A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

Reading, October 2017

on October 31, 2017

Recurring themes of the month: Neck obsessions. The phrase “just like a man/woman.” The word “articulation.” Being bitten by animal corpses. (Weird month, am I right?) Author’s notes I liked more than the books. Thanksgiving. Desperately self-sufficient people. Titled characters who made secret misalliances. Parental misalliances. Late night library visits. Characters whose siblings want to be in society when they don’t. Genderfluid characters. (I’m really realizing the limitations of the usual hero/heroine terminology.) Hirsute heroes. Artists.

The Secret Wife by Lynne Graham.

Hero is forced to marry the woman he thinks was his adopted father’s mistress, but who was really his illegitimate daughter. One of those tempestuous relationships Graham loves, sometimes veering into a bickerfest.

Riveted by Meljean Brook

Really sweet love story mixed with awesome steampunk adventure. I would love to see a movie of this, because the visuals would be amazing.

The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb

I was searching for Hunting Eichmann and only found the ebook of this version, edited for younger readers. (I’ve since compared it to the original and it’s not rewritten or dumbed down, just shortened.) Very powerful read.

Tempted All Night by Liz Carlyle

Hero is uncomfortably rakish.

Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life by Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields

Eye-opening and powerful, but a very dense academic read. There were whole chapters I think you’d need a Ph.D to understand. At any rate, I didn’t understand them.

Ruthless Contract by Kathryn Ross

The Markonos Bride by Michelle Reid

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

A little too much of the “heroine who knows she’s not beautiful yet nonetheless desired by simply everyone” trope, but an interesting premise and possible relationship set-up.

The Ghost and Mrs Muir by R. A. Dick aka Josephine Leslie, and that pseudonym just kills me.

A book after my own heart. Witty and sweet and old-fashioned in the best way. Widowed Mrs. Muir escapes from her stifling Victorian in-laws, and makes a happy life for herself with some help from the ghost of a crusty old sea captain. It’s very like the movie, if memory serves, but worth reading for the prose.

Wicked All Day by Liz Carlyle

Despite the historical basis for the premise — being “compromised” leads to a forced, highly unwanted engagement —  this had the feel of an angsty teen drama for me. It was like watching “The Fosters”: I felt so bad for all the characters and their immature mistakes that get them in such deep trouble and misery. Perhaps the involvement of several motherly characters (heroines of previous books in the series) helped activate my own motherly impulses, making me more sad than aggravated at them.

Bountiful by Sarina Bowen.

Read for a Heroes and Heartbreakers First Look.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.

I read this middle-grade story because my son read it in his book club and wanted to share it. It’s kind of odd. The first half is like an old-fashioned YA problem novel, in which Mia fears that she’s crazy but then gets a diagnosis of synesthesia. Then it turns into a completely different old-fashioned YA problem novel, as Mia starts ignoring friends and schoolwork to concentrate on learning about synesthesia, even deliberately using it like a drug. (She fakes needing acupuncture because it makes her see bright lights and auras/pheremones.) She’s frankly pretty awful, and then get punished in an old-fashioned literary way. (The author hangs a lampshade on this, but it didn’t work for me.) So… not the fan my son is.

The Italian’s Convenient Wife by Catherine Spencer

I hate when books kill off adoptive parents in order to reunite the child/ren with biological parents. As such plots go, this one wasn’t too bad… they were great parents and the children deeply miss them, and aren’t eager to accept their “aunt.”  But it never really lived up to its angst potential otherwise.

Love With a Chance of Zombies by Del Dryden.

Cute post-apocalyptic short, not too scary.

A Dream of Stone and Shadow by Marjorie M. Liu

Despite gruesome elements and a horrific plotline (children trapped by a pornography ring) I enjoyed this novella very much. (Being short probably saved it from too much grisly detail.) The gargoyle hero is sweet, protective, and essentially a ghost for much of the story, with the best kind of non-corporeal presence. (Siiiiigh….) There’s a redemption arc for him and a more complicated one for his emotionally isolated heroine. It’s part for the “Dirk and Steele” series but works fine as a standalone.

Hamilton’s Battalion by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan and Alyssa Cole.

Reviewed at GoodReads. From an ARC. I didn’t really do the Rose Lerner story justice in my review, because I read it too long ago and didn’t make notes. 😦

The Wild Road by Marjorie M. Liu.

My TBR Challenge read.

An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles.

Gorgeous period atmosphere and two lovely heroes — one of whom is autistic — made this really work for me, despite some weaknesses.

