Saturday, January 26, 2013

CBR Review #4 Highlander Most Wanted by Maya Banks

I read this a few weeks ago and I'm afraid that my recollections have faded slightly, for that I apologize.

Reading this book was a coincidence. I had just finished reading "Never Seduce A Scot" which is the first in the series. Right around that time I found out about I signed up and low and behold managed to get an e-copy of this ARC. The story picks up right after the first book with a new couple. The Montgomery Clan had raided the McHugh keep in order to rescue their laird's wife, but the McHugh's fled. Suddenly the Montgomery's have an untended keep full of women, children and the elderly to take care of. In all that mess one woman comes forward to act as their champion. Genevieve has been held captive there but for some reason decides to look out for the McHughs at least a bit. Bowen Montgomery is acting as Laird in his brother's stead and is the hero. What else, ok. Genevieve was kidnapped by the baddie of the former novel Ian McHugh. He has held her captive for the past year and has raped her repeatedly, also when she refused him he cut a huge gash into her face. Most of the conflict of the story is Bowen learning that Genevieve is a good woman, and Genevieve learning to trust a man again. Add into that that the whole McHugh keep calls Genevieve a whore for having (forced!!) sex with Ian, and that for about 70 pages Bowen things Genevieve was complicit in kidnapping his sister-in-law. That's basically the conflict.

I'm going to go off about feminism and rape for about 5 paragraphs. Just a warning before the jump.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

CBR V Review #3 Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks

I read a review of this book over on Dear Author. I think I just surfed on to it. What really interested me was that there was a deaf heroine. I was really interested to see how a romance novel would portray a woman with a disability; especially since I have had some issues with my own hearing in the past year.

I think I summarize too much in reviews so I'll just get into it. The review by Jane over at Dear Author (DA) had two lines that echoed in my head the whole time I was reading this book "Eveline [Armstrong] is put through the ringer" and "Graeme [Montgomery] is such an honorable guy." Because that is what it came down to for me. The two were just freaking adorable, her disability was well portrayed. I'm not sure how long it would take someone to learn to read lips, but I really related to how her deafness affected her day to day life. Sometimes when I'm in a situation where I can't hear I'll just go off into my own world. But jeez, at every turn something terrible happens to her. She is tormented by the bad guy Ian, she's deaf, she is forced to marry Graeme. Then she is tortured by the women in his keep (because she is an Armstrong and there has been a terrible feud between them and the Montgomerys)

Graeme is just so upstanding. The king commands him to marry her when everyone thinks she's "daft." Even before the marriage he is talking about how he'll have to turn the keep over to one of his brothers since he'd never have sex with a woman who didn't understand what was happening and then he'd just be celibate because he could never dishonor this woman or the institution of marriage. He's practically a Saint. But he does stand by her and they fall instantly in love and they are both just so adorable.

Things I Liked:
The hero and the heroine

Things I disliked:
The excessive melodrama. The bad guy practically twirls his mustache. Almost at every turn something terrible happens to the girl. She is really bullied by the women of the keep. They call her bitch multiple times, they trick her into doing the worst household tasks, it actually comes off a bit high school. It's like bullying and hazing had a Scottish baby.

I know I shouldn't complain about the melodrama in a romance novel, but there are some points where even I find it to be excessive and ham handed. Especially when the bullying sounds like something I've read before, repeatedly.

The modern turns of phrase mixed with overused period language. I should have turned it into a drinking game for each time they said "'tis" but at least I didn't read "canna" once. She used a phrase like "eat dirt" but in the next page it's "tis, tis, tis" all over the place. It seemed like an odd juxtaposition, and to be honest made the few medieval words into cheap ploys to sound period. It wouldn't have bothered me as much if there had been less period words, the bad use just drew attention to their oddness. It was one of many things that weren't period accurate, but that's not automatically a deal breaker for me.

Either way, I still had fun. I still really liked the hero and heroine, I was happy to finish it just to see how it would all work out. I wanted Eveline to get a HEA, which she did. I have a few more complaints, but I actually just finished the sequel and since they're more grievous in next book I'll bring them up in my next review. I give it 3 out of 5 freaking adorable Scottish Lairds.

You can buy it here and at your friendly neighborhood indie.

CBR V Review #2 The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

** spoiler alert ** So I read a review of this on either Smart Bitches or Dear Author, I can't remember which. And to be honest the only reason I read it was because I had gotten the title mixed up with another book I had wanted to read.

