A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Semi-reviews: Holiday Weirdness Edition

on January 4, 2014


I’ve had a perfect storm of blogging weirdness lately. My computer’s fan broke, making a ghastly noise whenever I used it.  The holidays. A new phone to drive me crazy and distract me with games. Some very hard to write reviews. And a whole lot of feeling like I’m not doing a good enough job, and having trouble concentrating, and being stressed by review books.

I’m going to tackle it by doing what I did after my “review vacation”a few months ago: I’m going to attempt to write something about everything I’ve read recently — which isn’t much — but give myself permission for it to be very short and/or meaningless. Just whatever it is I have to say, who cares if it’s any good. I’m hoping that will help me break out of the perfectionism trap.

I’m also reading some out of genre, to try and recapture my reading excitement.  I seem to be most drawn towards memoirs.

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan. Historical romance. Grade: B

What tickled my fancy: A wonderful plot surprise; intriguing insights into Victorian England.

What ticked me off: As often with Milan’s work, felt too deliberate.

Who might like it: Everyone seems to love it but me.

This one is causing me a lot of angst; I may review it, but I’ll have to reread first and I’m not sure I’m up to it. Not that it was bad — there are some terrific ideas and strong characters. But I’m having a hard enough time reading without rereading. Who knows though, maybe it would help.

Fairyland by Alysia Abbott. Nonfiction: memoir. Grade: A-

What tickled my fancy: Testify!

What ticked me off: Veered into memoir cliche at times.

Who might like it: Anyone who grew up in a less traditional home or who enjoys reading about people who lived in unusual ways.

This was kind of a stunning read for me, because I grew up in a very similar situation to the author – in the midst of the counterculture of the 1970’s — and I almost never get to read anything that reflects my reality. In fact, one way in which the author and I differed is that she loved sitcoms like “Family Ties” and I loathed it, because to me it was nothing but lies lies lies.  This does a really good job of depicting the time as it was for the kids, who had to deal with not having the structure and established cultural norms than most kids yearn for. And it shows some of the benefits of living in an experimental, questioning way as well.  Abbott is really honest and unsparing of herself, and she creates a very loving picture of her father that made me cry for him.

Iron and Velvet by Alexis Hall. Urban fantasy pastiche; f/f. Grade: C

What tickled my fancy: Sharp, funny prose. Delightfully British.

What ticked me off: It didn’t seem to go anywhere much and I kept stalling.

Who might like it: I’m not sure. I can’t pinpoint its audience.

I did review this at Goodreads, but it was like pulling teeth.  It took me so long to read it and I had so much trouble following it, and I just didn’t know what was the book and what was me. Add in the author being a friend and oh bother. I gave it 3 stars mainly because at different times I might have gone with either 4 or 2.

A Lost Love by Carole Mortimer. Category romance. Grade: B

What tickled my fancy: Delightfully nutty.

What ticked me off: Could’ve used more redemption for the cruel, rapey hero.

Who might like it: Fans of older Harlequin Presents.

A woman estranged from her husband and kept away from her baby son fakes her own death after an accident and has plastic surgery so she can see her baby. What can you say but wow.  The prose is basically adequate, but the passion runs thrillingly high. There’s also a side-story which at first I thought was a waste of space, but turned out to have an unusual point of view about children and adoption. (Heroine’s sister-in-law is freaked out because her husband wants to adopt an older child and she doesn’t know if she can cope, and this is shown more sympathetically than judgmentally. Of course all ends happily.)

4 responses to “Semi-reviews: Holiday Weirdness Edition

  1. Liz Mc2 says:

    I hope you feel better about reading/blogging soon! For what it’s worth, I always enjoy your reviews. Perfectionism is why I never aspired to have a large blog readership and gave myself permission to just write when/how I felt like it. And yet I still obsess over some posts and feel that they’re not good enough, and sometimes reading starts to feel like work, not fun.

    That Mortimer book sounds kind of like a wildly popular Victorian sensation novel, East Lynne. There were stage and film versions made for decades after its publication, so this could be a deliberate re-working/homage. Only EL is definitely Not a Romance, because the wife ran off with another man so she must Die Remorsefully at the end. She’s believed dead in a train accident, but is actually just disfigured and returns to her (now unknowingly bigamous) husband’s house to be governess to her son. It’s one crazy melodrama. Hope it’s OK to spoil a novel published in 1861! 😉

    • willaful says:

      Oh, that’s interesting… I just read another old HP which was most definitely inspired by Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter, so I wonder if a lot of reworking went on. I’ve seen the opposite as well.

      Oh, and there was a fairly recent movie with a similar plot called “Firelight.” No marriage or disfiguring, but the mother becoming a governess to be with her child.

      I do appreciate hearing that! Goodness knows I don’t want to do the work of establishing a regular blog and gathering an audience, but it is nice to know I’m not just talking to myself. 🙂

  2. Shannon C. says:

    I totally get the perfectionism thing. That’s why I’m giving myself permission not to write full-length reviews if I don’t want to or if I don’t have anything meaningful to say.

    I need to try Milan. Everyone adores her books, so I confess to being kind of hype-averse. They seem like books I *should* read and would probably like, but I’ve been resisting them hard for some reason.

    • willaful says:

      She’s written some lovely books; her novellals are especially good, if that smaller time investment will convince you to give her a whirl. But she has a tendency to over-explain everything, and though I agree with her agendas, in this book it was just so strong.

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