Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Review: Never Deceive a Duke

Never Deceive a Duke Never Deceive a Duke by Liz Carlyle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoyable historical romance.

She's the widow of the recently deceased duke.

He's the long lost and very reluctant heir.

There is backstory angst. Antonia has buried two husbands, and there is heartache and betrayal in her past. And, her family while not terrible isn't very supportive (in part because the times and sexism.) But she's basically had loss and her own demons, even if she is beautiful, rich, and from the upper class.

Gareth is a self made man who has basically been on his own since he was about 12 or 13. His earliest childhood was good -- loving grandparents and mother. But then his father died, and then his mother, and his grandfather lost his money, and the relatives who should have taken care of him did not. And that's just the start of it. He does not view being the duke as a good thing.

In addition to these two getting together, and helping each other, there is also a murder mystery!

I like that this touched on issues of class, and sexism, and the value of work, and responsibility. Honestly, the best part of "long lost heir" stories isn't the "and now I'm rich and powerful, wowza" bit but the "huh, there is responsibility here." Because, especially for this time period, being a duke is equivalent to being a CEO. And how most of these stories approach that aspect is to have the person take it seriously. (Bad guys and villians and bad fathers tend to focus on the "rich and powerful" part and irresponsibility leave the estates, and those dependent on it, in a terrible place.)

Other bits: Gareth's mother is Jewish, and the prejudices of the time are part of the story.

Also: Gareth spends time on a ship and there is abuse. Not a lot of detail about it, but a heads up because that's a big "no" for some readers.



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Friday, September 28, 2018

Review: Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw the HBO miniseries and had to read the book.

Camille is a journalist who returns to her home town to report on a child murder, and a missing child. She has secrets, the town has secrets, and her home and family and the town is a freshly painted house that is rotten inside but darn, it looks good on the outside and isn't that what counts?

For the record, that always works better for me -- so I typically enjoy the book for the additional details, and can appreciate how the film/TV series interpreted the book. The other way around usually leaves me wondering about what was left out.

I appreciate how closely the miniseries followed the book; and also how certain background things were filled in, so that the watcher saw things earlier than the narrator in the book revealed them -- or, also, saw things that the narrator never saw or realized herself.

One thing I had difficulty with in both the book and the series is the timeline of it all. I'm a timeline person, and in both, Camille's own fractured telling, and her unreliable memories, make it a bit difficult to pinpoint when and where things in her past happened. But, I think it's on purpose, to keep things on edge and uncertain, and it's why the series used dreams and memories so much.






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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Review: Wicked and the Wallflower

Wicked and the Wallflower Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy MacLean's historical romances! This one is sent in 1837 London.

This is the first in a series (The Bareknuckle Bastards) but has characters introduced in earlier books and series. That said, you don't have to read any of the other books -- these stand alone. In point of fact, I had forgotten the character (Felicity) who was in an earlier book. And it was A-OK.

Felicity is unmarried, and a bit of an outcast in the social circles. It bothers her, because she used to be in, but well, for one reason and another her former friends are her current enemies.

Devil is the illegitimate son of a Duke. As the introduction tells us, the Duke had three illegitimate sons, and one legitimate daughter (born to his wife, but not his child), born on the same day. The series is named for these children: The Bareknuckle Bastards. Because in one way or another, they have had to fight: for life, for a place, for safety, for money.

Devil has revenge on his mind; and Felicity wants a marriage to bring her status and love. She's seen love, and won't settle for anything else. Devil promises her he can get an eligible Duke to propose and to fall in love -- Felicity accepts, not realizing that it's part of Devil's revenge and he has no intention of meeting his promises.

It's a romance -- of course they fall in love! And Devil is keeping secrets and thinks his birth status as well as his income sources (not entirely legal) makes Felicity out of his reach. Felicity still has a bit of wanting social acceptance, and other reasons drive her choices, but most importantly she wants love.

I eagerly look forward to the next book!

(that said, what I would also like are books about Victoria and Valerie, the sisters of Penelope from A Rogue by Any Other Name. All their siblings got love, and they didn't, and I am haunted and fascinated by them.)







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Friday, September 07, 2018

Review: The Party

The Party The Party by Robyn Harding
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An entertaining look at the dynamics in an upper class neighborhood.

Something happens at a sixteenth birthday party, and the aftermath reveals and illuminates the truth about the parents and children and teenagers.

The reason it's only "OK" is that, well, I found all the people at best, annoying, and at worst, pretty horrible. Both adults and kids.

Still, I was curious as to what exactly happened at the birthday party, and why. And I was interested in just what people would do and how they would react, and why.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review: The Distant Hours

The Distant Hours The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love multiple stories told over time - the story of Edie, in 1992, as she figures out her life, her career, her relationship with her parents.

Edie's favorite book as a child leads her to tour the castle where the book was written, and to meet the three sisters who live there, the daughters of the author. They are all old women now, living in a run down house, with history and each other but little money.

Edie discovers that during WWII, her mother was a child evacuee. And where was she evacuated to? That castle, when those three sisters were younger.

The stories unfold, in 1939, in 1941, in 1992 -- and before, also. A mystery, several mysteries.

Without spoilers, I'll also add that it was a relief to read a book that was a mystery that did not involve sexual abuse, rape, and babies. Seriously, one of my recent historical reads had plot/character development centering around so many various unplanned/ out of wedlock babies that it got a little ridiculous.

Also, I would love to read the fictitious book that was at the center of this book. It sounded amazing.