The plot of the book is as follows. Theodora is the ward of the Duke of Ashford, her super bff is the Duke's son James. Theodora is "ugly" at least according to Regency English she's described as mannish several times in the book, but when you read the descriptions it's in that romance novel way where we know that she's actually attractive. The Duke has commanded his son to marry, and he want's him to marry Theodora because, surprise surprise, not only is his whole estate in massive debt but he's been skimming off of Theodora's dowry. Awkward to say the least. James is charged with seducing and then betraying his bff. Which he does (he does make his father to agree to sign over all financial responsibilities). But because he cares so much for her he sorta ends up falling in love with her and she cares about him a lot yada yada. Also they bone up a storm in the 24 hours afterwards. They're in the library and she actually starts giving him a BJ when his father walks in and she flees, hideously embarrassed. This scene was great though, for the drama. The Duke basically congratulates James on not only tricking her, getting her money, but that James' has won a first class slut. Poor Theo hears all this and throws both of them out of the house! James gets to keep a ship they own, and the Duke has to leave.

Over the next seven years Theodora runs the estate, earns a butt load of money and becomes the toast of post-Napoleonic Paris. While James . . . becomes a fucking pirate! You heard me pirate. (He gets a tattoo under his eye that I kept imagining as a teardrop) He comes back to England before they can declare him legally dead, wins back Theodora's heart and everything works out.

Let's see: Things I liked
I enjoyed Theodora, she's very resourceful.

I enjoyed young James as he's very sweet.

I loved the moniker theme throughout the book. You see after her wedding Theodora becomes know as "The Ugly Duchess" and she spends most of the book fighting that name. It's even supposed that her husband fled after two days of marriage because she was so ugly. We see the same with James, he becomes pirate captain "The Earl" while he's still being the old James, then he throws himself into pirate life and becomes "Jack Hawk" shaves his head, and gets the aforementioned tattoo. The old Duke is called the "Dam'fool Duke" cause he's an idiot. These society monikers are used throughout the book to call up different character aspects, how characters see themselves, how others see them and who they are at different times in their life. It's very interesting to use along with romance novel character study, and colors the actions of the characters.

I really enjoyed that this was really a sweet tale of childhood bffs who have to rekindle an old love. It's always nice to see equal footing.

The sex. James can really turn a phrase in the bedroom, but not in a way that I've read 10,000 times.

Things I didn't like:
His method for seducing her back. I got kind of bored and annoyed, but it seemed like they were just naked for no apparent reason for about 30 pages of action. He was trying to win her back, but they were about to take a bath? I just felt like the two characters had been set up really well, but the way they came together (heh heh) to get their HEA was just sloppy and could have been done better. The conclusion was satisfying all the right points were hit there, but the process where they came together wasn't well done.

The return scene. They're in the House of Lords about to declare him legally dead when he storms in like Tom Sawyer at his own funeral. It felt melodramatic.

All in all it was a pleasant afternoon read. I give it 3 out of 5 teardrop tattoos.

You can purchase the book here or at your friendly neighborhood indie bookstore

Thursday, January 3, 2013

CBR V Review #1 A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

All right CBRV! I participated in CBRIII and failed miserably, I'm only signed up for a half so let's see if I can make this work. I'll be posting my reviews in my blog, on my goodreads acct and here. Thanks for reading guys! A Study in Scarlet is the first Sherlock Holmes novel. It introduces the famous detective and his roommate Watson. I'm completely obsessed with the BBC's Sherlock staring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and my dad is a big Holmes fan. One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I never read Little Women despite my mom's repeated pleading, so I'm trying to share more things with my dad.

The book is good. It starts out with introducing Holmes, he's a war doctor who was injured. He has a meager army stipend and can't really work because of his injuries so he needs a roommate. And old colleague of his introduces him to Sherlock Holmes. The book is written in first person and is set up as if Watson has just transcribed parts of his personal journal into this short novel. It's a very good format and allows the reader to watch Sherlock along with Watson. That is the most enjoyable part and what makes Sherlock a timeless character. This genius man who is a bit mad but terribly clever. Doyle is careful to keep Sherlock a bit of mystery, he's always one step ahead of everyone else, but at the same time Sherlock will explain what has happened to you. It means that the reader can feel clever alongside Sherlock. It's really a marvelous format.

The television show actually follows the book well. It's not a faithful adaptation, by any means. There are blatant deviations, the murder has extremely different motives from each version. But they really capture the character Sherlock and they do use big plot pieces from the book. If you've watched the show or the Robert Downey Jr. movies you won't be spoiled for books. It's really interesting to see the choices the adaptation made.

Speaking of what they took from the book. The second half of the book is the whole long story of why the murderer wanted to kill these two men. It is totally different than the show and really there was no way that it could ever be adapted. Now I guess this is a touch spoilery but it has to do with Mormons and makes the Mormons out to be these terrible bad guys. It's actually pretty inflammatory. Doyle really depicts the Mormons as a manipulative cult and just harps on polygamy. (Brigham Young himself makes an appearance!) It's like all Mormon stereotypes rolled together. I just never knew that happened in the Sherlock Holmes books. I thought it was all London and pipes and whatever but yeah there is this whole other story in the book and it takes place in Utah. It's not a bad story, it's actually quite action packed. I just could help but be amazed at how badly it portrayed Mormons.

Anyway, I enjoyed it. It was well written, super fun and I will be reading some more Sherlock Holmes this year.