Friday, August 31, 2007

Book Review: False Impression

I haven't read all of Jeffrey Archer's work, but what I have read left me with pretty positive impressions. It's been a really long time since I read one of his novels or short stories, though. The thing I like about him is that he tells good stories without getting caught up in all the emotional melodrama that a lot of trade paperbacks get caught up in these days. I mean, he tells a story that centers around a plot, i.e., action, not a character/emotions drama. Don't get me wrong, I love some character-driven authors (Anita Shreve comes to mind) but it's kind of nice to sit down with authors like Archer and Dan Brown every once in a while.

I really didn't think that this book was all that bad, but the reviewers at Barnes and Noble online would disagree. Sure, it wasn't all that great, but it was entertaining. I stayed up to finish it in one sitting. I enjoyed the international and artistic influences.

The main character in the book is an art expert who works for a small bank that frequently loans money with works of fine art as collateral. The bank's president is an art collector himself who, unbeknowst to his expert, has been charging huge interest rates until the clients lose everything but he will never sell the art off because he wants it for himself. When Anna, the expert, recommends to one client that she request the bank to sell her van Gogh to satisfy her debt, the client is mysteriously murdered and Anna is fired. The van Gogh had already been picked up and set for delivery to the bank in New York on September 11, 2001. That's right. Anna is actually in the North Tower when the plane hits it, but manages to get out, and the van Gogh is stuck in London because no planes can fly into the United States. So now the race is on: who will get to the van Gogh first? The bad bank president, or Anna while assisting the dead woman's family?

Like I said, nothing groundbreaking, but entertaining in its own right.

Lindsey's Grace: B-

Book Review: All About Love

Some people don't like Stephanie Lauren's because they think that all her books are alike. Well, that's kind of true. But as long as she writes books that I like I don't really care if the story is suspiciously familiar.

In All About Love the heroine is Phyllida, a woman who is "too old" not to be married, but is independent and fiesty. Pretty much stock Laurens. But I like heroines like that! And I like the fact that they "surrender" to the big bad Cynster man, in a way, because unlike others, I don't feel that the heroines always give up their independence to the men. So the heros are always protective. I kinda think that's a good thing. Authors might be stretching reality a little too far to expect us to believe that any woman from early nineteenth century England was able to maintain complete independence from her husband, especially when that husband is madly in love with her.

Anyway, about this book, I liked it.

Lindsey's Grade: B

Book Review: Scandal's Bride

I guess I liked this book more than Shannon did, because I wouldn't give it a C-. Sure, there was way too many sex scenes, and the heroine's "Lady of the Vale" thing was kind of wonky, but I liked the relationship between the hero and the heroine. I also liked that they were able to live with each other quite peacefully and pleasantly long before the end of the book. That doesn't always happen in romance novels.

Lindsey's Grade: B

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Book Review: A Lady of His Own

I really liked this book! It did remind me a little bit of A Secret Love in the sense that the hero and heroine had known each other from childhood, and the heroine was a woman considered to be a spinster past her prime that needed the hero's help to protect her family name from scandal, but who really cares, right? I liked that book, too.

This book is not a Cynster book, but a Bastian Club book. It's kind of funny how I used to not like Stephanie Laurens very much, but now I really like her writing style. Maybe it's because she's Australian or something, but she doesn't write like other Regency romance authors. Her books remind me somewhat of Mary Balogh's books (a Welsh-Canadian) in the sense that they have a pretty serious tone to them. Julia Quinn, for instance, writes like her characters are modern day in the way they talk. And her tone is just very light and jovial. I used to like that a lot because it was fun, but you know what? Fun makes it more difficult for my emotions to become involved in the story.

So I appreciate that about Stephanie Laurens, that she takes her characters seriously , because it makes them more real to me. In A Lady of His Own, the hero, Charles, is a war veteren who actually spent his thirteen years of service as a spy in French, due mainly to his half-French heritage. Charles was the third son of an earl, so he never really expected to have to the responsibilities that came with the title. However, while he was in the military, both his father and his two older brothers died and thus he became the earl. Which means that he will have to get married and produce an heir in order for the title to continue in his family. But the women in London do not appeal to him as they are too flighty and shallow to be compatible with the man that spying and war has turned him into. When his superior at the Foreign Office asks him to go home to look into a smuggling ring in the area, Charles readily agrees. Once home, he runs into Phoebe, the daughter of his neighbor.

