Romance archive at Stray Talk
an archive of my forays into fact and fiction

Archive: Romance


7th July, 2008
Speed reviews: part I
— Love @ 08:43 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Book Blowout, C, Classics, D, English, GLBT interest, Historical, History, Lifestyle, Mystery, Religion, Romance, Science Fiction, Sex, sexuality & gender, Speed reviews, Swedish, To Be Read, Young Adult

Since I’m sick* and way behind on reviews, I’ve realised the only way to catch up is to make them speed reviews and post a whole batch at once.

The Age of Napoleon; Alistair Horne, eng, 235 British
Interesting, but a little choppily written, and also the author assumes you know certain things and never explains them, while others he explains over and over again.
C

Cold Comfort Farm; Stella Gibbons, eng, 253 British
Funny, though I accidentally didn’t read the preface, so I wasn’t 100 % how much of it was intentional (all of it, as it turns out, and as I suspected). Flora Poste is kind of annoying, but all right all the same.
For the TBR reading challenge and as part of the BBC Big Read.
B

Rebecca; Daphne du Maurier, eng, 410 British
A re-read, not as good as I remembered it, but still lovely. Maxim is both wonderful and creepy.
C

Med uppenbar känsla för stil; Stephan Mendel-Enk, swe, 128 Swedish
Interestingly written about men and what’s considered masculine. References Morrissey at some points, mostly in connection with a man who went berserk and killed people. Lovely… not!
C

Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle East; Brian Whitaker, swe, 230 British
Interesting, scary and occasionally a little bit hopeful.
C

Ingen behöver veta; Christina Wahldén, swe, 139 Swedish
About male rape and how it does exist, but people find it hard to believe. Kind of a non-ending, but then I suppose that’s sadly the case in most instances of actual male rape also.
C

Ingen grekisk gud, precis; Katarian Kieri, swe, 217 Swedish
Kind of brilliant tale of a young girl who falls for a teacher. Kind of brilliant mostly because the main character is into Morrissey, but for other reasons also. I was a bit worried where it was going to end, but it’s kind of perfect, really.
B

Sandman: The Kindly Ones; Neil Gaiman et al., eng, 335 British
I wouldn’t say Sandman is Gaiman at his best, but I do like the stories and so also in this volume. Not my favourite, though.
For the TBR reading challenge.
C

Doctor Who: The Nightmare of Black Island; Mike Tucker, eng, 255 British
Scary monsters and kiddies with nightmares. I liked it, but not as much as other DW books.
C

Doctor Who: The Art of Destruction; Stephen Cole, eng, 256 British
Farming in Africa, golden statues and creepy aliens. Good, but not great. Doctor’s always nice, though.
C

Doctor Who: The Price of Paradise; Colin Brake, eng, 255 British
References Franz Ferdinand and other pop culture a time or two. Not the best of the DW books I’ve read—I don’t much care for Colin Brake’s style of writing it, though I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.
C

Tro, hopp och burnout; Johan Unenge, swe, 228 Swedish
YA story about a guy who’s really into cars and death metal, who ends up going on a confirmation camp. It’s a decent story, and I was happy to see it didn’t end up quite where I expected it would, but the writing style is very, very choppy and not at all my cup of tea.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
C

Vadå feminist; Lisa Gålmark, swe, 188 Swedish
Basic guide to feminism. I wasn’t too keen on the writing and didn’t like the book all that much. Mostly it made me a little annoyed with the author, though it did contain sections worth thinking about. It bothers me that there is no question mark in the title.
For the A-Z reading challenge.
D

Homofamiljer; Sara Stenholm & Cecilia Strömberg, swe, 312 Swedish
About rainbow families and different ways to get one. Interesting, especially the personal stories, but not fab.
C

*Just a cold, but a bad one. I hate colds. And I’ve run out of Kleenex, which means my nose is very, very sore from regular paper towels. Woe.


