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Reading List by Sunita for September

Reading List by Sunita for September

While perusing Netgalley as well as recommendations from trusted sources, I discovered that a few of the books I was interested in were the second, third, or even later installments of a series. Then my list got longer when Carina Press put a slew of their mystery series’ first volumes on sale at $ .99. Being someone who likes to read in order, I went back to the beginning, and I had a great time.

 

Cornick Lady and LairdThe Lady and the Laird by Nicola Cornick

I reviewed and recommended one of Cornick’s other historical romances at the beginning of the year, and I finally got around to the first in her newest series. I’m mostly not reading Historical Romance for reasons I’ve written about elsewhere, but Cornick often works for me, especially her early 19thC-set books. This series revolves around the MacMorlan sisters, with the first installment featuring a marriage of convenience story. Lady Lucy MacMorlan finds herself blackmailed into marriage by Robert, Marquis of Methven, who needs a wife and an heir within a short period of time if he is to keep his inheritance intact. Both Lucy and Robert are scarred by tragedies in their past, and despite their long-ago attraction to each other, neither wants to marry. But marry they do, and the second half of the story has them learning to trust each other enough to love, facing the fears born of their pasts, and vanquishing a villain. Cornick does a terrific job of bringing to life a Scotland we see all too infrequently in Historical Romance: don’t be fooled by the tartan on the cover, this isn’t Ochlassieland, it’s Scotland. I liked both Lucy and Methven, although both do a couple of things that seem plot-driven and out of character with their otherwise intelligent portrayals, and the misunderstanding that stretches out the last third of the story is briefer and more organic than in the last book. Grade: B

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Claverton Binary WitnessBinary Witness by Rosie Claverton

I saw a cover on Netgalley that really grabbed my interest, but when I read the blurb I realized it was the second in a series. Mulling it over, I checked out the first book and discovered it was only $ .99. I downloaded it, started reading, and was hooked. Amy Lane is a computer whiz who helps the Cardiff, Wales police force in their investigations. She is agoraphobic, so her sister arranges for her to have a cleaning service. Jason Carr shows up to clean her house, she reluctantly lets him in and a tentative friendship begins. Jason is an ex-con who needs a job and Amy needs both a clean apartment and a leg man. When women start disappearing, Amy and Jason combine forces to investigate, using Amy’s computer skills and Jason’s knowledge of Cardiff. The style is occasionally bumpy; it reads like a debut novel. I’m not a big fan of serial killer or women-in-jeopardy plots and this one took a long time to unspool. But I liked Amy and Jason so much I didn’t care. There is no romance between them, but it doesn’t seem out of the question for the future, so I hold out hope! Claverton is a hospital psychiatrist and both the Cardiff setting and Amy’s condition seemed very well done to me. I’m really looking forward to the next book, Code Runner. Grade: B-

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Murder-by-the-Seaside lindseyMurder by the Seaside by Julie Anne Lindsey

This is another first in a series from Carina, also $ .99, and it is most definitely a cozy mystery. Patience Price is a Human Resources professional who has been laid off from her job at the FBI. She comes home to Chincoteague Island, where her hippie parents still live, to set up a psychology practice. Her arrival coincides with a murder and her high-school flame is the most obvious suspect. Despite still being furious with him for the way he left town after graduation, Patience agrees to help find out what happened. This puts her in constant danger but it also integrates her back into the town. The writing is smooth and assured, and Patience has a very enjoyable voice. There are not one but two romantic possibilities, each different from the other, and Patience’s parents and friends, as well as the townspeople, are sketched deftly and with humor. This is not a city-awful, small-town-wonderful book; Patience goes back because she’s broke, and there are both good and bad people to deal with. I don’t know that I could read a ton of these types of light cozy mysteries in a row; there an awful lot of eccentric people and crazy events. But I enjoyed this one and have already added the next installment to my TBR. Grade: B-

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Wells Presumed DeadPresumed Dead by Shirley Wells

This is the third of my Carina $ .99 specials for the month (just call me Pavlov’s dog). This was written back in 2010 and is the first of the Dylan Scott mystery series. Scott is a policeman who lost his job for using excessive force on a suspect and went to prison for it. His wife has thrown him out of the house and seems ready to make it permanent, his mother has moved into his tiny new flat, but at least his son still loves him and he suddenly has a job offer to find out what happened to a woman who went missing thirteen years ago. I found Dylan really annoying in the first few pages, as he mentally insulted women drivers and talked about his wife as if she were a stereotype rather than a person he knew intimately and loved. I almost didn’t keep going, but I liked Wells’s voice, and Dylan improved immensely. He’s a bit of a clueless type when it comes to women, but he respects them more than I initially thought. The mystery itself is interesting and the missing woman comes to life as a sympathetic person over the course of the book. Dylan’s impromptu partnership with a retired policeman was enjoyable, and I especially liked his relationship with his son (despite their love of Arsenal). Both Dylan’s mother and wife are revealed (to the reader and to Dylan) to be complex and layered by the end, and the door is open for a reconciliation. The Lancashire setting was well depicted, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series. Grade: B-

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The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen

I bought this book because I couldn’t resist Jane’s money-back guarantee, especially given how many of my other DA and Twitter buddies had raved about it. I thought that if any NA book could work for me, this one would. And to some extent it did. I can see what readers have loved about it so much. Corey and Hartley are completely appealing, and Corey’s matter-of-fact approach to her disability is a refreshing change from genre fiction’s standard treatment of such issues. I agree that for someone who was injured so recently and whose life was turned upside down, her equanimity seems a bit overdone, but I’d rather have that than the angst-fests and appropriation I more often see. The depiction of the unnamed Ivy League institution is very well done, as is the general feel and rhythm of college life. I’m glad I read the book, but I’m not going on to the next in the series. One reason is that I grew tired of the narrator’s voice even though I didn’t get tired of her, if that makes sense. There is an artlessness to the writing that made it almost monotonous to read. I rarely find myself wishing for more complex prose in genre fiction, but here I did. The second reason is not about the book, it’s about me. As a college professor, it feels voyeuristic to read about the personal lives of students who are all too similar to the ones I see every day, and I can’t get them fully out of my head when I should be immersed in the story. That said, it feels like a very good example of the genre. Grade: B

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Reading List by Jennie for June, July and August

Reading List by Jennie for June, July and August

I also read: My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas, You Make Me by Erin McCarthy, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (review to come) and Live for Me by Erin McCarthy (review to come).