Charles and Phoebe have a long history together as they slept with one another before he left for war, when he was twenty and she was only sixteen. Phoebe has been in love with him for years, but she believed that she was nothing buy a dalliance to him. It is her love of him that has kept her from marrying in the thirteen years since they parted. It doesn't take Charles very long to figure out that Phoebe is mucking around in the smuggling mystery, and she confides in him that she believes her deceased brother was using the smugglers to send information to the French during the war.

The reason I liked this book so much was because Charles and Phoebe were such mature, responsible characters that it was hard not to like them. They were also very self-aware, which is not something that is often seen in romance novels. Phoebe knows that she loves him, and I was quite happy to see that she ACTED like a woman that was in love, i.e., she didn't try to constantly push him away. She always wanted to be with him, and she accepted his help. They were complete partners in their investigation into the mystery, which added greatly to the romance. I would highly recommend this book.

Lindsey's Grace: A-

Book Review: The Secret Pearl

Basically what happens in this book is that the heroine has fallen on hard times and is forced to sell herself on the streets of London to survive. The hero is her client, and they conduct a "business transaction." But the hero feels guilt over what has happened afterwards, for his own reasons, and because the hero was a virgin at the time. So he tells his personal secretary to find her and offer her a job through an employment agency as his daughter's governess. The heroine is relieved to have a respectable job, but she doesn't know who her employer is until weeks after her arrival to the country home where both the hero's wife and daughter live.

A couple of years ago I would not have liked this book at all, solely because of the fact that the hero was married. But you know what? It didn't bother me as much as I thought it would, and I think that is mostly due to Balogh's skill at crafting a story. She could have made the hero's wife a total monster in order to make him more sympathetic, but she didn't. Everything seemed realistic to me, and I felt genuine sympathy for the marriage that he was essentially trapped in.

The romance could have been stronger, though. The heroine seemed to dislike the hero for so much of the book that I had a hard time believing that she felt as strongly for him as she claimed to. But I emphathized with the situation they were in because it made for a good story, so I just decided to buy the romance hook, line, and sinker. Once done, I was very satisfied.

Lindsey's Grade: B+

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Book Review: Tangled Up In You

I actually liked this book pretty well. The hero and heroine were likable. There was nothing asinine, unbelievable, or contrived in the plot. And there was this funny except:

"If you want to make me jealous, start dating someone with half a brain and a modicum of class."

His gaze narrowed. "At least she isn't running around pretending to be someone she's not."

Yes she was. She was running around pretending to be a size ten, but Maddie chose not to point that out in a crowded park because she
did have a modicum of class.

Lindsey's Grade: B+

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Book Review: A Secret Love

This book is the perfect example of how to include a heroine's insistence that the man tell her how he feels into a book, while my last review was definitely the opposite. In A Secret Love, the heroine Alathea is the eldest daugther of an impoverished earl who is the promissor to a promissary note which invests the entire worth of the earldom in a mysterious African mining company. Alathea's father may be impoverished, but society is oblivious to the family's financial troubles thanks largely to Alathea's devotion to managing the estate and the books. At twenty-nine, she is a spinster by society's standards because, shortly after her debut at eighteen, she discovered her father's debt and has since essentially sacrificed her life to helping her family and younger siblings. (I digress for a moment. Laurens is Australian, so does that explain why Alathea's apparently half-siblings were constantly referred to as her step-siblings? That annoyed the crap out of me!) Anyway, when she finds out about the note she is devastated, mainly because her two younger sisters are in London for their debut into society and a demand on the note would ruin the family and the girls' chances at making good matrimonial matches. Her only option is to challenge the validity of the mining company in the courts so as to nulify the note on grounds of fraud. But for that she could need help.

So she enlists the help of her childhood friend/nemesis, Gabriel Cynster, a member of the powerful Cynster family and cousin to the Duke of St. Ives. She and Gabriel do not get along as adults, but she knows him so well that she is able to present her problem to him and ask for his assistance in a way that so intrigues his sense of adventure and curiosity that he cannot deny her. Alathea does this by disguising herself as a mysterious countess who is always veiled when she approaches Gabriel, which also serves to protect her family's pride by not revealing that they are nearly penniless. Gabriel is intrigued, and also attracted to the young, shapely, tall countess. He helps her, but is also determined to seduce her.