22nd June, 2008
A Strong and Sudden Thaw; RW Day
— Love @ 16:30 Comments (2)
Filed under: A, English, GLBT interest, Here Be Dragons, Romance, Science Fiction

A Strong and Sudden Thaw; RW Day A Strong and Sudden Thaw
by RW Day
American

For the Here Be Dragons reading challenge.

English
333 pages
Iris Print
ISBN: 978-0-9787531-1-5

First line: There’s an old scenic view about halfway up the mountain, alongside where the old highway runs.

Back cover blurb:
Dragons in Virginia?

Nearly a hundred years after the Ice changed the face of our world, the people of Moline work to reclaim the frozen land, both from the cold and from the dragons that now live in the hills outside of town—dragons that the government won’t believe exist.

David Anderson knows very little of the world outside of his family’s farm, until Callan, an assistant healer from the south, arrives in Moline and begins to teach him of a world he never knew, full of books and ideas, and history long forgotten. When Callan is found in the arms of another man—a crime in this post-Ice world—David learns a frightening truth about himself, and the difference between what is legal… and what is right.

After trouble hits the nearby town of Crawford, David and Callan discover the seeds of a plot that affects not only their home, but towns just like Moline across the world. Now they must fight to save their home, not only from the dragons, but from a government that wants them dead!

Thoughts: I loved this novel to tiny little pieces. I was a bit sceptic, because a person, whose taste in books I usually do not agree with at all, liked this a lot, and so I thought that I probably wouldn’t. For this reason, I kept pushing back reading it until I couldn’t really push it back any longer, as the end of the Here Be Dragons challenge came nearer and nearer.

I picked it up one night, read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open a second longer, slept, woke up and read the rest of it. It was that good. I will say that it took me a little while to get used to the language used. David, the main character, might by some be considered a hillbilly/redneck, and he usually doesn’t bother too much about proper grammar when speaking. Don’t let that put you off, however, because once you get used to that, the story is so worth it.

David and Callan’s relationship is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time and I simply can’t find proper words to describe why this book is awesome. Just trust me on that.

It’s an A grade. I can’t give it anything else. This is the first book in quite a while where the characters stayed with me for at least a couple of days after I turned the last page, and I immediately wanted to go back and read it again.

The one biggest thing I wasn’t super thrilled about (yeah, there were a few things like that) was the ending. It doesn’t feel at all finished and lots of things are left unresolved. Still, it doesn’t feel like a bad thing, exactly, but more like an opening for a sequel (which I understand is being written/has been written and is waiting for publication).

Edit: It appears that Iris Print, the publisher of this book, has closed down without telling its authors, and that a couple of them has had trouble getting in touch with the publisher and RW Day had a royalty cheque bounce. While I do want a lot of people to read it, I don’t exactly feel comfortable recommending anyone buying it, with things being what they are at present. You can read more about it here, at the author’s website.


27th May, 2008
Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride; Helen Halstead
— Love @ 06:57 Comments (4)
Filed under: Back to History, D, English, Historical, Romance

Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride; Helen Halstead Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride
by Helen Halstead
Australian

For the Back to History reading challenge.

English
310 pages
Ulysses Press
ISBN: 978-1-56975-588-4

First line: What a joy it is to have a worthy topic of conversation, to hold the power to amaze!

Back cover blurb:
In Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen brought together one of the most beloved literary couples of all time—Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Now, Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride continues the story of these passion-filled newlyweds as they enter London’s glamorous high society.

This page-turning novel finds Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy entangled in the frivolity and ferocity of social intrigues. Although Elizabeth makes a powerful friend in the Marchioness of Englebury, the rivalry and jealousy among her ladyship’s prestigious clique threatens to destroy the success of her new marriage.

Written in the style of Jane Austen, full of humour and sardonic wit, Mr. Darcy Presents His Bride brings Regency society vividly to life and continues the romantic, sometimes tragic, stories of other popular Pride & Prejudice characters including Georgiana Darcy and Kitty Bennet.

Thoughts: This is the first sequel to Pride & Prejudice that I have ever read (I tend to go for re-workings of the story, rather than continuations of it) and I can’t say I liked it much.

