[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
Did I really only read 4 books this month? That's what Goodreads is telling me, and I don't remember reading anything else, so it must be true. (I guess I spent more time with So Ji Sub and Hyun Bin than I thought.)

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti
Does what it says on the package...kind of. A better title would have been "a self-absorbed hipster reads a lot of pretentious books", since the essays are more about her fancy Brooklyn butcher life than the books themselves, or even the food. None of the recipes really stood out to me, either. So...meh.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim
"September 15th. - This is the month of quiet days, crimson creepers, and blackberries; of mellow afternoons in the ripening garden; of tea under acacias instead of too shady beeches; of wood fires in the library in chilly evenings." I read this book once several years ago, loved it enough to buy a fairly expensive 1900 copy from a used bookstore, and then let it sit. I need to remember to get this one out whenever I'm in a bad mood, because it's so perfect and comforting.

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright
The younger sister of The Royal We - Ellie meets Edmund on her first night at Oxford and he seems to like her, but - oh no! - he's Prince Not!Harry! How can an ordinary American date, let alone marry, someone in line for a throne? This was cute but a bit stupid, and too melodramatic. Ellie and Edmund break up every few chapters over some dumb misunderstanding, and her mom's big secret is so obvious that I figured it out from the blurb on the back cover.

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
After being drawn to a certain house her entire life, Julia Beckett is able to buy it - and soon starts experiencing flashbacks to the time she spent in the house in a different life, 300 years before. It's not my favorite of Kearsley's books, but I love it for the same reasons I love Thornyhold by Mary Stewart - the "I bought a gorgeous English country house and now I'm going to decorate it and make jam and tend the garden" fantasy.
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
My Heart's in the Lowlands by Liz Curtis Higgs
I really like the tone of this one - instead of being a list of places you could see in Scotland, or a tale of someone else's trip, the author pretends that you and she are off to Scotland for a week. I love her enthusiasm and affection for Scotland, and the best parts of the book are when she steps out of the fictional trip for a minute and tells some story about a real adventure she's had there - my favorite is probably the one where, out on a solitary walk one morning she slips and tumbles down the side of a hill, miraculously not smashing her brand new camera, and is rescued at the bottom by a strapping young hiker. In terms of actual useful information this book is light - especially since Dumfries and Galloway aren't on my itinerary - but it's excellent fodder for daydreaming.

A School for Brides by Patrice Kindl
The sequel to Keeping the Castle, which I remember liking well enough, but not as much as I'd wanted to based on the summary and cover. Which pretty much sums up my feeling for this one, as well. It's a light and fluffy Regency-ish romance, but at the end it feels like the author forgot to put in the romantic bits: we're told couples fall in love, but never shown it happening. I don't like criticizing it, because this Georgette-Heyer-lite sort of book is a genre I'd like to see more of, but I do wish there was more substance and not so much fluff to it.

Britain On Your Own by Dorothy Maroncelli
I've passed over this book many times because the subtitle says it's "a guide for mature travelers". I always imagined it would be about senior discounts and activities of interest to retired couples. ("Where to go shopping while your husband plays golf", that sort of thing.) But I couldn't have been more wrong. The author started going to England by herself after her husband died, and had a system that worked very well for her, so that she wanted to encourage other single people of all ages not to let the lack of a travel companion keep them from seeing the world. It's a very practical book, with hints and advice that the author had picked up on over ten years of spending at least a month in England every year - her basic travel wardrobe, things you do and don't need to pack, ways to avoid paying the "single supplement" for hotel rooms, dining alone without awkwardness, making friends with strangers, dealing with homesickness and loneliness. There are also essays about some of her favorite places to visit, and she makes a very convincing argument for making a village your home base and taking day trips to the bigger cities and attractions, instead of the other way around. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like she ever published the planned part 2, which would have been about the north of England and Scotland, and as she's 93 now she probably never will. Too bad!

The Well At the World's End by A.J. Mackinnon
I know I've read all of Mary Stewart's books, but that doesn't stop me from getting on Amazon sometimes and looking through all 15 pages of results for her name, hoping that maybe there'll be one title I've somehow overlooked before. When this one popped up I was confused at first - what does a man's quest for the fountain of youth have to do with Mary Stewart? - but then I found out that at one point he actually meets her, and so I had to read it. And I am so, so glad I did. A.J. Mackinnon (or "Sandy" as everyone in the book calls him) has a writing style that can best be described as "Bill Bryson meets P.G. Wodehouse". He's self-deprecating, not afraid to make himself look like a bumbling Bertie Wooster, but has a gift for describing places and people that make you feel like you're right there with him. At first I couldn't figure out why a journey from New Zealand to Scotland warranted a whole book - surely you just hop on a plane and get there in about a day? But that's the whole point: he wants to do it without flying. And he has very little money. And so what should have been a straightforward trip becomes an adventure, with lecherous yacht captains, paranoid border guards, a village headman who might or might not have given Sandy his daughter as a wife, and a friend who he's planning to meet in Kathmandu in May...well, maybe it'll be July...actually old chap, could we make it November? And Cairo, not Nepal... Suffice it to say, I loved this book. So much so that by the time the meeting with Mary Stewart comes around, I had forgotten that was why I'd started reading it in the first place!

The House That BJ Built by Anuja Chauhan
I think I say this every time I review an Anuja Chauhan book, but her books really are like reading Bollywood movies. I can easily see them being adapted into movies without needing much changed to make it work. She just has that filmi viewpoint right on, the perfect blend of romance and humor and family drama. Unfortunately for this one the effect is marred by too much head-hopping - sometimes multiple times on one page - which gives it a chaotic feel. When she finally settles down into one person's viewpoint, it works much better. I loved that this one is a sequel to Those Pricey Thakur Girls, and that we got to see the sisters from that book all grown up, and finally see the outcome of Eshwari and Satish's high school flirtation. I did wish the sisters had confronted Chandu about all of the money she'd borrowed from them, though.

Reawakened by Colleen Houck
I have a love-hate relationship with Colleen Houck's Tiger's Curse series - love the idea, hate the execution. And it annoys me that she's putting off writing the last book of that series to write a new trilogy about Egypt instead. But what are you going to do? I still feel some loyalty to her from the old days of my Tiger's Curse enthusiasm, so I picked up this new book hoping maybe her new editor would have toned down the purple prose and awkwardness. And to a certain extent, they did. The book is much easier to read without cringing, the main character mostly sounds her age and not alternately 5 or 85 like Kelsey did. But...this new series is basically just Tiger's Curse with Egyptian princes instead of Indian. And, again, you can tell she got all her information from Wikipedia. Cairo is so barely described (a "large city...a mix of old and new buildings") that they might as well have stayed in New York. At one point Amon orders food for them and Lily just says she tried "an Egyptian dish". Really, you can't even look up one Egyptian food to describe? At first I was enjoying Amon and Lily's lack of romantic relationship, since she thinks he's crazy and he is all, "Come, servant, you are no one special but you're here, so you must help me in my quest." But then out of nowhere the air between them is "charged" and he's spouting flowery lines about her beauty, and she's sulking because she's so PLAIN and ORDINARY and LOOK AT HIM, HE COULD HAVE ANY GIRL HE WANTS. It's Tiger's Cruse all over again: good idea, poor execution.

Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt
I'm not sure I would have read this if I'd known beforehand that the main character was only 14, but I didn't, so I did, and I'm glad. It's a very English book, which I like - unlike American books about England, in which everyone sounds like a walking parody and the focus is on tourist destinations, English books are just about life which happens to be taking place in England. The young couple take turns narrating the story: she's recovering from a car accident which left her with scars all over one side of her face, and he lives with his bipolar mom on a boat, never staying in one place very long. The romance moved a little quickly at first, especially considering how young she is, but since you see it from both sides it didn't feel too unbelievable. The real meat of the plot, though, is a murder investigation in which the hero and the heroine's father are both suspects. I thought it was a little too obvious who the real murderer was, but on thinking about it more, this was never really meant to be a whodunit, so much as an example of the way outsiders are suspect in a small community.

Never Doubt I Love by Patricia Veryan
I've had a frustrating couple of weeks lately, and turned to an old favorite for comfort. I love Perry and Zoe's sweet, fun little romance in the middle of the more melodramatic Tales of the Jewelled Men books. If you're reading the series as a whole I think it makes for a nice breath of air before the danger of the finale, and as a standalone you get a hint of the mystery and danger without the whole full-blown plot.

July Books

Jul. 31st, 2015 01:31 pm
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J K Rowling
I once calculated that, what with re-reading the series every time a new book came out, plus another re-read of all the books up to that point in between each new book, I'd read this one at least 15 times. And still, even though I can recite parts of it by heart and there's nothing new or surprising to discover...I love it. This wasn't a book of my childhood - I was three or four years out of high school before I ever read it - but it feels like it, probably because of the constant reading and re-reading.

I still can't help a little sob every time Hagrid says that "young Sirius Black" lent him the motorcycle. Oh, Sirius!

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Still fun but not really as good as I'd remembered. There are a couple of plot threads that never get resolved - what happened to Dumb and Dumber between kidnapping Amy and her waking up to find Dumber knocked out and no one else around? And, having bought a Mini Cooper since reading this last, I had to laugh when a) Amy gets a flat tire and, no big deal, changes it for the spare (Mini Coopers don't have spare tires, they have freaking expensive run-flat tires that you can keep driving on for 60 miles or so) and b) Amy is knocked out and stuffed into the trunk of her car. (HAHAHA. You have about 2, maybe 3 square feet of space in the boot of a Mini. Anyone bigger than a kindergartener is just not going to fit.)

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot
Gah, I'm having the hardest time writing this review! I guess because I want to be polite and not insult anyone who loved the Princess Diaries series and/or this book. But...I kind of hated it. At the very least, I feel like it was a waste of my time. 95% of the characters are still in the exact same place they were when the high school PD books ended. Mia hasn't grown up at all, and it remains a mystery why Michael is so enamored of her. The second half of the book serves only to introduce Meg Cabot's new series about Mia's middle-school-age half-sister. This should have been a novella about the wedding and possibly the SPOILERpregnancySPOILER (which I saw coming from the first time Mia's grocery order was included in the book).

Turning It On by Elizabeth Harmon
I didn't read the synopsis of this before buying it, since I loved her first book so much. I assumed the whole series was going to be about figure skating, but this one is only very loosely connected to that first book (the hero is a former skater, the estranged nephew of the coach in book 1). Instead, this one is about a male stripper who goes on a sleazy dating reality show and falls for one of the contestants. Which...is not really my thing. Not to say that Vlad and Hannah didn't have chemistry, or that Elizabeth Harmon didn't make me care about them. I enjoyed some parts of the story very much. But...male strippers in general don't do anything for me, and so all the descriptions of oiled pecs and tearaway pants just made me want to laugh. The scene where he dances for her is supposed to be really sexy, but it made me laugh and cringe instead. Maybe if I was more of a Magic Mike fangirl I'd have enjoyed it, but as it is I would prefer that she move back to figure skating.

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George
I loved the atmosphere and setting of this one, and the idea of it, but it left me with more questions than answers. And not in a "can't wait for the sequel" sort of way, but in a frustrated, "things should have been explained better" sort of way. Why would the entire family keep such a huge secret from the two members they were hoping would save them all? What was up with Aunt Kate in that one part where she tells Dacia she "can't wait to see her taken down a peg or two"? A little more romance would have been nice, too. It's sounding like I didn't enjoy this very much, but actually it was one of my favorites of the month. It was just frustrating in some ways.

'89 Walls by Katie Pierson
I picked this up thinking it would be like Eleanor & Park - semi-forbidden romance in Omahaa in the 80s - but it was more like an after school special crossed with a political science text book. Nothing feels authentic, and the characters are impossible to empathize with. (SPOILER: At one point the heroine gets an abortion. That she's pregnant hasn't even been hinted at in the story, so much so that when she tells a friend, "I'm pregnant," I seriously thought it was a joke that was falling flat. I had to re-read that part several times before I realized that, no, this is just the author jumping us ahead in time so that she doesn't have to write any actual plot.) It's fine to have a message in your story, but the story itself needs to be strong enough to support it, and this one just isn't. It's preachy and obnoxious instead.

That's Not English by Erin Moore
Fun little book about the differences between American English and English English. It was a little uneven, content-wise; some chapters were really interesting and talked about the history of the word and how thetwo countries started using it differently, but then others she'd go off on a tangent about her life as an expat, and seem to forget to talk abut the word in question.

Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Sort-of sequel to Texas Gothic. The thing I don't like, having read it twice, is that the bad guys send Daisy on this elaborate scavenger hunt only to reveal at the end that, haHA, we really just needed you to be in the right place at the right time for our evil plan to take shape. Well, you already kidnapped her, so why not just hold her somewhere until the right time? Why risk letting her run all over the state and not be where you need her to be? Also, I still think Agent Taylor would be a better choice than...Carter? Carson? Cooper? See, I can't even remember his name!

The Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
I seem to be stuck in a loop with this book, where I read it and didn't like it much, but everyone else seems to love it, so I keep coming back to it wondering what they're seeing that I'm not. Having read it twice now I still don't get it. Mili and Samir are both incredibly annoying - she's never met a conclusion she didn't jump to, and he and I got off on the wrong foot when he started lamenting that "all these women I sleep with expect me to have feelings for them and I just want a nice f***-buddy, dammit". I wonder if a lot of people are overlooking the extreme melodrama because they think "That's just how Bollywood is!" Well, it can be. But there is good Bollywood and bad Bollywood, the same as in any film industry.

The Adventures of Sally by P.G. Wodehouse
"Light, attractive reading", as Jeeves would say: heiress Sally tries to manage the hapless men in her life. My favorite part of this book was how people kept darting back and forth from England to America, as though a week or more at sea was nothing at all! I also love how Wodehouse's jokes sneak up on you, as he winds around and approaches it from the side before hitting you with the punchline when you've forgotten it's coming.

Hard Time by Cara McKenna
I think it was the odd premise of this romance that made me want to read it: a librarian who works one day a week at the local prison, and the inmate who writes her passionate love letters. And I did like that part of it, which took up about half the book. Once he gets out of jail, though, it got a little repetitive and slightly pointless. I didn't like the abrupt ending - she finally convinces him that they can only have a future if he doesn't seek revenge, and then starts daydreaming about how she'll tell her parents she's dating an ex-con...and that's it. There's no resolution whatsoever!

May Books

May. 30th, 2015 09:16 pm
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
So, this was not one of those months where I read a book every three or four days. Just saying.

Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart
I always come back to Mary Stewart when I'm tired or stressed or when there are just Too Many Books in the world and I don't know what I want to read but I want it to be good. I chose Wildfire this time because I've been drooling over pictures of someone's trip to Skye on Instagram, and it did not disappoint. It's a little different than her other books - she said in an interview once that it was her attempt at more of a classic mystery instead of her usual romantic suspense - but it's not missing any of the gorgeous descriptive writing, nail-biting tension, or satisfying romance. Weeell...maybe this isn't my favorite of her romances. Maybe she tries a little too hard to work in a red herring in that department, and I could have used a little more hint as to who I was supposed to be rooting for. (Yes, I've read it before and already knew what was going to happen, but that's why it stood out to me this time that the romance plot is a little lacking.)

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice
A sort-of sequel to her The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, set a dozen or so years later and with a new heroine, who is only loosely connected to the main characters of the earlier book. I really wanted to like it; I love the way Eva Rice writes (though I do wish she'd get to the point with things a little faster), but this is an "it's not you, it's me" situation: I am just not interested in the 1960s. I don't like hippies. Or casual sex. Or casual drug use. I don't like the Rolling Stones. I don't find skinny long-haired musicians attractive. So I had a hard time understanding Tara's actions. That, added to the fact that the book is just about 300 pages too long, made this a dud for me.

How the Heather Looks by Joan Bodger
Charming. That is the best word I can think of for this book: a young family goes to England in the 50s and travel the countryside looking for the scenery that inspired their favorite children's books. There were some sections that might have meant more to me if I was familiar with the authors in question, but even when I had no idea what she was talking about I still enjoyed the adventure. What was funny, though, was that when [livejournal.com profile] eattheolives reviewed it she mentioned not reading the Epilogue if you wanted to end it happily. So I spent the whole time debating whether or not I'd read it when I got that far. What could be so bad, I wondered? Then I got to the end and realized my copy, which must be an earlier edition than hers, had no epilogue! So all of my worry had been for nothing.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
This is a hard book to describe. It's not really about Kate and William, but it kind of is. But it's fiction. But if you're at all familiar with the story of how Kate Middleton came to marry Prince William, the twists and turns of the story will be mostly familiar. "Kate Middleton fan fiction" is how I've seen a few people sum it up, and I guess that works. Bah. Long-winded intro aside, I enjoyed this book and gobbled it up in about two days. It's not great, and if your tolerance for chick lit is low you probably wouldn't like it, but I'm a sucker for all things Kate so...yeah. Loved it. With a few caveats: There's a lot of drinking in this book. Everyone seems to spend at least half their time in varying stages of drunkenness. Which didn't bother me on moral grounds so much as it made me anxious about their health. How much can you drink before your liver just gives out?!? (It reminded me of Jerramy Fine's memoir where she talks about something similar. Apparently British upper class kids really like their liquor! Also, I wasn't a huge fan of the sudden drama at the end. It felt off somehow. I didn't love the plot thread that led to it, either - a bit squicky for me. (Don't you love vagueness? :-P) But overall very fun.

Captain Barney by Jan Westcott
An American naval officer imprisoned in England escapes, runs off to Amsterdam, gets captaincy of a ship, and sails it back to help in the war of 1812. Along the way he meets an annoying cliche of a romance novel heroine (she has a man's name! She can't talk to him without tossing her hair, stamping her foot, and jumping to a conclusion!) who bickers with him the whole way. He's a self-satisfied sleazeball. She's an emptyheaded nincompoop. I did not finish this book.

Velvet by Temple West
Caitlin has moved to a tiny little nowhere town in upstate New York following her mother's death. She just wants to keep her head down, finish high school, and get out of there. Then her life is threatened, and the mysterious, gorgeous, aloof guy at school appoints himself her bodyguard. Because he's a vampire (obviously). But they can't fall in love, because it's forbidden. To be convincing, though, they have to pretend to be a couple. And then Caitlin starts having nightmares that can only be kept at bay if Adrian sleeps with her in his arms every night. So...you know where this is going. It's Twilight, guys. Alternate-world Twilight. The author even admits it in the Q&A in the back. Which isn't to say it's not fun to read (it is), but I feel like it belongs on fanfiction.net, not on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. (Yes I am looking forward to the sequel, why do you ask?) *shifty*

Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan
Anuja Chauhan's books are just pure fun. She has ridiculous comic timing, and will find the most awkward, awesome ways to keep her characters from actually getting on the same page until the very end. That's not to say it can't be frustrating at times, because she is also great at creating chemistry between them so that you just want to reach in and grab them and make them kiss and make up, but it works. Though that being said, this isn't her best book. (So far I'd say The Zoya Factor is number one.) It's part romance novel, part family saga, and there are a lot of loose ends floating around that need to be tied up, but not too well, because there's a sequel coming. And so while Debjani and Dylan are trying to figure each other out, her sisters flit in and out with their own troubles and distract from the point of the story. I finished it feeling a bit unhappy with the ending - it's not done! - and I hope I can get my hands on a copy of the sequel soon (does Amazon India ship to the USA?).
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
I was too busy at work this month to do much reading at my desk, so this is a shorter one. And what few romance novels I did skim through, I forgot to write down. I'm sorry for your loss. :-P

Read more... )

March Total: 16
2015 Total Books Read: 68
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
IMG_0175

Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens (I won an ARC of this from the author on Twitter; it won't be out until late April.)

