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terrorists

What Jayne’s Been Reading and Watching Recently

What Jayne’s Been Reading and Watching Recently

Most books that I finish get their own reviews but here are some that either I didn’t finish or I didn’t think warranted a separate review.

The Terrorist – Caroline Cooney / Fabulous writing. Intense, page turning, I was 50 pages into it before I even realized it when I finally came up for air. In this YA book, young Billy, who died from a terrorist bomb in London, is made memorable, in fact so memorable, that he seemed that way for a long time. As long as his family will miss him terribly, I suspect. They are stunned, disbelieving, in denial and full of rage. This leaps off the page as does his older sister Laura’s rage and determination to find the people who killed her brother. This is a powerful evocation of grief and loss and revenge. I’ve reviewed another Cooney book here that has romantic elements. B

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Mistletoe Kisses with the Billionaire – Shirley Jump / Confined by all the category conventions. I kept reading because there was one big difference and that is that the hero is the one who came back to the little town first and who seems like he’s more likely to stay. He’s the conscientious one to the heroine’s “I gotta get out of this place” persona which is the reverse of what I’m used to seeing but it’s still not enough to overcome every small town convention and a matchmaking grandmother. Sorry but I bailed at the 1/3 mark.

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Brooklyn Love – Yael Levy / 4 women who are followed through the ups and downs of searching for love and marriage in the world of Orthodox Jews in NYC. It expanded this world for me which is what I look for in new-to-me settings and situations. However, the ultimate fate of two out of the four women is – to say the least – a major downer. One finds happiness in her unexpected marriage, one looks to have found her Mr. Right, but the minute a scandal hits his family, one immediately tosses in the towel on the man she was all set to upend convention in order to marry and the last woman appears to be headed for a life of married living hell based on what we’ve seen of her fiance. Wow, way to end the story. D

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The Nabob’s Widow – Elsie Lee / When Elsie Lee’s name is mentioned, voices intone in hushed or squeeing reverence, “The Nabob’s Widow!!” Comments to a post here continued this tradition and I decided to finally readit and find out for myself how good it is. With that decision made, I headed to a couple of online USBs I have bookmarked and, taking a deep breath, began the search. I found a used paperback copy in pretty good shape for a price that didn’t make me wince too badly and clicked my way to a purchase. It arrived and I sat, reverently gazing at this Holy Grail of trad regencies. I hoped it would do for me what it appears to have done for so many others – turn me into one of those bouncing, happy readers who gush whenever the book is mentioned. Alas, the book falls into the category of “would have liked it better years ago.” Reading it now…I think my high expectations might have had a hand in why the 1/3 of this book that I managed to slog through did almost nothing for me.

I wanted to slap Dianthe. She’s like a pint-sized Mary Poppins – too perfect. Plus – call me a prude – but when I read a trad regency from the mid 1970s, I don’t expect to see the word c*nt used. Also, the Christmas celebration – complete with tree (which I thought wasn’t an English custom until after Prince Albert arrives in the early 1840s) is a minor annoyance. But what’s really the sand in my Vaseline is the fact that the hero’s sister’s son is mentioned – several times – as being the hero’s heir. Is his title one that can be held suo jure? Oh, and the cats. I’m a cat person, I grew up with Siamese but it didn’t take me long before I was sick of ‘em. I stopped at this point and conferred with Sunita who said it was doubtful that soldiering on would change my opinion much. With that I decided that I have too many other books to continue to waste my time and raise my blood pressure.

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The Duchess War / Courtney Milan – Since I’d never read any of her books and she’s such a favorite among my fellow reviewers, I figured I’d better get with the program. I started this book and immediately felt as if I’d been dropped into the ocean with no life preserver and the waves were crashing over me. Nevertheless, the set up for the hero and heroine to be pushed together was original and kept me going. Until I hit the scene where the heroine is urging her best friend to marry the cad who was looking into Minnie’s past just because Lydia needed to marry. This after Minnie spouted off statistics to Robert, the hero, about the percentage of unwed women in England and how she needed to marry. How depressing. The hero is an odd duck too spouting off information about political agitation in Leicester to an out of work worker’s organizer. WTF? I don’t mind nuggets of information but don’t just drop them in the story with a clunk. And all the SECRETS and mysteries and the “club” of left handed future heroes…. Sorry but I have too many other books to try and too little time already. DNF

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*****

A few things I watched recently:

Garrow’s Law and City of Vice are both UK productions set during the 18th century that explore historical personages and institutions. I knew almost nothing of 18th century English barrister William Garrow before starting this series but watching justice be meted out – or not – in cases based on actual ones in which he was involved is fascinating. I can certainly say that the juries are out for a whole lot shorter amount of time than the case I sat on. City of Vice tells the story of how the Bow Street Runners were founded by the Fielding Brothers in an effort to stamp out the rampant crime afflicting London. It is also supposed to be based on actual crimes and cases. Most of the crimes dealt with in both series seem to center on sex and violence so these are not series I would recommend if you’re looking for placid village cozies.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams – Werner Herzog takes us to the Chauvet Cave in France where some of the oldest cave paintings in human history were found. The documentary goes slightly off the rails when he attempts to wax rhapsodical about philosophy and “what ifs” but this wonderful glimpse of the beautiful images there is well worth sitting through that.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi – another documentary here. Do you like sushi? Watch this to see a master at his craft as he perfects the product he and his staff offer at his restaurant in Tokyo.