One of the reasons why was that the author felt that she needed to include explanations of who original characters were, and reminders of events of the original novel. It might just be me, but I would think that, if you decide to read a fan-written sequel to a well-known novel, you are probably quite a big fan of said novel already, and would know such basic facts as who Sir William Lucas is, &c.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I quite like Halstead’s take on Miss Anne de Bourgh, for example, and Lord Maddersfield (that’d be Lady Catherine’s brother and Darcy’s uncle) was quite amusing.

On the whole, though, it was not the best of reading experiences. I might add to this later (I have seven minutes before I have to leave for work), but for now, I shall leave it at this and give this work of fiction a D rating.


17th March, 2008
Linas kvällsbok 2; Emma Hamberg
— Love @ 20:51 Comments (2)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, Chick lit, Romance, Swedish, Young Adult

Linas kvällsbok 1 & 2; Emma Hamberg Linas kvällsbok 2
by Emma Hamberg
Title translated to English: Lina’s Nocturnal 2
Swedish

For the A-Z reading challenge.

Swedish
303 pages
Bonnier Pocket
ISBN: 978-91-0-011399-5 (in the same volume as Linas kvällsbok 1)

First line: Jag har inte skrivit en rad sedan den femte juni.

Back cover blurb:
I Linas kvällsbok 2 lär Lina 16 år oss om det här med att välja. Tryggt eller vilt? Cello eller hasch? Kärlek eller passion? Pojkvän eller älskare? Singel eller bigamist? Hur mycket kärlek kan ett hjärta innehålla innan det sprängs? Och hur mycket får den man är förälskad i dricka och skolka egentligen? Och hur mycket måste ens pojkvän veta om saken…

Very short synopsis in English: Lina writes a journal, except she calls it a nocturnal since she almost always writes in it late at night. This year, she moves away from her parents and her childhood home, to start secondary school at an agricultural boarding school. In her class is also Kevin, gorgeous “bad boy” and an almost irresistible temptation. But at home is Ivar, her boyfriend…

Thoughts: I’ve read this once before, last fall (a couple of months before I started this blog). It’s not a terribly good book, but it’s a pretty easy read, so when I was in a slump and just wanted a feelgood novel, this was the one I chose. As usual, this is a pretty angst-ridden story, but then all my feelgood novels are.

The biggest reason I went back and read it again, however, is that it reminds me so much of my time at secondary school. You see, I too went to an agricultural boarding school, so I recognise so many of the things that happen in this story. It’s a little insane, really. Mostly because I didn’t really like it all that much there! Though I think in part I made myself think it worse than it really was while I was there.

In fact, just today (31 March, which is the day I’m writing this. Back-dating all the way, baby!) I got a phone call from my friend L., who is the only person from secondary school that I still keep in touch with, and there’s a reunion this May for all old students, and since it’s five years since we graduated, it’s supposed to be extra-special for us. Or something. Either way, I’ve decided that I’m going. Why not, right? L. kind of wanted me to come and it could be fun to catch up with others, even if I was the weird kid in the corner for all three years. Apparently a ton of the others have kids already. This is quite Scary, if you’re me. (This one bloke, T., who really reminds me of Kevin in Linas kvällsbok 2, apparently has a four-year-old daughter. And doesn’t know where he lives. He always was a little creepy and scary, though.)

But back to the book: it’s decent enough, but not brilliant, so a C rating it is.


5th March, 2008
Lost in Austen; Emma Campbell Webster
— Love @ 13:44 Comments (1)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, Historical, Romance

Lost in Austen; Emma Campbell Webster Lost in Austen
by Emma Campbell Webster
British

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
348 pages
Riverhead Books
ISBN: 978-1-59448-258-8

First line: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young Austen heroine must be in want of a husband, and you are no exception.

Back cover blurb:
Your name: Elizabeth Bennet. Your mission: to marry both prudently and for love, avoiding family scandal. Equipped with only your sharp wit, natural good sense, and tolerable beauty, you must navigate your way through a variety of decisions that will determine your own romantic (and financial) fate. Ever wonder what would happen if Elizabeth accepted Mr. Darcy’s proposal the first time around? Or ran from his arms into those of Persuasion‘s Captain Wentworth? Now is your chance to find out.

Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Austen Adventure begins in Pride and Prejudice, but your decisions along the way will lead you into the plots of Austen’s other works, and even newly imagined territory.

Lost in Austen is a labyrinth of love and lies, scandals and scoundrels, misfortune and marriages that will delight and challenge any Austen lover. Will Elizabeth succeed in her mission? It’s all up to you.

Thoughts: The premise here is quite entertaining and Webster pulls it off well enough, though sometimes I found her a little too insulting of the reader. That might possibly just be me taking offence where I shouldn’t, though.

I think I shall definitely have to play through the book at least once more, as this time around I stuck pretty faithfully to the plot of Pride and Prejudice, except for a few forays into the worlds of Emma and Jane Austen: A Life/Becoming Jane.

A fun idea, all in all, but not the best book I’ve ever had in my hands, so I find it merits a C, but not more. If Webster hadn’t been so insulting, a B might have been the order of the day, but as it appears that I am quite quick to be wounded to the core (well, not quite), that was not to be.


24th February, 2008
Standish; Erastes
— Love @ 13:38 Comments (2)
Filed under: Back to History, D, English, GLBT interest, Historical, Romance

Standish; Erastes Standish
by Erastes
British

For the Back to History reading challenge.

English
215 pages
P.D. Publishing Inc.
ISBN: 1-933720-09-3

First line: The candle guttered, and Ambrose looked up at it with a frown, the long blond hair falling away from the sides of his face.

Back cover blurb:
A great house. A family dispossessed. A sensitive young man. A powerful landowner. An epic love that springs up between two men. Set in the post-Napoleonic years of the 1820’s, Standish is a tale of two men — one man discovering his sexuality and the other struggling to overcome his traumatic past.

Ambrose Standish, a studious and fragile young man, has dreams of regaining the great house his grandfather lost in a card game. When Rafe Goshawk returns from the continent to claim the estate, their meeting sets them on a path of desire and betrayal which threatens to tear both of their worlds apart.

Painting a picture of homosexuality in Georgian England, Standish is a love story of how the decisions of two men affect their journey through Europe and through life.

Thoughts: From the moment I came across this book on Amazon.co.uk, I knew I had to read it. The story sounded amazing and I just love historical gay romance, there’s no denying that. Unfortunately, I was in for quite a disappointment.

I started reading it in January, got about a third of the way through during my first sitting with it, and then I put it down and did not pick it up again until now. I kept trying to persuade myself that if I read only one chapter a day, I would finish it in less than a month, but there just was no way of doing it. I wanted so badly to love the story, and I just couldn’t do it. I had such a hard time with the language and the way it was written — they didn’t appeal to me at all.

Finally, I picked it up again and found that if I just skimmed certain bits, it was tolerable. And so I finished the remaining two-thirds in a second sitting. I even, towards the end, found myself almost enjoying it. A part of the reason for this was, I dare say, the character of Padraig Fleury who appeared in the second half of the novel.

In the end, I didn’t like it even half as much as I had hoped to going in, but on the other hand, I did like it more than I thought I would after the first third. Even though it’s nowhere near the best book I’ve ever read, I am glad I decided to stick with it and read the entire thing. I have rarely been so close to making a book a DNF (did not finish), though. If it weren’t for the fact that I had it on my (no changes allowed) list of books for the Back to History challenge, or the fact that I had paid money for it and didn’t much like the idea of that being wasted, I don’t think I would have finished.

However, apart from all that I have outlined above, there was another thing that particularly bothered me. At one point Ambrose reads Dracula. Which is, y’know, cool and all. Except Standish is set in 1821 and Dracula wasn’t published until 1897, so unless there was time travel that I completely missed, that’s a big mistake on the part of the author, and that loses them a lot of respect from me.