The perfect mix of boarding school story and murder mystery, very British and very fun. The story is told in the form of a case book written by Hazel Wong, whose best friend Daisy Wells has decided that this term they should form a detective team and investigate cases. Neither of them expects to come across a real mystery, though, in the form of a teacher's dead body.

First Impressions by Charlie Lovett (didn't finish, lost interest)
This book had me at Oxford and Jane Austen...or it should have. The modern chapters are bad enough, but every other chapter is told from Jane Austen's perspective, as she's just started writing Pride and Prejudice - and in Charlie Lovett's version, she plagiarized it (the heck??!?).

Read more... )

February total books read: 28
2015 total books read: 52
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
1. How many books did you read in 2014? (If you don't keep track, you can give an estimate.)
I didn't keep track, but I'd estimate somewhere between 50-80? (This is why I made a "2015" shelf on Goodreads, so next year I can keep track better.)

2. Which did you read more: physical books (or on Kindle) or audiobooks?
Physical books - probably 10% were ebooks.

3. What were your favorite books from the year?
Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes by Betsy Woodman, Cress by Marissa Meyer, The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye, Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

4. Favorite new authors that you hope to continue reading in 2015?
Not really new to me, but I'm looking forward to Susanna Kearsley's new book, and the next two from Marissa Meyer, and Heather Dixon's Illusionarium, finally!

5. And for fun: do you own an e-reader? If so, what kind?
No. Well, does my iphone count?
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
Flight from the Eagle by Dinah Dean
(I was a little disappointed to find that my copy of this was abridged, but not much was cut out. As far as I can remember, the only part missing was the description of a battle at the beginning, and how the hero came to be wounded.)

I'm always impressed by how Dinah Dean can make a fairly simple, uneventful story so interesting. Reading it for a second time I thought it might get boring, since I knew there was nothing to be worried about, but I still loved Lev and Irina and their sweet, slow love story.

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
I wasn't planning to read this, but after finally watching the Veronica Mars movie I thought I'd give it a try. I...was not a fan. (But then I haven't really loved Veronica Mars since season 1.)

The Eagle's Fate by Dinah Dean
Another Dinah Dean where nothing really momentous happens, but the love story is so much fun to watch unfold.

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
The conclusion to a trilogy that I'd been looking forward to all year. I probably should have re-read the previous books first, since there were several characters and plot points I was hazy on, but I was more interested in Annith's romance than whether the Duchess would surrender to the French, to be honest. And for the most part it didn't disappoint - Balthazar is an awesome hero, mysterious and infuriating and always somehow there right when Annith needs him - except that after taking her time telling the story for most of the book, the last few chapters felt rushed.

Wheel of Fortune by Dinah Dean
I barely made it through this one the first time I read it, and the only reason I kept it was that I liked having a complete set. This time I appreciated it more, even though I still feel cheated by the bait and switch love story. 3/4 of the book is spent making you think Galina would make a good match for one man, and then out of nowhere the hero shows up, and they fall in love in about 10 pages.

Elsker by S.T. Bende
This book is the most ridiculous mashup of Thor and Twilight, and I wish that I could say it was deliciously cheesy and worth the 99 cents I paid for the ebook, but it was not.

The River of Time by Dinah Dean
I think this is my favorite of Dinah Dean's Russia series. It's a bit sexier than her other books - not that anything is graphically described, but the chemistry between the hero and heroine is off the charts, and I'm a sucker for a second chance love story.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
This was about the fourth or fifth time I'd read this, and even though I've always thought of it as one of my favorite books, I found it slightly tedious this time around. C.S. Lewis's writing always goes right over my head anyway - every time I think I know where he's going with a point he goes somewhere different and I feel like a moron - and maybe I just wasn't in the mood for that, or maybe I wasn't willing to give it the attention it deserves. I just know that I was glad to put it down, and probably won't read it again for a good long while.

The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand
Another book I'd previously considered a favorite but wasn't in the mood for when I picked it up this month. I'm finding that I can't really re-read Laura Florand's books. The first time around I get lost in the fantastic descriptions of Paris and chocolate and romance, but the second time what jumps out at me is how, frustratingly, the characters always use sex as a way of getting to know each other rather than getting to know each other before going to bed.

Trade Wind by M.M. Kaye
Yet another re-read in this month of them! I read this one so long ago that I barely remembered what it was about - I remembered the heroine's name being Hero and that she went to Zanzibar and was kidnapped and raped by the hero, but that was about it. Which is strange, because it's such a long book and full of political intrigue, a cholera epidemic, marauding pirates, racism, slavery, shipwrecks, buried treasure...a little of everything, really. It's not quite as epic in scope as M.M. Kaye's India books (The Far Pavilions and Shadow of the Moon), but as always she does an amazing job of bringing to life a time and place "long ago and far away".

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
Yes, another re-read! (I'm trying to read more of the books I own, especially the ones I've read once and then forgotten about.) I remembered it as a charming, fun little fractured fairy tale, but didn't like it as much the second time around. There's just not much to the story, especially as it's only about 85 pages long, so when you already know what happens it loses some of its charm.
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
Mortal Danger by Anne Aguirre
Too creepy for me. From the summary it sounds like it'll be Faust-in-high-school, but then she throws in every creepy urban monster legend ever, and it's more horror story than paranormal romance. I really wasn't a fan of the message that beauty will solve all your social-life problems, either.

Honeymoon Hotel by Hester Browne
I wanted to love this one, but was just a little bored by it instead. It didn't seem to have quite enough story for the book to be so long, and the romance between Rosie and Joe wasn't convincing at all.

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
A little Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a lot of fun. Michelle Knudsen is excellent at drawing out suspense; there were so many times where I thought, "Good, ___ is finally going to happen!" only to have it put off yet again, which meant I had to keep reading instead of going to bed.

Stray by Elissa Sussman
Such a weird book. The world-building is convoluted and frustrating, and the characters' actions are maddening. I couldn't figure out why, in a world where women have all the magical powers and men (usually) none, women would just meekly submit to having their powers subdued and monitored. And why the schools designed to teach them to subdue their powers don't actually teach them anything, they just punish them ridiculously for using them. It seems like the author wanted to use a fairy tale setting to make a point about feminism, but she forgot to come up with a strong story to go with it.

Winterspell by Claire Legrand
UGH, so annoying. I've been looking forward to this book for months - it's a YA re-telling of The Nutcracker ballet, for crying out loud! - but it was terrible. It's a weirdly sex-obsessed fantasy that borrows a few names from the ballet, but that's about it.

