the 2nd and hated the 3rd which everyone else seemed to love. I disliked the characters and the story and came close to a DNF which is rare for me. Looks like everyone has very strong opinions on the Ilona Andrews’ books!

  27. msaggie
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 18:24:44

    Janine, I felt the same way about Magic Bites too and I gave my copy away after I read it “what was all the fuss about?”. However, since I already had Book 2, Magic Burns, and Book 3, Magic Strikes, I read them too regardless, and I was hooked from Book 2 when Bran came along. I love the characters from folk tales and mythology from different cultures that Ilona Andrews puts into her Kate Daniels series. The subsequent books are better, and I went back to buy another copy of Magic Bites after giving my first copy away! So, I hope you do take up Book 2 of Kate Daniels. The Edge books have a more romantic set-up usually, and I love them all too. In fact, I love all Ilona Andrews’ books, whether Kate Daniels’ world, the Edge, the universe of Silver Shark or even Alpha.

    I am looking forward to A Gentleman Undone as I really enjoyed a Lady Awakened. And thanks for recommending Ruthie Knox – I so seldom read contemporary books now.

  28. Tina
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 18:48:27

    I agree with Readsalot81 that the world building in The Edge series is better than that in the KD series. I think on my GR review I said that I felt positively immersed in the world in that series and had to fight my way out when the book was over.

    That said, although I really like both series, I like the KD books more. And yes, to add my voice to the noise, the first book is very First-Booky. Slow and very expositional. By the time you get to the third book the series is simply outstanding, and the third book is my personal favorite.

    I also recommend the Andrewses sci-fi novellas which, even with a small word count, manage to deliver a big story.

  29. Susan
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 18:48:31

    I have the Grant and Roth books in my TBR pile–I’ll get to them sometime. Based on your reviews, I think I’ll read the 2 Grant books first, tho. Your view on the 2 Roth books seems pretty consistent with what I’ve heard elsewhere: the first is way better thant the second.

    HUGE Andrews fan here. I agree with everyone that Bites is the weakest link and it was hard for me to warm up to initially. But I quite liked it by the end of my first reading, and have enjoyed it more on subsequent readings. (I’m a big rereader.) I wasn’t expecting to like the first Edge book, but I loved that one, too. So, I had high hopes heading into the second one and . . .pffft. It fizzled for me. I’ll eventually give the rest of the series a second try, but not yet.

    As far as other reads, I’m way beyond the curve here but I finally read Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword. I’m also still reading Butcher’s Dresden series. I didn’t like the first book as much as I’d hoped I would, but at the end of the book I said I’d try just one more. I’m now almost done with book 9, so I guess I’m just kidding myself that I’m not going to finish the series.

  30. Susan
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 18:52:47

    Hmmm–BEHIND the curve.

    I was going to edit my comment, but the edit button has vanished again, along with the reply button. And on some of the other posts, I can’t view any of the comments at all. Something’s amiss in DA-land today. :-(

  31. etv13
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 19:12:27

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who was less than enthused about Can’t Buy Me Love. By contrast, I recently read my first (and so far only) SEP, Ain’t She Sweet, and I really liked it. It was much funnier than I had expected based on the reviews.

    I hesitated to buy A Gentleman Undone, even though I really liked A Lady Awakened, based on the various reviews (and, I have to admit, a little because I hate the cover). But I bought it and read it yesterday, and I liked it a lot. It’s the first romance novel I’ve ever read that includes a discussion of the Monty Hall Problem, and it’s not even a contemporary.

  32. Serena
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 20:03:23

    Janine, I understand your pain. When I first read MAGIC BITES, I gave it a C and was ready to move on. But my sister, who is an avid fan, nagged and nagged at me to read MAGIC BURNS. I finally agreed and was pleasantly surprised to rate it at B+. And every book since has either been an A or B+. But I still can’t bring myself to reread Magic Bites except to reexamine certain scenes with Curran. :) The writing was choppy and the characterization of Kate was unlikeable/unsympathetic. Which is kinda of funny, because the two things I adore about the series now isthe flawless/funny writing and Kate’s characterization.
    Andrews’s skill vastly improves in every book, which is probably why ON THE EDGE (4th book written) hooked me right away. I’m putting down MAGIC BITES as first-book-syndrome. Hopefully you and your husband will persevere and read the second book, albeit with reluctance!
    Thanks for the Grant and Knox recs – will buy them soon! Also, it kind of sucks that INSURGENT turned out to be a disappointment . :( Oh, well.