I should think it obvious that the rating is not going to be a great one, but in the end, solely thanks to Fleury, it does manage a D, rather than an F. I realise we are only at the end of February and that much of the reading year remains, but I will be much surprised if this does not end up being “Disappointment of the Year.”


20th February, 2008
Duty and Desire; Pamela Aidan
— Love @ 14:34 Comments (5)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, Historical, Romance

Duty and Desire; Pamela Aidan Duty and Desire
by Pamela Aidan
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
304 pages
Touchstone
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9136-1

First line: Darcy recited the collect for the first Sunday in Advent, his prayer book closed upon his thumb as he stood alone in his family’s pew at St. ——‘s.

Back cover blurb:
Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?
Pamela Aidan’s trilogy finally answers that long-standing question, creating a rich parallel story that follows Darcy as he meets and falls in love with Elizabeth Bennet. Duty and Desire, the second book in the trilogy, covers the “silent time” of Austen’s novel, revealing Darcy’s private struggle to overcome his attraction to Elizabeth while fulfilling his roles as landlord, master, brother, and friend.
When Darcy pays an old visit to an old classmate in Oxford in an attempt to shake Elizabeth from his mind, he is set upon by husband-hunting society ladies and ne’er-do-well friends from his university days, all with designs on him—some for good and some for ill. He and his sartorial genius of a valet, Fletcher, must match wits with them all, but especially with the curious Lady Sylvanie.

Thoughts: If you remember, I quite liked the first book in this series, which I read back in January. This continuation, however, I was not quite as fond of. Aidan’s Darcy, when completely away from Lizzy, is not as captivating as her version of Darcy when he has to struggle to keep his thoughts in check in her presence.

Fletcher, his valet, I do still quite like. He takes a few liberties and makes enough hints that I am pretty sure he knows where things are heading, even when Darcy does not. I even have a few suspicions as to the identity of his future wife’s current employer.

Even though I did not much like this book, I still intend to read the third, and final, installment of the trilogy. Lizzy is coming back for that, after all, and I am quite looking forward to how Aidan writes the disastrous first proposal and Darcy’s reactions to Lizzy in Derbyshire.

The first installment received a B grade and this one receives a C. I hope the next one manages at least a B, because I would be sad if it didn’t, when the first was so promising.


10th February, 2008
A Countess Below Stairs; Eva Ibbotson
— Love @ 18:23 Comments (5)
Filed under: A, A-Z Reading Challenge, Back to History, English, Historical, Romance

A Countess Below Stairs; Eva Ibbotson A Countess Below Stairs
by Eva Ibbotson
British

For the Back to History and A-Z reading challenges.

English
383 pages
Speak
ISBN: 978-0-14-240865-0

First line: In the fabled, glittering world that was St. Petersburg before the First World War there lived, in an ice-blue palace overlooking the river Neva, a family on whom the gods seemed to have lavished their gifts with an almost comical abundance.

Back cover blurb:
After the Russian Revolution turns her world topsy-turvy, Anna, a young Russian countess, has no choice but to flee to England. Penniless, Anna hides her aristocratic background and takes a job as a servant in the household of the esteemed Westerholme family, armed only with an outdated housekeeping manual and sheer determination.
Desperate to keep her past a secret, Anna is nearly over-whelmed by her new duties—not to mention her instant attraction to Rupert, the handsome Earl of Westerholme. To make matters worse, Rupert appears to be falling for her as well. As their attraction grows stronger, Anna finds it more and more difficult to keep her most dearly held secrets from unraveling. And then there’s the small matter of Rupert’s beautiful and nasty fiancée…

Thoughts: This is, without a doubt, one of my favourite books. I think it might even trump Pride and Prejudice as the one. I first read it in ninth grade when I found it, quite by accident, in the library at school. I was familiar with Ibbotson’s other body of work, those fantastical books of hers aimed at children, but I didn’t know she also wrote for another audience. At first, I admit I was a little doubtful—it was a romance, after all, and the translation was rather sloppily done (the original title was written as “A Countness Below Stairs”, that’s how sloppy it was), and the cover didn’t look like much. But oh god, I was blown away! I overlooked the typos and the printing errors, and just devoured the book. When I put it down, my eyes were wet from tears (I can be an übersap, sometimes) and it was late at night. The next day, when I came home from school, I picked it back up and read it all over again.