 

 The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

It took me a bit to get into this book – I wasn’t sure about the portrayal of the hero’s supposedly “mild” Asperger’s. He seemed to me to be very out of touch with reality and had an inability to read social cues that I think would make it really hard to function and hold a job; a lot of this was played for comic effect and I was both uncomfortable with that fact and put off by how broad the comedy was. But once I got into it I sort of let those things go and just went with it. I ended up thinking the story was very funny, original and yes, romantic. I gave it a B+. It’s reviewed here.

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ill sleep when im dead zevonI’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: the Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon by Crystal Zevon

Another grab from the DA Daily Deals; I had been somewhat interested in Zevon though I wouldn’t say I’m a big aficionado of his music.The personal-history style of the book worked well for me, but I spent a big portion of the middle section frankly disgusted with him and his selfish, addict, rock star behavior. Some of it was pretty much what you’d expect (a lot of drinking, drugging, and sleeping around), some of it was a bit worse (he was physically violent with his wife on several occasions, incidents he claimed to have no memory of later). Some of it was just peculiar to him, as an incredibly self-centered, eccentric, OCD-stricken person. I almost found the self-centeredness harder to take than the wife-beating; it didn’t seem to be so much based on being a “rock star” as it was just that he had an incredible ego and could fly into a rage if his whims weren’t accommodated. He wasn’t all bad, though – he was a smart guy who made some great music, managed to gather some loyal friends (even if he didn’t always deserve them) and left the world too soon and rather sadly (years sober, Zevon started drinking again after his terminal diagnosis, and towards the end really cut himself off from almost everyone who cared for him). This was a B grade, probably hovering on the edge of a B- for me.

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Lady-Windermeres-LoverLady Windermere’s Lover by Miranda Neville

Reviewed here. This one started strong but got bogged down in cliches. At least that’s what my notes say; I actually do not remember the book at all, and had to read Janine and Rose’s excellent joint review to even refresh my memory on the basic plot. I think this one was probably another victim of sorts of my historical malaise. I gave it a B-.

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house of the sevenThe House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This was a weird one. Per Wikipedia: “…Hawthorne explores themes of guilt, retribution, and atonement and colors the tale with suggestions of the supernatural and witchcraft. The setting for the book was inspired by a gabled house in Salem belonging to Hawthorne’s cousin Susanna Ingersoll and by ancestors of Hawthorne who had played a part in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.” I think it was that uneasy marriage of the supernatural with these more concrete, earthbound themes that confused me a bit. I was never sure what direction the story was going in, and the menace of the villainous antagonist ends up being neutralized in an odd and perhaps anticlimactic way. Still, I liked the writing; Hawthorne’s detailed prose may bore some readers, but I thought in was very effective in building tension. I may have to write a review of this to work out what I think about it. For right now, my grade is a B.

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The Johnstown Flood by David McCulloughThe Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

Um, is everything I read from the Daily Deals? I think this one was too. Maybe not. Anyway, I picked it up because I am a big fan of McCullough as a writer (and a narrator! – that voice!). I didn’t have any particular interest in the subject, but figured it was a piece of American history that I didn’t know much about, and it wouldn’t hurt me to learn. The flood occurred in 1889 in Western Pennsylvania (in addition to frequent mentions of the nearest big city – Pittsburgh – the book also features many mentions of Altoona, PA, which interested me because my father was born there). What I wasn’t aware of was that there was a lot of blame at the time directed at the hunting and fishing club that maintained the dam that broke. The club had many prominent and wealthy members such as Andrew Carnegie, and though there were those who felt that the club was criminally negligent in their maintenance of the dam, nothing ever came of the accusations and the involvement of these prominent men in the tragedy that killed so many ended up as a little-discussed footnote in history. I gave this one a B.

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Talk This Way by Dakota CassidyTalk This Way by Dakota Cassidy

Wow, I thought this one was pretty bad. It’s reviewed here (marykate liked it a LOT better than I did). I found the heroine annoying (she’s sort of a screw up but it turns out to be because she’s just so awesome and nice), the hero is bland, and the story is ridiculous. Cat Butler gets hired to manage a phone sex operation that is portrayed as totally and improbably wholesome and cute, and somehow is the biggest and most profitable phone sex operation in the world, even though there appear to be six girls working there (it operates out of the owner’s apartment).  Also – phone sex - in 2014? That just seemed weird. The story was set in the South and there was an inconsistent but extremely annoying dropping of ‘g’s to denote the heroine’s dialect. In short, this was just dreadful all around and I gave it a big fat F.

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suffragetteThe Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

Reviewed here by willaful. I found this one very clever and enjoyable; the only caveat I’d given is that it is a bit of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for readers who like their historical heroes to be improbably feminist and democratic (in Victorian England, no less). But I decided that there’s a lot about romance that is fantasy anyway, so why not the politics of the main characters? I think this is probably a tribute to Milan’s skill as an author, since I’ve definitely not always had such a relaxed attitude to anachronistic characters. But whatever – I still gave this book an A-.

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