Top Secret Rosies: Female “Computers” of WWII – Here is the story of some unsung heroines of WWII who used their brains and mathematical skills to help win the war.

Ken Burns – Prohibition – Burns’ documentaries are hit or miss with me. I enjoyed this one though I could have done with fewer images of barrels of booze and beer being bashed. The recollections of those who lived through it are the best part.

REVIEW:  Scorched by Laura Griffin

REVIEW: Scorched by Laura Griffin

“The dead don’t speak, but Kelsey Quinn knows their secrets. As a forensic anthropologist at the Delphi Center crime lab, Kelsey makes it her mission to identify bodies, often using no more than shards of bone. Her find at a remote Philippines dig hints at a sinister story. When Kelsey’s search for answers puts her at the scene of her ex-fiancé’s murder, only one man can help her–the man who broke her heart months before and is also a prime suspect.

Faced with an ultimatum—Kelsey or his job—Gage Brewer did the only thing a Navy SEAL could . . . but that doesn’t mean he stopped wanting Kelsey. Now Kelsey is running for her life and Gage is her last line of defense.”

Dear Ms. Griffin:

My reaction to the last book “Twisted” had me worried and frankly I was holding my breath with this one. I did end up with a few tiny issues but overall this one is back to what I hope for in a Laura Griffin romantic suspense book.

Laura Griffin ScorchedThe plots of these books always sound plausible. I might have issues with the way some of the characters act and react but as far as the driving force behind what gets the action going, I don’t have to suspend belief and just go with it. And the plots are scary as hell – usually. The break from a serial killer villain is appreciated. Now we’re on to mass murder. Is this worse – more victims in total, or better in that I’m not worried throughout the story for individuals who might fit the profile? I’m conflicted on that but the evil level is still maintained throughout.

What happens is a clever mix of real events and dreaded scenarios. I hate to use the hackneyed phrase “torn from the headlines of a newspaper” but, honestly, the plot could be. Thanks for keeping it real.

Isn’t it nice for the unsuspecting American populace that trained SEALs are there who are cool as ice under pressure? And have had their anthrax vaccines? Hmmm, I’m not sure about that phrase “Froggie sense” that Gage’s teammates use to describe his sixth sense of danger since for me it conjures visions that are more cute than that of finely honed warrior instincts. Thank God the description of the SEALs here is not quite to the worship stage of other authors but still enough to get a good feeling that these men can handle whatever is thrown at them and are not going to back down. More “cool, man” than “OMG, I’m so in awe!” of them.

I love the details of Kelsey and later Gage doing what they do best. Even if they’re sort of grim details it gives the characters authenticity and veracity to their speculations later on. But how does Kelsey think she’s going to be able to waltz into the Delphi center – with all its id checks – and not realize the FBI will catch on to the fact that she’s there?

The tension is built up, then lowered down a touch, then built a bit higher, then relaxed a little then slowly raised to bursting point. It’s not like a roller coaster but more in gentle inclines but the payoff is still boss. I have a niggle though, at the out that Kelsey offers to the SEALs at the end. Really, she thinks they might say “nah, we think we’re done here. You take it from now on” and give up at the last minute? And what does she know about what needs to be done? She loves her man and wants to help but, jeez! Jane and I chatted a bit about this issue and she, rightly, pointed out that Kelsey has a scientifically trained mind and isn’t one to get all squirrely under pressure.

Love the way one final person gets caught. Fucking genius. At times I might wonder about the intelligence of the FBI but here it’s abso-fucking-lutely great. Big smile time.

Initially as I read it, I thought the love story didn’t work as well for me as the suspense. Then I thought back and realized it does work. There are fabulous reasons that Gage and Kelsey initially broke up – and they match what I’ve heard are the standard issues for the rockiness of SEAL marriages. Plus there’s the geography of Gage stuck in either of two US locations where SEALs are stationed and Kelsey in mid country in a dream job. It would be next to impossible for either to just pick up and find a similar job in closer proximity to each other. Plus Gage’s initial concentration on sex with Kelsey with no expectation of it being more for them kinda sucks. Sure, as a relief valve for the pressure they’ve been under, I can see but Kelsey is aware that Gage isn’t thinking long term commitment. As I’m reading this, I’m thinking that these two a polar lengths apart and how could they ever work through these issues. It’s only after the fact that it becomes clear that the whole book is set up to allow this.

Gage and Kelsey both knew how important each others’ jobs are but here they get to see the other in action and it finally becomes crystal clear how damned good each is at what he/she does and how important these jobs are. As Kelsey becomes a target, Gage finally realizes what she went through worrying about him when he was in combat. It’s the proverbial “Ahhh haa, the light dawns” moment. And right when Kelsey tells him what she wants in the future, and that she now knows she won’t get it from him because she can see what being a SEAL is really all about, he begins to shift to knowing that he wants to be the man in her future. The transition works for me. Instead of a book where I can’t buy into the change of heart needed to bring two people together who’ve been written so far apart, here I can see it happen.

The time added on to the end of the story helps and the fact that both of them are willing to give in order to make this work is a fantastic beginning to the next stage of their relationship.  B

Jayne

 

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