Wings of the Falcon by Barbara Michaels
One of only two Barbara Michaels books I've actually liked - apparently I like her historical mysteries more than her ghost stories (probably because they're similar to the books she wrote as Elizabeth Peters). I saw some complaints on Goodreads that there was too much Italian history included, but not knowing much about Italian history, I found it interesting rather than tiresome. Also I completely fell for the red herring, so when the Falcon's true identity was revealed I was as surprised as Francesca.


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I don't know what I can really say about this one other than LOVED. IT. You know I'm terrible at reviewing books I love! I've put off reading Outlander for years after a few negative reviews made me think it wasn't for me, but now I've finally picked it up and I'm hooked. Bring on the 7 giant sequels!


A Rose in Winter by Laura Florand
Little Red Riding Hood meets Christmas meets Laura Florand's French romances. I loved the atmosphere and the idea of Christmas in Provence, but the story was a little too short to make the romance believable. Attraction at first sight I can buy, but to be ready to commit two days later?

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym
So depressing. I normally like Barbara Pym, but that's because her books are usually cozy and on the happier side. This one, about four single people in their mid-60s, was gloomy and, well, depressing.

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman
I've read this about 5 times but I never get tired of it. Super-comforting, funny, a little romantic, and just an all-time favorite.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
Another favorite to re-read (I've set myself a goal to re-read all the books I own instead of buying them, piling them on shelves, and forgetting about them). I love this book so much that I wrote a huge review of it on Goodreads, which I rarely do.

Love Potion Number 10 by Betsy Woodman
Book 2 in the Jana Bibi series. I didn't like this quite as much as the first book, mainly because some of my favorite characters weren't highlighted this time around, and also because the story didn't feel as settled by the end. But it's still a great cozy, very-slightly-mysterious visit to Hamara Nagar, a fictional town I'd love to visit.

The Zoya Factor by Anuja Chauhan
The third re-read of the month. I love Anuja Chauhan's zany Indian chick-lit, and this one might be my favorite. (Even though I know nothing about cricket.)

July Books

Aug. 3rd, 2014 08:16 pm
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
Romantic Lady by Sylvia Thorpe
One of my favorite Thorpes so far - the heroine's friend is being forced into marriage with a man of higher rank than her childhood sweetheart, so they come up with a plan to switch places. Unfortunately some sinister characters choose the same day to kidnap the fiancee for ransom money, and the heroine finds herself in more of a pickle than she'd planned for. It reminded me a lot of Georgette Heyer's books, very light and silly and romantic.

A Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub
Let's put it this way: If you want to continue to enjoy desserts, don't read this book. The chapters about sugar's effects on your body will make you want to swear off them for good.  The book is a bit gimmicky, since the author and her family didn't REALLY give up sugar - they had one dessert a month and a cheat food they could each have any time they wanted it - but she does make a lot of very good points about how much unnecessary sugar most of us consume without ever giving it a second thought.

Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett
This book, about a couple who purchase and restore a crumbling old castle in Wales, should have been fascinating.  I don't know what my problem was, but every time I picked it up I'd find myself nodding off after a page or two.  It was so weird!

Beggar on Horseback by Sylvia Thorpe
Another good 'un from Sylvia Thorpe.  Heroine's brother gambles away their estate in a card game.  The man who won it is set upon by highwaymen and left for dead in the lane outside the farm where the heroine is staying.  They fall in love.  Then she finds out who he is.  (Uh oh...)  It was a bit overwrought at times - I still can't figure out why she could forgive one thing but not another, which seemed less important to me - but fun.

The Scarlet Domino by Sylvia Thorpe
This one, on the other hand, I couldn't even finish.  It was some of my least favorite romance tropes wrapped up in one boring package.  I usually like arranged marriage stories, but the main characters were so irritating I didn't want to read about them.

Free to Fall by Lauren Miller
Almost as good as her first book, Parallel.  This one is set 17 years from now in a society where almost everyone has turned over control of their lives to an app on their smartphones.  But of course there's something sinister going on behind all this new ease and lack of decision-making.  There wasn't quite enough romance for my taste, but the plot was very twisty and satisfying.

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux
Ugh.  Ugh, ugh, uggggggh.  This is supposed to be a classic of travel writing, but it was awful.  Why did Paul Theroux go on this journey?  He doesn't seem to be interested in any of the places he goes to or the people he meets there.  All of his conversations seem to end up being "sleazy tourist recounts his adventures in a brothel".  There was very little description and one place blends into another.  He complains about the slowness and lack of hygiene all through Turkey and Iran and India, then gets to Japan and complains about the speed and efficiency.  Is he never pleased?  I gave up with less than 50 pages to go.  I just couldn't take any more.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I've loved every single one of Rainbow Rowell's books, even though only one (Attachments) has sounded at first like something I'd enjoy.  She has an amazing gift for characters and conversations.  The only drawback is that I speed through them so fast it's hard to put a finger on what exactly I like about them.  I guess it's mostly the people.  All of her characters feel so real.  And then she seems to know exactly how to get you invested in their relationships and lives, wanting everything to work out for them.  Landline wasn't perfect - there were a few things I wished were tied up better in the end - but I had a highly enjoyable weekend reading it.

The Girl With Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti
This book is odd.  In some ways it's a typical YA paranormal romance - ordinary girl meets supernatural boy and sneaks around behind her parents' backs to be with him - but in most ways it's not.  It's set in the Middle East, and has a timeless feel, like a tale out of the Arabian Nights.  The writing is beautiful, maybe veering a little too close to purple prose sometimes but not overly so.  I did think the solution at the end was too simplistic; I wanted more revenge!  But that wouldn't have fit in as well with the rest of the story. :-D

April Books

May. 4th, 2014 06:28 pm
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
The Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley
This one should have been on the March list but I somehow managed to forget all about it! Much as I love Susanna Kearsley's most recent books, her older ones don't always work for me, and this is one of those. The writing is excellent, of course, and the atmosphere is terrifically done, but the story just meanders along seemingly without a destination. Then all of a sudden there's a mystery to be solved, but it felt like too little, too late for me. And I found the romance unconvincing - Emily and "spoilery love interest" barely interact for most of the story, and she's ready to move to another country to be with him after a week?

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis
I don't know why I waited so long to read these!  They're like a middle-grade version of Sorcery and Cecelia, which I love - witchcraft and Regency romance all in one.  I guess I thought the 12-year-old heroine was too young for me to relate to, but though I found Kat a little irritating in the first two books, by the third she's starting to grow up and think before she acts, and I loved her relationship with her sisters, especially the prickly Angeline, throughout the whole trilogy.  And my gosh, I can't remember the last time I came across such an irritating antagonist as Lady Fotherington. I wanted to strangle the woman every time she walked into the room!

