A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Reading, September 2017

on October 1, 2017

Recurring themes of the month: Girls who like to go barefoot. Strawberry jam. Characters who think becoming disabled or visibly injured means no one could love them. (Sigh.) Castles. Pots and kettles. Complicated birth parent relationships. Snake phobias. Hitting lovers below the belt. (Metaphorically.) Best friends who are angry that their best friends waited to tell them huge secrets. (This one was particularly funny, because my husband found the first one so implausible — and then I ran into a second one right after.) Teens in love with their best friend from childhood. Living in warehouses. Animals named after personal idols. Ginormous heroes. (Happy sigh.) Characters who must find important items without knowing what they are. The egg scene from “Cool Hand Luke.” Eating geese. Mothers who died from breast cancer. The smell of ozone. Heroines with fathers in professional sports. Trying to fulfill the wishes of a dying mother. Characters with slavic origins. Heroines forced to shoot people.

Sweet Spot by Amy Ettinger.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab.

Blind Obsession by Lee Wilkinson.

So old skool, I was shocked when someone used a microwave. ALL the problematic elements y ou’d expect, especially with that title. A GoodReads friend of mine tagged this “why-do-I-like-this” and I’m right there with her.

Wake Up Call by J.L. Merrow

Engaging characters and setting kept me reading this, but by the end I was fed up with how much it meanders. I had a few issues with the disability rep too, though it’s probably spot on in many ways for a newly diagnosed person. (Narcolepsy/Cataplexy.) Dev’s acceptance of Kyle’s needs is nicely done: he doesn’t feel either saintly or bothered about it, it’s just part of being with Kyle. Which perhaps made it sting more when he hurls “go take a nap” at him in anger.

Set the Stars on Fire by Sally Wentworth.

Okay, I was wrong about Blind Obsession having all the problematic elements, because this one added some I hadn’t thought of.  Astonishingly douchy hero. Compelling, but the ending is a classic letdown.

Dawn of a New Day by Claudia Jameson.

A Touch of Frost by Jo Goodman.

Lovely intimate scenes between the main characters. Otherwise a lot of ado about nothing.

A Gentleman’s Guide To Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee.

Super fun young adult Regency romance/adventure, with a touch of steampunk. Wonderful voice.

Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers.

The everyday notes between a busy doctor and her teenage daughter take on new meaning when the mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. This is a short, easy to read novella, but has some meat on its bones; through the largely prosaic notes, we see the mother’s increasing despair about survival and her daughter’s growing maturity as she discovers that “broccoli and exercise” don’t cure everything.

Ryan’s Revenge by Lee Wilkinson.

Similar to Blind Obsession but not as well written or nearly as exciting. The hero is considerably less douchy though, for those who need that. 😉

I Could Pee on This and Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano.

Pretty much exactly what you’d expect from the title.

A Chance Encounter by Mary Balogh.

Although this is a touch implausible and derivative, I can never resist the prideful bitterness of Balogh’s lovers turned enemies.

Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews.
A private investigator on the trail of a magic-using psychopath starts to fall for another magic-using psychopath. I really enjoyed this smart, courageous narrator who loves her family, takes no shit, knows that a being with a magic-using psychopath is a seriously bad idea, and takes steps to protect herself. Although the basic situation of a caring heroine being a hero’s path to humanity is a familiar one, it’s not same old, same old; if you’re bothered by the power imbalance and amorality of many paranormal romance tropes, this might be for you. My only complaint is it’s a bit heavy on the mental lusting — though not at all on actual sex. No happy ending, but there are two more books.
Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley.
Gorgeous young adult story about grief and books, with bonus romance. Includes the most wonderful bookstore in the world: you will want to to leap right into the pages. Crowley’s prose is full of wonderful imagery, but also very immediate and real, and I love that her book loving teens are as fond of John Green as they are of Pablo Neruda.
Friday Night Mistress by Jan Colley.
Adult kids from feuding rich families are getting it on in secret and the hero decides quite cold-bloodedly to make it more to suit his own purposes. He was OTT jealous too, and not in a fun way.
Non-Stop Till Tokyo by KJ Charles.
Here we have it folks… the romance that actually made me wish for MOAR SEX. The hero is a 300+ Samoan-American former Sumo wrestler, and we get closed door? That’s just cold.
Good characters and a fantastic sense of place. (Content warnings for tons of violence, racial slurs, and body-shaming.)
White Hot by Ilona Andrews.
In the second book of the series, Nevada discovers that Rogan isn’t as unprincipled as she thought… and that her own principles are stretched by the powerful and dangerous she’s now up against. Another excellent read, though I thought Rogan was retconned a touch.
My Cousin Rachel by Dapne DuMaurier.
*semi spoilers ahead*
For my third or fourth reread, I listened to the excellent audiobook. It made the tenseness of the story, even knowing what was coming, almost unbearable.
This stands out for me as the best example of what a reader brings to a book at different times. When I first read it when I was young, I accepted Phillip’s narrative at face value, and saw Rachel as an enigma, just as he did. Rereading it some years later, I realized that despite how utterly honest he is about his thoughts, feelings and experiences, his point of view is so narrow that he’s essentially an unreliable narrator. And Rachel had become completely explicable to me.
On this reading, I was struck by how much this story, published in 1951, describes the classic “nice guy,” who’s utterly adoring — until he doesn’t get what he wants and turns violent. And then can’t remotely understand how his violence has frightened and alienated the object of his obsession. Du Maurier was brilliant at charecterizations, as well as suspense.
Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber.
A Private Miscellany by KJ Charles
Wildfire by Ilona Andrews.
Great wrap-up to a great trilogy — though there are are a few loose ends, so there might be more books coming. Fast-paced and exciting, but also funny and grounded in humanity.
The Friend Zone by Kirsten Callihan.
I simultaneously thought this had a lot of issues and really enjoyed it. It felt… unformed to me. The focus on the friendship/romance is all encompassing, which means that by the end, when other elements of the characters’ lives come into play, they almost came out of nowhere. And there wasn’t enough grounding of the characters in any particular time or place. For example, we learn at the beginning that Gray is a double major in some heavy duty subjects, as well as a football player, but he never seems to lack time, or need to study. (Or worry about traumatic brain injury.)
I would love to see this book gone over by a really great editor — not for grammatical/typographical mistakes, although there are some, but for plotting and continuity. Because the emotional core is really strong. Gray is one of the best ass-over-teakettle-in-love heroes I’ve ever read.
An Heir to Make a Marriage by Abby Green.
Green’s usual formula of angry tycoon and misunderstood innocent isn’t helped by continuity errors and a lot of plot twisting to make the heroine innocent enough. (Perhaps the reason for the continuity errors?)
A Gathering Storm by Joanna Chambers.
I almost DNF’d this because the plot of a man trying trying to scientifically prove you can reach the spirit world through hypnosis and electricity turned me completely off. I’m glad I didn’t because it went in a very interesting direction. Ward is kind of an A. Conan Doyle type — highly intelligent, but made gullible to fakery because of his grief over losing his twin. There are also serious class issues between him and his lover Nicholas. The setting and emotional aspects of the story are very well drawn.
Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen.
I tried this on audio a few months back, and really didn’t enjoy the narration. I also got an “he’s just not that into you” vibe, which is pretty much the kiss of death for me in romance.
This time I read it in print and sadly, that vibe was still there. I generally appreciate some realism in romance, and it’s realistic that a man dealing with his wife’s fatal illness and his grieving child would be too preoccupied to think about his ex… but dammit, this is romance, and he should think about her anyway! His turnaround, from hoping she’d moved on to instant recommittal, just didn’t work for me. The story is also low on conflict. It was still well told and kept my interest, but not a fav.
Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale.
Woof. I will hopefully finish my write-up for this as my extremely late September TBR read.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.
Woof again, for some of the same reasons even.
In the Dark by Pamela Burford.
If you enjoy reformed rake stories and heroes who get excessively solicitious when the heroine is pregnant, this is decently written and has funny moments. It seems far more dated than its 18 years, however.
Tanner by Sarah Mayberry.
Likeable, fast-paced romance featuring a veterinary student from Australia and an American bull rider.
DNFs
Cold Fusion by Harper Fox
The autism rep in this book is simply ghastly. Vivian, the autistic character, gets no point of view, always seen through the eyes of the narrator who thinks he’s abnormal — but hot! — and treats him like a child. I didn’t want to get to sex scenes between these two, it would just be gross.
The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick.
I was afraid the plot was going in a certain offensive direction and when I found out I was right, I DNFd.
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4 responses to “Reading, September 2017

  1. KeiraSoleore says:

    I am always so impressed at how much you read every month. And I want to try a goose. Growing up I read about British people eating geese for Christmas, and I’ve always wanted to try one.

    I’m waiting to see what you have to say about the Kinsale. She’s my absolute favorite author, and I have loved every one of her books.

    Pablo Neruda and John Green? Sold!

    • willaful says:

      I do read very quickly — and not always as thoroughly as I should. But I cut back a lot on screentime and games this month and really concentrated on reading.

  2. Hilly says:

    I, too, am eagerly awaiting your take away from the Kinsale novel. She was in my top 10 authors for the longest time, but she disappointed me with her final release (she needed betas who were more honest with her *and* more familiar with her previous works.). However, StF was one of her most complicated relationships, and while the hero was vile, nevertheless, I revisited it often.

    Speaking of “top 10”, I just devoured another Laura Florand release this weekend. I love her prose!

  3. willaful says:

    Not sure I can take the pressure guys…

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