    Serena

  33. Las
    Jul 11, 2012 @ 20:27:56

    @Janine:

    Neville Chamberlain is a horrible namesake for a hero, but since the character goes by Nev, and half the time the heroine thinks of him as “City,” I got over it.

    That line about his name during sex was so worth a “Neville Chamberlain,” though.

    The ending really dampened my enjoyment of the book, but overall it was a great read. I loved Ride with Me, and I’m really looking forward to whatever Ruthie Knonx writes next. And I don’t usually like contemporaries.

  34. Janine
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 00:19:30

    @msaggie: Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind re. the Kate Daniels series. I hope you give the Knox a try. I don’t read contemporaries often either, but this one was so good it got me trying more of them.

    @Tina: Thanks, that’s good to know.

    @Susan: I seem to have liked the second Edge book better than a lot of people here. And yeah, I would recommend reading Grant ahead of Roth. Although the first 80% of Divergent was so so good. : (

    I’ve never been able to get into Robin McKinely.

    @etv13: Ain’t She Sweet is my favorite SEP (out of the five or so that I’ve read). Some of her others are closer to the O’Keefe IMO.

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the Grant.

    @Serena: Thanks, I’ll have to tell my husband about all the “keep reading” Kate Daniels feedback here.

    For what it’s worth, Jia liked Insurgent better than I did — I think she gave it a B.

    @Las: That was a great line. What was it about the ending that dampened your enjoyment? The nature of the grand gesture?

  35. etv13
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 01:09:05

    Isn’t it funny how people can generally have very compatible tastes, and then suddenly diverge? Based on this post and comments, I was thinking our tastes are very commensurate, until you said you’ve never been able to get into Robin McKinley. I have a problem with some of her endings (they seem like rushed summaries where everything comes together too fast) but getting into them has never been a problem for me. (Except for Sunshine. And the Sleeping Beauty retelling. If you started with one of those, I understand your problem completely.)

  36. Janine
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 01:56:30

    @etv13: Beauty was indeed the McKinely I tried. And then a short story in one of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. I couldn’t get into either one so I figured McKinely wasn’t my cuppa.

  37. BR
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 05:48:23

    Oooh so much going on here, its all good. So Magic Bites discussion: I can’t actually remember the first book that well as I came to the series late, and essentially read the first three over a two week period, got the first one BANG went out and bought the next two and then hung out for the rest.

    I really like the KD series and particularly because of one thing that isnt present in the Edge series (which I have also read and enjoyed but not purchased). I *adore* Kates relationship with Curran, how they fight and tangle and disagree and how she makes him work so very hard to win her, and how she works so hard at the relationship. The last book had some fabulous banter and dialogue, and while the romance was there, it didnt just magically happened. They both had to work for it and at it, and it felt real and true as a result.

    Im less enamoured of the Edge books because each one feels like its a ‘fated’ pairing, and its an inevitable HEA. They are fun well written reads, and a clever different concept and lovely world building, but they are fluffier than the KD series.

    Re McKinley – if you were ever in love with horses (or still are) and or cats then get thee a copy of The Blue Sword. If you are a fan of the Disney films with the singing and dancing teapots and cutlery and mice (and horses, and roses) then get thee a copy of Beauty. Those are her two best books and possibly the most approachable. I agree with the comment that her endings can feel a little rushed, to me they are often unsatisfying after the lovely stories, but her books have a surprising amount of depth in them.

    A lot of people dont take so well to Sunshine, odd given the huge vampire fanbase out there, but Sunshine is not a book about vampires, its a book with vampires in it, and they are not your usual kind. Its vampires for grownups :) Spindles End is again one of those books with a surprising amount of depth in it, I didnt like it much the first time I read it, but it has improved distinctly on rereads.

    Insurgent – thanks for the headsup, I got Divergent out of the library and quite enjoyed it. I will wait for the library copy again.