Finally, the time period that most of the book is about -- Britain during WWII -- was fascinating. I want to read more.




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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review: What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alice is in her late 20s, expecting her first child, in love with her husband.

Until she wakes up on the gym floor -- she fell, hit her head, and is 39, with three kids, in the midst of a messy divorce.

I loved Alice discovering her current life: adjusting to three children, finding out her best friend is no longer in her life, finding out about the person she has become.

Twentysomething Alice doesn't always like present-day-Alice or the choices she's made.

It's a fascinating concept and it's done very well. A twentysomething judging the person she becomes; bewildered by the person she now is. I confess, maybe someone younger would have a different view, but at times I found Alice (the 2o something Alice) a bit too annoying and frustrating. Almost, even, stupid, in her failure to sympathize with her older self. To understand her.

That said, there was also something sweet and hopeful in the younger Alice, the Alice who wasn't so hurt by life, and how she tried living, and fixing, the life she found herself in.




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Friday, August 10, 2018

Review: Under the Harrow

Under the Harrow Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nora is visiting her older sister Rachel. When she walks into her sister's house, she finds her sister's body.

Rachel has been murdered.

About 15 years ago, when both girls were teens, Rachel was brutally attacked. The person was never caught. So Nora stays around her sister's town, investigating, not trusting the police.

Nora is a bit of an unreliable narrator, and she holds back certain information from the reader. I'd go, wait, what, and then realize that Nora holds some details back. And the way Nora tells the story -- sometimes it's almost dreamlike. In that Nora thinks "if only." Pretends alternates. Like, if Rachel was still alive. Or, what if I do this. So now and then -- including at the end -- I wasn't sure what was real and what Nora was hoping was real.

One more thing, and I don't consider this a spoiler. I like mysteries but I hate how often teen girls or women are Victims. Not in, the victim the story revolves around; but in how victimized they are. Rachel is a victim without being a Victim.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Review: Someone to Care

Someone to Care Someone to Care by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I so adore all Mary Balogh books.

Viola is in her early 40s and lived her life the way she was told do. Married the person her parents wanted, and so got the title and the money and the whole perfect Regency life. Book #1 starts with her husband dead, and the family finding out Viola wasn't his first wife; and that his first wife was still alive when he married Viola. Yeppers! She was never his wife, her three children are illegitimate, and it's Regency England so it's scandalous and terrible and the worst things ever.

So. In this book, Viola meets Marcel: they had met years ago, when she was unhappily married and he was a known flirt. She was proper the whole time, never disclosed her emotions and feelings, and sent him away. So now they are both single and both decide, hey we're grownups... and read the rest yourself.

What I like about this book is what I like about Balogh books: most of the people are good, decent, and kind. The example here is that all of Viola's friends and family -- including her not-really-husband's family -- are as loving and welcoming to her as always. The worst person is the dead not-really-husband. Even among Marc's family, when I first thought "oh this is going to be the person who causes trouble because of x or y or z" -- they turned out to be good folks, even if often of differing opinions on how things should be.

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Monday, August 06, 2018

Review: Then She Was Gone

Then She Was Gone Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Half mystery: what happened to Ellie, who disappeared ten years ago at age fifteen?

Half a look at a mother's grief over a lost child: how Laurel has put together a life, in the ten years since, but it's not a complete life. How can it be?

Like many others, I'm the type of reader who adds "Ellie disappeared ten years ago" and "Laurel's new boyfriend has a nine year old daughter who looks like Ellie" and gets four.

Then She Was Gone is about what happened to Ellie and what is happening to Laurel. And yes -- I skipped to the end to find out what happens, in part to reassure myself about how it would end. And then I went back and read it to see the why of how it got there and the motivations.

And while there is a mix of grief and hope, and love and forgiveness, there is also evil.

I need to find mysteries that don't involve bad things happening to teen girls.


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Friday, July 27, 2018

Review: The Outsider

The Outsider The Outsider by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Stephen King -- but his favorites have been his earlier books. I confess that I stopped reading around Tommyknockers, except for short stories.

But, excerpt in Entertainment Weekly really intrigued me, so I started this -- and couldn't put it down. It was wonderful, and I see this is now part of a series, and I look forward to reading the first three.

What I particularly liked is how the supernatural was so gradual -- it didn't really show up until a good way into the book. But, I guess, it was always there -- but, for the folks in the book, they just thought they were living their regular, non supernatural lives.

Heck, I was half convinced that there wasn't going to be anything supernatural.

I also enjoyed how the band of investigators came together; and that they were mainly older folks. It's not just teens or twentysomethings fighting the evils. Of course, this probably reflects the author himself, realizing as he gets older that the protagonists he writes about can be older as the fight the big bad, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Review: The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton

The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton The Strange Fate of Kitty Easton by Elizabeth Speller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even better than the first Laurence Bartram mystery. Disappointed to discover there are only two books in this series.

In addition to the time period, I liked the character growth and nuances across the series. I also liked that this book took place a couple of years after the events in the first.

The ending gutted me. It made sense but what a heartbreaker.



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Friday, July 20, 2018

Review: Arcadia Falls

Arcadia Falls Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s an entertaining mystery - a good summer read. Loved the setting.

But who finds a mysterious journal and then just takes months to read it?!?

Since “changeling” and identity are part of the story, I guessed one major reveal fairly early and was frustrated that the narrator hadn’t figured it out herself. Also, what happened to her own parents? The way they were barely mentioned felt very YA to me.



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