Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Viscount Who Loved Me- Julia Quinn

The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons, #2)The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary
1814 promises to be another eventful season, but not, this author believes, for Anthony Bridgerton, London's most elusive bachelor, who has shown no indication that he plans to marry.
And in truth, why should he? When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better...
--Lady Whistledown's Society Papers, April 1814

But this time, the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn't just decided to marry--he's even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended's older sister, Kate Sheffield--the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate is the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams...

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands--and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate is determined to protect her sister--but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony's lips touch hers, she's suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself...

Review
While beginning with a rather common and ordinary series of events found in most romance novels, Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me turns out to be quite the diamond in the rough. This gem may hide in a genre strewn with often classless and indulgent reading, but a quality read it is nonetheless.

I vaguely recall reading a different novel of Quinn’s last year; this previous sentence possibly contains the worst recommendation I can give a book- the ability to be forgotten. I have noticed that the reception a book gets can fall into three categories. One, positive reception by both critics and readers alike (a rare response, though not impossible). Two, the love/hate combination. The book is either loved or hated by readers. However, either way, it evokes a passionate response. And lastly, a book can fall into the murky pond of meritocracy through a lukewarm (at best) reception. (There is a fourth category: books universally despised, but I try not to focus on these.)

The Quinn novel I read last year drowned rather unfortunately in the aforementioned pond. I could not understand the allure of the writer’s style and held little expectation for any other book by Quinn.

But, in an effort to read all the Top 100 books ascribed in a list created by All About Romance, I decided to give Mrs. Quinn another try.

When I first began The Viscount, I actually began to wonder if it was that unfortunate book I read a year past. (This is not due to The Viscount’s quality; Even early on, I felt that it was more well-written than I had anticipated). This confusion was due to a few references to minor characters who had appeared in that other book.)

I have often thought that it is nearly impossible to fit a believable relationship, slowly escalating, into any novel. The Viscount throws this idea aside. By page 150, a flawless weaving of various scenes had me convinced that it was possible.

The farther into the novel I read, the more our handsome viscount reminded me of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. And while Mrs. Quinn has been compared to Jane Austen in the past, I personally can think of no higher compliment than being compared to Charlotte Bronte. Since fanatics of both Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen are not altogether common (due to stylistic differences), it seems Mrs. Quinn has won over fans of both by combining Bronte’s characters’ passion with Austen’s refined writing technique.

In conclusion, I have been completely and utterly converted into a Quinn fan. I am not certain of whether my opinion of the other Quinn book I read was somewhat jaded for some reason or another and should be fully overlooked; however I am certain that if Quinn has composed one such masterpiece of romance, some of her other works must be worth my while as well. I will be seeking out more Quinn romances in the future.

I have a pleasant feeling that I will be basking in The Viscount’s warm glow for a few days more yet.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

Dark Kiss- Michelle Rowen

Dark Kiss (Nightwatchers, #1)Dark Kiss by Michelle Rowen
My rating: 2.5  of 5 stars

Summary

I don't do dangerous.  Smart, ├╝ber-careful, ordinary Samantha-that's me. But I just couldn't pass up a surprise kiss from my number-one unattainable crush. A kiss that did something to me...something strange. Now I feel hungry all the time, but not for food. It's like part of me is missing-and I don't know if I can get it back.

Then there's Bishop. At first I thought he was just a street kid, but the secrets he's keeping are as intense as his unearthly blue eyes. If he's what I think he is, he may be the only one who can help me. But something terrifying is closing in, and the one chance Bishop and I have to stop it means losing everything I ever wanted and embracing the darkness inside me....

I’m a cautious fan of Rowen’s adult urban fantasy series, so I’m sorry to say that I found Dark Kiss rather predictable and unoriginal. I anticipate that Dark Kiss will do well in the young adult market despite my lack of confidence in the volume- chiefly because while I found the characters uninspiring, Dark Kiss is well written, and it’s about angels and the like. Paranormal romance is extremely popular in the young adult market right now, so I think sales will be fine.

Review
Michelle Rowen’s adult series has something that Dark Kiss is lacking: a spark. Her adult series kept readers on there toes; Dark Kiss feels like something I’ve read many times. I wonder if reading Kagawa’s Immortal Rules prior to Dark Kiss influenced my opinion of it. Immortal Rules had extremely strong world-building, and Dark Kiss fell flat in comparison.