An Unnatural Vice by KJ Charles.

The strongest book of the trilogy, IMO. Enemies-to-lovers with a powerful attraction/repulsion, and an emotional redemption arc for the seemingly amoral hero.

The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones.

If “Matilda” had not had psychic powers or Miss Honey… she might have wound up like Dee Moreno. Who makes a deal with a demon, because it seems to be the only way she can stay in boarding school and have a chance of escaping her ghastly, alcoholic parents.

Excellent writing and self-contained but hurting heroine. I was a little disappointed that it went in a romantic direction, which was pretty samey. (Be warned, not genre romance.) I think it could have been even better if it were just a story about friends. But very good in any case.

An Unsuitable Heir by KJ Charles.

I don’t think Charles can write a bad book, but this one missed the mark for me. It was a strong plot and ended well — except that I expected the mystery arc to follow the mystery “rules,” and it didn’t, so I found that part anti-climactic. But primarily, the romance never really spoke to me. Love that Mark has a congenital disability rather than an acquired one, though, which is really rare in romance.

Is That What People Do? by Robert Sheckley

A collection of some of Sheckley’s best collected science fiction stories and some uncollected ones — which to be frank, might as well have stayed uncollected. (Even, sadly, the Arnold and Gregor story. They’re a hapless duo of planet decontaminators and always run into ridiculous situations.) Sheckley is hard to read these days, and not just because of  casual classic SF misogyny and racism… he was way too prophetic. I only wish that the election of a reality star show had been peak Sheckley. And I think almost anyone, anywhere could relate to “the Store of the Worlds.”

Tempt Me Not by Susan Napier

Ugh. I was just wishing they’d digitize more old Napier, but this one can stay forgotten. All of the characters are dumbshits.

The Truth About Love and Dukes by Laura Lee Gurhke

A light Victorian historical — seeming especially so after KJ Charles’s foggy Dickensian gloom — but not as painfully floofy as I feared from the “Dear Lady Truelove” series title. I wouldn’t call it better than readable, though. The “battle of the sexes” trope in which the arrogant hero just annoys the heck out of the feminist heroine is one I find irritating and it almost always winds up seeming actually anti-feminist. At least Irene has some good arguments to make, since they argue all the damn time.

Wife to Christopher by Mary Burchell

Burchell’s first book is less original than her later work, but shows her interesting way with characters. A major tearjerker. Sensitive readers should watch out for content warnings. (Note to self: find a way to do spoilers here!)

Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

An utterly devastating book, especially since it needed updating practically the day it came out in 2016.

Baking With Kafka by Tom Gauld.

Very funny cartoons about reading, writing and literature, previously published in “The Guardian.”

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews.

Considerably better than the first in the series, although a bit repetitious. I appreciated seeing Kate’s strong moral center and capacity for caring, and am excited about the series now.

A Midnight Feast by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner

(Read from an ARC.) A touching marriage-in-jeopardy story, with two vivid, strong-willed characters.

That Summer by Lauren Willig.

(Spoilers)

This was recommended by someone as a comfort read, and I can see that… it’s rather old-fashioned in tone, not unlike The Ghost and Mrs. Muir in some ways. But it’s also desperately sad — perhaps especially so in the context of TGaMR, in which the main character actually got to escape from her stifling life. Like other Willig books, it has both a modern times and a historical plotline; I was most caught up in the past story, and desperately hoping it would somehow get to a HEA. The parts about art and art history are interesting, and the two storylines nicely juxtaposed. Overall I did really enjoy it, but I wish it had had two happy endings.

Divine Intervention by Robert Sheckley.

Another collection of previously uncollected works, and again not great — except the Arnold and Gregor story is hilarious.

DNFs

At The Dark End of the Street by Danielle M. McGuire

No doubt a very valuable book, but just too painful to read right now.

Beautiful Stranger by Christina Lauren

Not my cuppa. I probably should just forget about this particular series, since it’s so sex-focused.

The Flower and the Sword by Jacqueline Navin.

I might have enjoyed this one years ago but then again, I did own it for seven years and it was picked up and put back down again several times. I like the old skool vengeful husband plot, but the prose and the characters were just meh.

Labyrinth by Alex Beecroft.

Too hard for me to follow.

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2 responses to “Reading, October 2017

  1. KeiraSoleore says:

    Great reading of Alyssa Cole’s novella in Hamilton’s Battalion. Tell me how you really feel about the Napier. 🙂

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