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Oh my gosh, I loved this book!  I was so torn while I was reading it, between wanting to gulp it down as fast as I could to find out what happened, but also wanting to take my time and enjoy it for as long as possible.  Rapunzel has always been my favorite fairy tale, and I love this sci-fi twist on it, with Rapunzel trapped in a satellite orbiting Earth instead of locked away in a tower.  Cress and Thorne were so adorable together it hurts just thinking about it!  (Sorry - I'm trying to keep the squee to a minimum but it might leak out.)  I loved their whole adventure.  It's Scarlet and Wolf who have me counting down the days until book 4, though - I fell asleep thinking about their part in this story one night and woke up crying.  Make them happy again, Marissa Meyer, please!!!

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
This is my kind of science fiction - light on the science, heavy on the romance. ;-)  I've seen several reviews complaining about that very thing, but honestly...I'm not in it for the aliens or the space ships or the technology.  I just want that as a backdrop to characters I can root for.  I loved almost everything about this one, from the Titanic-in-space beginning to the eerie Otherness of the disembodied voices and visions on the alien planet to the hate-to-like-to-love relationship between Lilac and Tarver.  (I didn't like their names very much - Lilac LaRoux, in particular, sounds more like a stripper than a YA novel heroine, and I misread Tarver as Trevor almost every time.)  And that ending!  I didn't see the twist coming at all.

52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody
A spoiled brat socialite gets a rude awakening when her father asks her to complete 52 low-wage jobs - a week at each - before he'll hand over her trust fund check.  This was a cute, fluffy, at times frustrating read that was over too quickly.  I thought there was still quite a lot of story to tell, but it ended with a quick summary that left me wanting more.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
I was so confused by this book!  The setting isn't very well done; one minute it seems to be set around the time of the Salem Witch trials, the next they're talking about gas lights.  And then they'll throw out a reference to some bit of alternate history and you realize it's more fantasy than you thought.  The main character frustrated me to no end, I couldn't figure out why she and her sisters didn't at least try to run away if life was so terrible in New England - why stay where you're miserable and hunted?  Neither of her love interests was that great, and the magic felt like a ripoff of Harry Potter.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
I've tried about five times before to read this, and never made it past the first few pages.  It just didn't seem like the sort of book I'd enjoy!  Every time I'd delete it from my to-read list, though, it would pop up on someone else's list of favorite books, and I'd decide to give it yet another try.  This time I finally made it all the way through, and it was not at all what I was expecting.  Beautifully written, with a melancholy yet ultimately hopeful tone, this is not at all your typical YA paranormal romance.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
A creepy, at times gory ghost-and-mermaid story that I wanted to like a lot more than I did.  Hester, the heroine, just wasn't very interesting.  Her insta-love with one of the ghosts came completely out of nowhere, and since she was pining for another boy just paragraphs earlier it was hard to feel any attachment to either romance.  The alternate chapters about the historical characters were much more interesting, but their part felt at times like more of a CSI recreation of a murder - how did A and B get in the room with C for X, Y, and Z to happen.  
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
Not many books this month, since I watched 3 seasons of Being Human (Aidan Turner is adorable and I loved the first season, but 2 and 3 were too depressing) and a bunch of Supernatural (until it started giving me nightmares and I had to stop).

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer
One of my favorite Heyers; I love when she does this sort of madcap, everything-that-can-go-wrong-will plot. The humor and drama are nicely balanced and the climax, when Sylvester finally gets over himself, is very satisfying.

The Midnight Dancers by Anne Maybury
I'm always on the lookout for books like Mary Stewart's, but though that sort of romantic suspense set in exotic locales was popular when she was writing, no one else quite measures up. The setting in this one - a fictitious small country in North Africa - was vividly drawn, but the story was sadly lacking. Brief moments of danger or mystery were few and far between, and it was a long slog through repetitive dialogue to get to them. The main character wasn't much of a heroine, either.

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Susanna Kearsley has become one of my favorite authors, and this book is the main reason why. I love how she makes the most improbable stories seem perfectly plausible. This one involves time travel, but it never feels science-fiction-y at all. And the romance is lovely. I was a little afraid it wouldn't be as good a second time, but if anything I loved it more.

Nobody's Damsel by E.M. Tippetts
The sequel to a cutesy, fluffy book called Someone Else's Fairy Tale, about an ordinary girl who reluctantly falls in love with a movie star. The first book was a lot of fun and I read it in one sitting, but the sequel is a bit blah. The focus is more on Chloe's first case as a CSI lab technician, but there's also drama with her husband's career and the tabloids claiming they're getting a divorce. The mystery/CSI plot isn't very satisfactorily resolved, though, and the romantic drama doesn't fare much better.

It bothered me in the first one and it bothered me here, too: she always describes Jason as smelling like moisturizer, which just doesn't sound very manly or sexy to me!

Graceling by Kristen Cashore
Judging from Goodreads reviews people either love or hate this book, there's not a lot of in-between. I really wanted to like it, and for the first half I did, but in the second half the author makes some choices that I couldn't understand or agree with. I don't have a problem with a feminist agenda, but Katsa is not a "strong female role model". She's a selfish jerk.
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
This wasn't one of my more impressive months, reading-wise, but I want to get back into doing these lists. I feel left out on the months I forget them!

Henry Tilney's Diary by Amanda Grange
I haven't read any of Amanda Grange's other Jane Austen hero diaries, so I can't say whether this one is typical or not, but I found it very disappointing. Nothing much is added to the story of Northanger Abbey - a few minor characters are given names, and Captain Tilney's motives for flirting with Isabella Thorpe are fleshed out a little, but Henry comes across as rather feminine and unconvincing. I wasn't impressed.

My Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison
The second in Rallison's series about a fairy godmother who hasn't passed her exams yet and so is only "fair". Her extra credit shenanigans this time involve bringing Robin Hood and his Merry Men to modern day Arizona, and then sending the heroine and her entire family back in time to the Middle Ages to live out the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale. It was fun, and funny, but not quite as good as the first book.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
This one I picked up very randomly, and it's not the sort of book I would normally read, but it ended up being the one I enjoyed most this month! The unnamed narrator is a housekeeper who is hired to care for a former professor of mathematics who lost his short-term memory in a car accident. He can only remember things for 80 minutes, and spends his days solving math problems for contests in a magazine. Nothing much happens in this story, but it's a gentle, quiet tale of lonely people finding each other and forming bonds despite the difficulties facing them. (It's not a romance; she's 28 and he's 60-something; just a story of friendship.)