I probably will not read any sequels to Dark Kiss. But I will still recommend it to anyone interested in Paranormal Romance for YA. Maybe the problem is that I’ve always been an urban fantasy girl, and Dark Kiss isn’t exactly in that genre.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

The Calling (Darkness Rising, #2)The Calling by Kelley Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary

Maya Delaney's paw-print birthmark is the mark of what she truly is—a skin-walker. She can run faster, climb higher, and see better than nearly everyone else. Experiencing intense connections with the animals that roam the woods outside her home, Maya knows it's only a matter of time before she's able to Shift and become one of them. And she believes there may be others in her small town with surprising talents.

Now Maya and her friends have been forced to flee from their homes during a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set. Then they're kidnapped, and after a chilling helicopter crash, they find themselves in the Vancouver Island wilderness with nothing but their extraordinary abilities to help them get back home.

In The Calling, the sizzling second book in the Darkness Rising trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong pumps up the romance, danger, and suspense that left readers of The Gathering clamoring for more.


Review
I've been a huge Kelley Armstrong fan ever since I first discovered Bitten in 2008. And I've been very pleased with her transition into YA since then. While I always have the lingering feeling that I would have enjoyed her YA more while I was a younger teen, this is at no fault of the author. Her YA books are always well-written and consistent, if slightly subdued.

The Calling is a strong sequel and perhaps an altogether stronger book than it's predecessor. One thing that truly impressed me is that I'm not recognizing her characters from other series. With time, certain authors become bland because while their characters change in appearance and background, they essentially remain the same in personality. This is not a problem with Kelley Armstrong. Her characters are truly different. I don't automatically recognize the romantic interest as a poorly veiled repeat from a previous novel. The romantic interest isn't always the handsome guy, the nice guy, the misunderstood guy, or even the dangerous guy. Every character is a stranger at first. And it's always a pleasure to make their acquaintance.

My only complaint with this novel is that its setting is limited in scope. Her Women of the Otherworld series (originally, at least) is very much rooted in Jeremy's house. But we also get a nice sense of Elena's world away from the Pack. We feel the contrast between civilization with all its technology- and the Pack with its natural wilds. In the Darkest Powers series, the portrayal of the Lyle House is creepily excellent.

The Darkness Rising series has a lot of movement and nature to comprise its setting, but very little depth and sense of direction. I understand that this is partially due to the nature of the kids' escape. But I felt the setting was handled much better in Darkest Powers where kids were also on the run.

The Calling is another success for Armstrong. I'd recommend (re)reading The Summoning before reading The Calling as I found that I often needed to refresh my memory.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lisa Kleypas Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to the following:
Jenn Scarpa
Kristy F
Julie Rupert

These winners will each receive a copy of Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor!

I will be sending out an email requesting shipping information. All winners must reply within three (3) days. If I do not receive a reply, the prizes will go to alternates.

If you didn't win in the giveaway, you can purchase Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor here:

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey

Arrows of the Queen (Heralds of Valdemar, #1)Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary
Talia, a young runaway, is made a herald at the royal court after she rescues one of the legendary Companions. When she uncovers a plot to seize the throne, Talia must use her empathic powers to save the queen.


Review
Mercedes Lackey is a well-known name in the fantasy genre, and after reading Arrows of the Queen, I am beginning to understand why. This book has some rough edges no doubt, but with a bit more polish and development, I think Lackey would be a truly excellent fantasy writer. And, from what I am given to understand, Lackey has honed her craft since the publishing of her first novel (Arrows of the Queen).

Lackey's world-building is excellent. I'm hoping to see a bit more development, but I suspect that this may be filled out in the sequels in this series. Her main character, Talia, is likable if slightly distant. Some of her supporting characters blend together- and it's a pity since all of them have potential as round characters. On the other hand, there were a few characters who were truly stand out. Jadus and Skif are subtle stars in this novel, each characterizing underrepresented relationships in the publishing industry. In my own life, I have often bonded with older people. Some are like grandparents; some are not. And it was refreshing to see Talia and Jadus create such a relationship. Skif is a charming character in and of himself- however, his thwarted romance turned friendship is highly relatable and lovely to see in a novel. Books are too often filled with instant lust and eternal love. Skif provides a realistic comfort.

Overall, Lackey was an absolute pleasure to read. It is no wonder that her work has inspired devotion in so many readers throughout the decades.

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