  38. Eliza Evans
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 06:21:18

    I am just mad for About Last Night. I liked Ride With Me very much, but ALN has something special.

  39. Mandi
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 07:22:37

    Magic Bites is the weakest in the series. I set it down twice. Even the second book is a little weak. But seriously – stick with it. The series becomes SOOOOO good. I love The Edge series, but the last couple of Kate Daniels books were just amazing.

    Loved About Last Night and the new Grant.

    I reallly didn’t like the Molly O’Keefe. The set-up just gave me a headache.

  40. Las
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 09:07:55

    @Janine: Yes, I’m generally not a grand gesture type of person. Not only was it too public for me, but the descriptions sounded so cheesy that I was more amused than heart-warmed. As for the rest, I know most people find it hugely romantic but I always cringe when I see or hear about that kind of thing IRL. It’s too embarrassing for me to suspend disbelief when I see it in fiction.

  41. Janine
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 09:39:27

    @BR: & @Mandi: Okay, okay, so many people here (except Brie, who posted above) love the Kate Daniels series that I will probably read the next one.

    @BR: Re. McKinley, I tried Beauty and couldn’t get into it. I may try The Blue Sword.

    I hope you enjoy Insurgent better than I did.

    @Eliza Evans: I haven’t read Ride with Me yet and I need to rectify it, but I agree that About Last Night has something special.

    @Mandi: I guess I’m not alone then in not loving Can’t Buy Me Love.

    @Las: I see. I did feel that the grand gesture wasn’t entirely believable but it was hugely romantic at the same time.

  42. SonomaLass
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 13:18:59

    I think I liked Can’t Buy Me Love better than you did, but then I read it out of order. I read the second book in the series first, and the “flashback effect” may have softened it for me. Tara Jean reminded me very much of an SEP character.

    I can’t read comments about Robin McKinley’s books (Sunshine is SOOOO good, but definitely not for everyone) without recommending my personal favorite, Deerskin. I like retold fairy tales anyway, and that one really works for me. It’s very dark and difficult, and can be triggering for victims of rape or child abuse, but it’s possibly the best book I’ve ever read about recovery from such trauma.

  43. Janine
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 14:48:18

    @SonomaLass: Thanks for the Deerskin rec. How did you like Victoria and Eli’s book?

  44. Lynnd
    Jul 14, 2012 @ 07:52:31

    @Janine: Thanks Janine for suggesting I try again. I picked up A Gentleman Undone again and this time, I couldn’t put it down until I finished.

  45. Ariel/Sycorax Pine
    Jul 14, 2012 @ 12:27:04

    I had a similar reaction to CAN’T BUY ME LOVE, Janine: I enjoyed the smart picking apart of the gold-digger stereotype, but I found the hero’s transformation to be abrupt and unconvincing. (I felt the same way about the hero of HER BEST WORST MISTAKE and Sebastian in Eloisa James’s DUCHESS QUARTET: rather than tracing a gradual character arc, their transformation erased everything that made them prickly and individual, turning them instead into a rather blank “Romance Hero” collection of burly kindnesses.) I also found the sister in CAN’T BUY ME LOVE tremendously frustrating on any number of levels….

    A GENTLEMAN UNDONE, meanwhile, I found wholly brilliant. I admired it just as much and enjoyed it even more than A LADY AWAKENED.

  46. Janine
    Jul 14, 2012 @ 14:38:16

    @Lynnd: That’s great to hear. Did you end up liking the book, then?

    @Ariel/Sycorax Pine: It does sound like we felt very similarly about Can’t Buy Me Love. I haven’t read the Mayberry or the Duchess Quartet.

  47. Lynnd
    Jul 15, 2012 @ 17:20:20

    @Janine: Sorry, should have included that. Yes, I thought it was a very well done indeed and it kept me reading well past my bedtime. I really enjoyed the fact that Ms. Grant gave us something approaching the reality of life of a courtesan and of a former soldier both before and after their HEA. I think that reality made the story much richer. Ms Grant is now on my auto-buy list.

  48. Janine
    Jul 16, 2012 @ 00:10:18

    @Lynnd: She’s on my autobuy list as well. I loved the way the HEA was arrived at, too.

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