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
The premise sounded intriguing - the Napoleonic War, with dragons - but the execution was dull and plodding. Captain Will Laurence unexpectedly bonds with a newly hatched dragon and leaves the Navy for the not-so-glamorous Air Force, but he's such a...oh, what's the word? Gary Stu? Larry Sue? Whatever the male equivalent of Mary Sue is. Somehow he's the only person in hundreds of years to realize that the dragons do better when they're treated kindly and with respect? He knows instinctively what to do despite having no experience with dragons at all? And of course that's no ordinary dragon egg, it's an Imperial Chinese dragon, rare and awe-inspiring. It was all just a bit too much for my taste.


Balthazar by Claudia Gray
I read this a few years ago and picked it up on impulse at Barnes and Noble over Christmas break. I never much liked Gray's Evernight series, but this companion story is fun. It's sort of a cross between Twilight and The Vampire Diaries - Balthazar the vampire has lived for centuries with the guilt of being the reason his girlfriend died and his sister also became a vampire. He tries to avoid ties to humans, but when he's asked to protect Skye Tierney, who's been having visions of gruesome deaths and is also being stalked by the ruthless vampire who turned Balthazar, he gets close to her against his will. It's nothing fantabulous, but I enjoyed re-reading it nonetheless.

The Shrouded Way by Janet Caird
Two Goodreads friends whose taste in books is normally top-notch rated this one five stars, but I was very underwhelmed by it. The mystery is well-plotted and quite scary, but the characters are barely more than quickly-sketched caricatures. By the end I still had no idea who Elizabeth, the heroine, was, or what motivated her, or even why she would fall in love with Crane (what a dreadful name, don't you think?) instead of Rory.

The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne
Rounding out a month of overall lackluster reading, I tried to re-read Hester Browne's latest. I have a love-hate relationship with her books - The Finishing Touches and Swept Off Her Feet are two of my all-time favorite books, but her Little Lady Agency trilogy, and this one, don't do much for me. I think the problem with this one is that once Amy and Leo become a couple, the story focuses too much on her family drama and the stress of becoming a princess, and less on the romance. And the romance was what drew me in the first place. Also, so many of the things Amy does make no sense. When Leo's brother's girlfriend dumps water on her at a party, rather than telling anyone what happened she runs away and lies about having to take her dog to the vet. And then she can't figure out why Leo is upset, and refuses to confess until several days later! It's just very silly.
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
The Ground She Walks Upon by Megan McKinney
I remember reading this in high school and swooning at the romance and the angst...oh, but reading it again I was embarrassed for my teenage self! What a cheesy, silly, melodramatic book! There is a curse on Niall Trevalyan's family, and the only way to break it is (he's told) to marry the orphan Ravenna, who is 20 years younger than he is. But rather than just courting her like any normal person would do, he seduces her, insults her, and tries to force her into marriage.

Good times.

The Taming of the Tights by Louise Rennison
The first two books in this series were funny, but the jokes are wearing thin at this point, and the plot seems to be stuck in a loop. Tallulah has long gangly legs she can't quite control sometimes. One of her teachers hates her for no apparent reason. The school she goes to is so ridiculous I can't imagine any sane parent continuing to send their child there, but every semester here they are back again, learning...not very much, really. The only reason I'm still reading these is for the Hinchcliff boys and their Yorkshire accents.

On the Noodle Road by Jen Lin-Liu
Jen Lin-Liu is obsessed with noodles. (I read her first book and it was all about eating noodles, too.) So despite her recent marriage and her just-getting-started cooking school in Beijing, she sets off along the ancient Silk Route to see whether the old story of Marco Polo bringing noodles to Italy from China has any truth. For the most part this was fascinating - when's the last time you read about daily life in Uzbekistan, for goodness' sake? - but when she stops talking about food and starts whining about her husband (How can he not like his brand new wife traveling through Central Asia on her own? What's wrong with him? *facepalm*) it gets a little tedious.

Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier
I feel like I've been waiting for this book forever! The last in the trilogy, this one promised to finally reveal all the time-traveling secrets and whether Gwen could trust Gideon or not, as well as what Count Saint-Germain was really up to. It was all that and more. I could not put this book down - I read it in a day and a half - and at the end I wished it would have been twice as long. The writing isn't perfect (though I'm willing to assume that's all because it's translated from German), and sometimes Gwen seems very young - "we're all in danger, yes, but what are we going to wear to the costume party???" - but it was such a fun book. Such a fun series.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Usually I keep track of books I want to read pretty well, but I can't for the life of me remember how this one ended up on my to-read list. It actually had kind of a fascinating premise - two college roommates come up with a hypothesis about how superheroes get their powers and set out to become superheroes themselves. Ten years later they're mortal enemies, but which one is the hero and which one is the villain? - but it was so violent and disturbing that I couldn't take it. I gave it up after about ten chapters.

Dreaming in Hindi Katherine Russell Rich
This has been on my book-radar for a while, but I was put off for a kind of shallow reason: the font they used for the title makes it look like Tamil or Malayalam, not Hindi. And now that I've read it I'm pretty underwhelmed. Part travelogue, part research on how we learn languages and second languages, in particular, the book never really goes anywhere. There are a lot of, "If only I'd known then..." foreshadowing moments that aren't connected later, so the story parts of the book leave you with a vague sense of unease when nothing bad is happening. And while I'm nowhere near as fluent in Hindi as the author, I was surprised by how many simple words she stumbled over. Not knowing what a pappadum is, really? When you've been eating nothing but Indian food for weeks? Or the word "mohabbat" (love), after watching a bunch of Bollywood movies? (Don't get me started on her attitude towards Bollywood...) It was okay, but not as interesting as I'd hoped it would be.

The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah
I actually wanted to read a different book by Tahir Shah, but the library only had this one, so I checked it out to see what his writing is like. Oh, I loved this book! It has everything I want in a good novel - exotic locales, a big mysterious old house, a little mystery, a little humor, a little drama - but it's all true. I loved the descriptions of Dar Khalifa, the Caliph's house of the title, and of Casablanca and other parts of Morocco Tahir and his family travel to. The servants frequently had me laughing out loud - there's one part where he lets one of them move in to the guest house after bulldozers knock down the neighborhood where the servant lived, and then the other two go knock down their own homes and come in looking very shifty, claiming the bulldozers also destroyed their homes and they need places to stay, too. And all their elaborate "helpful" rituals to placate the jinns they believe are lurking in the house...

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I have such mixed feelings about this one. I enjoyed reading it, but the whole time I was nitpicking in my head - Why would "Simon Snow" become so popular in a world where Harry Potter also exists? Why would Cath turn in a fan fiction story for her writing class? Did I miss the part where Levi was supposed to be attractive? The slash-writing fandom thing turned me off, too. I've never understood the appeal of that sort of thing. So overall I'd say I didn't like it, but I also kind of did, just because I like Rainbow Rowell's writing. I enjoyed the way she told the story even though I didn't actually like the story, if that makes sense?
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
I saw this on a blog and thought it would be fun to fill out. Feel free to join in; I love hearing other people's thoughts on books!