What I liked best about this book was the deception Alathea pulled over Gabriel, who thinks he doesn't like Alathea while he is simultaneouslly sexually captivated by the countess. I thought that Laurens handled the reveal very well, and I was glad that she had Gabriel be sensible enough to realize that his feelings for the countess shouldn't go away just because he discovered that she is actually Alathea. And, although Alathea refused to marry Gabriel without hearing that he loved her, it worked in this sense because her hestitency to marry was completely believable. She was almost thirty years old, no one expected her to marry at all. I don't know, I guess it just makes more sense for a heroine to demand the words before she marries the hero, not bitch about it afterwards.

Lindsey's Grade: A-

Book Review: The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

Honestly, I cannot figure out why I hold Julia Quinn's writing in such high regard. Lately I've not really liked her work, and been pretty annoyed by her writing style. Does anyone else think she's too smarmy? Too sarcastic with her characters quips? And OH MY GOD, did she really center the entire conflict in this book around the hero's refusal to tell the heroine that he loves her? THAT IS SO RIDICULOUSLY CLICHED!

This is why that particular conflict point bugs the hell out of me: usually, the men treat the women amazingly. They pretty much show love in every way that love can be showed non-verbally. But they just don't say those three little words, and it pretty much ruins the heroines' otherwise blessed, idyllic lives. Give me a frickin' break. Yeah, I'd probably be pissed if my husband never told me he loved me once, even if he did show it every day, but I don't live in nineteenth century England where lots of marriages took place for reasons other than love. Maybe these lame heroines should think about how frickin' lucky they are to lead the privileged lives they lead and to have men that would do anything for them before they whine and complain about not hearing three words.

Oh, and Miranda was completely lame. No wonder society didn't like her.

Lindsey's Grade: C

Book Review: High Noon

Another Nora Roberts book, another conflicted impression on my part. She's such a good writer, really one of, if not the, best in the business. Her books always keep my interest and are entertaining, but at the same time it's pretty rare that I have a strong reaction to one.

In this book the heroine is Pheobe, a hostage negotiator with the Savannah-Chatham PD. First of all, let me say that I have been to Savannah, and it didn't strike me as a huge city. Maybe I only saw the touristy parts, but I had a really hard time believing that there are enough hostage situations in Savannah to keep Pheobe employed on a full-time basis. And really hostage negotiating seems to be all she does with the police. Yet she supposedly works all the time. Anyway, I digress.

My beef with Pheobe is the same beef I have with most Roberts heroines. They project this image of infallibility to the world, and that really gets under my skin. Sure, I like an independant gal as much as the next person, but why do they all have to be so tough all the time. They always seem to have the answers and never seem to make mistakes. That bugs the hell out of me. Sure, there are moments of vulnerability that the heroines have to face, but after the moment is over they always seem to super-tough again. One of the things I liked most about Angels Fall was how the heroine was not perfect.

The hero, Duncan, was a pretty nice guy, but like I read in one review, he was too smooth for my tastes. He was a totally averagely-acting guy that I would definitely be attracted to in real life, but for some reason in my romance novels I like the heroes to be a little darker, a little more sullen. This guy was just too perfect in every single way.

Lindsey's Grade: B

Book Review: Queen of Babble in the Big City

This review is really hard for me to write, because I've never before had to review a Meg Cabot book that I didn't like.

And I didn't like this book very much.

It just doesn't make sense. I like Meg Cabot so much that I refer to her as my best friend. I loved Queen of Babble. But you know what, that's the whole problem. I loved Queen of Babble, loved the way it ended, but in this book Cabot pretty much overturns all that she did in that book! Why did she do that do us? Sully the good feelings that the first book left us with? I just felt betrayed in some sense. Like Queen of Babble meant nothing.

But of course I will still read the third book in the series.

Lindsey's Grade: C

Book Review: Up Close And Dangerous

For the life of me I can't figure out why this book is getting the kind of reviews it is getting. I thought it was horrible, and I am a huge Linda Howard fan. For me, this book had the same problems Cover of Night had--underdeveloped characters and a poorly executed conclusion. It just seems like Howard is getting lazy in her hardcover releases, because Drop Dead Gorgeous didn't blow me away but I did like it.

Basically this entire book centers around two people who survive a plane crash in the Idaho mountains. (Howard apparently really likes my home state.) There's almost no mystery, and no suspense, and I thought the romance moved too quickly to grab my interest. And at the end everything got wrapped up quite speedily. Why has she been taking the easy way out recently? Her conclusion in Cry No More was so good! Urgh!

Lindsey's Grace: D+