Author you’ve read the most books from: Elizabeth Peters, probably, since she's written so many!

Best Sequel Ever: I don't know about ever, but I do love Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which opens up the series and starts to show how big and complex the wizarding world is.

Currently Reading: I'm between books at the moment. I have several from the library but nothing is sounding good right now.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Water? I don't really have one, I guess.

Read more... )
[identity profile] mainemilyhoon.livejournal.com
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
I remember reading about this on someone's book blog, and thinking, "What's so exciting about the idea of a cyborg Cinderella?" I had no interest in reading it, but for some reason I checked it out one day - I think just because I'd heard so many people saying it was good, and I wanted to prove to myself that I wouldn't like it. And I loved it. It's such a creative, interesting take on not just Cinderella, but the whole idea of a futuristic world where humans and robots and cyborgs live side by side in a shaky harmony, where a global plague and the threat of war with the Lunar colonists threaten them all. Cinder is easy to like and easy to empathize with; Prince Kai is adorable and very crushworthy, and the evil Queen Levana would give me nightmares if she was real.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Sequel to Cinder. This is Marissa Meyer's take on Little Red Riding Hood, and it is fantastic. The setting shifts from futuristic, high-tech New Beijing to the French countryside, where life goes on much as it does now, except that everyone's driving hovercrafts and spaceships instead of cars. Scarlet's grandmother has disappeared, and a mysterious stranger in town, Wolf, might or might not know where to find her. Meanwhile Cinder is on the run from the global police after Queen Levana demands she be handed over for punishment, and Prince Kai tries desperately to find a way out of marrying Levana.

The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
This one has a very stupid cover (the boy looks like an alien, and nothing about their clothes suggests "winter in 1982 in the Soviet Union"), but the setting - St. Petersburg/Leningrad - caught my attention. I had such high hopes for this one, but it fell short. The main character is extremely annoying, constantly whining about the cold, the food, how much she misses her loserish sort-of boyfriend back home, even while telling us that she's been dreaming of visiting Russia for most of her life. Her insta-romance with Alexei is obviously a pathetic attempt on his side to get out of Russia, but she refuses to see it or to listen to everyone else she knows telling her so. I've since found out that this is semi-autobiographical, but it doesn't make me like the book any more.

Her Nutcracker Prince by Rebecca Winters
The Boy on the Bridge reminded me of this one, which I read in high school - it's a Harlequin romance about a young woman who'd spent time in Russia and fallen in love with the KGB officer assigned to her. It's much more my kind of story - true love and happily ever after and a hero you can actually believe in. :-P

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I know this is some big classic and all, but - I'm sorry if you love it - I thought this was one of the stupidest things I've ever read. It's meandering and silly and contradicts itself. I can't believe I wasted a whole evening reading this dumb book!

Adorkable by Sarra Manning
This one started so well, but the deeper it delved into the main character's life the less I liked her - or the book. Jeane was so self-obsessed and arrogant that I really wanted her to learn that she needed to tone it down a notch or seventeen and get along with people. Instead she makes a big mess of her life, goes from one extreme to another, and then gets her ego built back up with everyone telling her how amazing and inspirational she is. Gag, gag, gag. I really hated the attitude toward sex this book had, too.

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
Sometimes you just need to re-read an old favorite. Twilight is my comfort food. Stop judging me. (Yes, you, in the back, I can see you judging me back there.)

And lest you be thinking, "Oh, yeah, no wonder she didn't like that great classic Fahrenheit 451," let me point out to you that I read it only because Stephenie Meyer mentioned it as one of her favorite books in an interview.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
I didn't finish this one, because I wasn't really in the mood for fantasy at the time. But it is really good, and I'll get back to it eventually. It's kind of like A Discovery of Witches meets Lord of the Rings, so if you liked that one you'd probably love this. A woman stumbles through a portal into a different world and gets swept up in an exciting new life, only to find out one terrifying night that her new life was all a sham and this fantasy world is less Renaissance Festival and more Real Middle Ages.

Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich
Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
I've read the first Stephanie Plum book three times, but never got around to reading the rest of the series until now. These books are pure goofy fluff, and if you cut out the descriptions of people's outfits and what Stephanie eats, they'd be about 50 pages long. But they're funny, and so much fun to read.

As You Do: Adventures with Evel, Oliver, and the Vice President of Botswana by Richard Hammond
If you've never watched Top Gear (the UK version, not the much less interesting US one), you are missing out. I mostly read this for the section about Oliver, the cute little car Richard Hammond drove in the Top Gear Botswana special, and to be honest I wasn't very interested in the parts about dogsled racing or Even Knievel. To be really honest, Richard Hammond is not nearly as funny in print as on telly. But there were some funny moments and some cute pictures of him and Oliver.

The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand
I loved the first book in Laura Florand's Paris Chocolate series, and everyone kept saying they liked this one even better. I didn't particularly care for it, though. The heroine was too pointlessly prickly, and the hero came across as an MCP too often for my taste. These books have a lot more sex in them than I normally prefer to read, and the sex in this one was extremely graphic.

The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand
This one was better, though the sex was still a little too much. I liked Dom and Jaime better than Philippe and Magalie, and their story was sweeter. Though I felt like Dom was too perfect, especially considering how messed up he was supposed to be. He did and said everything just right, and everything fell into place too easily. There wasn't any real conflict.

The Problem With Being Slightly Heroic by Uma Krishnaswami
Sequel to The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, one of my favorite books. I was so excited when it showed up at the library, since I had no idea a sequel was even planned. All of the elements I liked about the first one were there, but this one just doesn't work as well. The conflicts are all silly, trivial things that only a little kid would be worried about, the narrator sometimes tries to insert lessons that have nothing to do with what's going on, and the moral of the story I thought the author was going for - that movie stars shouldn't be confused with their onscreen characters - got sort of shuffled off to the side in the end.

Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh
A really fun travelogue about a young British-Asian woman who decides to travel to as much of India as it's possible to see by train. She takes with her a rather cynical photographer who complains and criticizes and makes life generally miserable, but along the way they discover a side of India that most westerners never see.

Infinityglass by Myra McEntire
Such a disappointment. I had hoped that my "meh" feelings about Timepiece were just Second Book Syndrome, but this one was even worse. I think changing narrators was Myra McEntire's biggest mistake with this series. None of the other characters could measure up to Emerson in the first book, and the way she reintroduced Emerson and Michael and Kaleb and Lily felt so cheesy and awkward. Eventually I want to read Hourglass again, but I'll probably just pretend the sequels never happened.

Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
Another light, fluffy, slightly stupid but immensely enjoyable read to end the month.

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