Since then, I’ve read it over and over again, always still in the same sloppy translation, but now I’ve finally found it in the original and thus it was almost like discovering it all over again. I can now tell that while the publishing work of the translation left quite a bit to be desired, the actual translation wasn’t half-bad. I know it so well now that reading the original, I was a little astounded that the errors I had grown so used to weren’t there. But oh, how I still love it! And still, this the sixth (or seventh? I’ve lost count) time I read it, I was still moved to tears in the exact same places, even though I know how it all ends.

As you know, I don’t usually post quotes, but sometimes I simply have to make an exception. Lord Peter Wimsey books often produce such exceptions, and so does A Countess Below Stairs.

“Rupert, none of your servants are socialists, I hope?”
“Good heavens no, I shouldn’t think so. I mean, I haven’t asked. Surely you don’t have to be a socialist to want to have a bath?”
“It often goes together,” said Muriel sagely.

And so they played some of the world’s loveliest piano music—the exiled homesick girl, the humiliated, tired old man. Not properly. Better than that.

Torn between despair and embarrassment, between loneliness and shame, the earl’s dog stood before them, his great head raking the room. He had done it, the unspeakable thing. The degradation, the horror of it, was behind him—and now where was she? Had it all been in vain; the debasement, the agony, the choice?
But no, it was all right. He’d seen her. She was there. She would make whole what was broken, console him for his master’s absence, would understand his imperative need to be scratched now, this minute, and for a long time in that special place behind his ear.

It’s seems a bit like stating the too obvious at this point, but the rating I’m giving this book is a solid A. There’s no other alternative — trust me on this. What’s a bit funny, though, is that I’m not head over heels for any of the characters, nor really the writing either, which is usually the case for me. I just completely and utterly love the whole book.

To end this post, I’m going to post the link to a music video on YouTube. The song is I Saved the World Today by The Eurythmics and no, there’s no apparent connection. But when I first read A Countess Below Stairs, the single had just been released and was being played on the radio as I read the book, and so the two will always, for me, be interconnected.


7th February, 2008
By a Lady; Amanda Elyot
— Love @ 23:40 Comments (1)
Filed under: Chick lit, English, F, Historical, Romance

By a Lady; Amanda Elyot By a Lady
by Amanda Elyot
American

English
372 pages
Three Rivers Press
ISBN: 1-4000-9799-1

First line: “It’s beautiful,” C.J. murmured, examining the curiously pockmarked amber cross.

Back cover blurb:
New York actress C.J. Welles, a die-hard Jane Austen fan, is on the verge of landing her dream role: portraying her idol in a Broadway play. But during her final audition, she is mysteriously transported back to Bath, England, in the year 1801. And Georgian England, with its rigid and unforgiving social structure and limited hygiene facilities, is not quite the picturesque costume drama C.J. had always imagined.
Just as she wishes she could click her heels together and return to Manhattan, C.J. meets the delightfully eccentric Lady Dalrymple, a widowed countess who takes C.J. into her home, introducing her as a poor relation to Georgian society—including the dashing Earl of Darlington and his cousin, Jane Austen!
When a crisis develops, C.J.—in a race against time—becomes torn between two centuries. An attempt to return to her own era might mean forfeiting her blossoming romance with the irresistible Darlington and her growing friendship with Jane Austen, but it’s a risk she must take. And in the midst of this remarkable series of events, C.J. discovers something even more startling—a secret from her own past that may explain how she wound up in Bath in the first place.

Thoughts: I read about this book on a blog a while back (I forget which one, I’m sorry to say) and since I’ve been on a bit of an Austen kick lately, I thought it sounded interesting and figured I would give it a shot. The review I read warned that there was hot, steamy sex to be found in the novel, and while that’s not normally my cup of tea (especially in a Regency era novel), I figured I would be okay with it since I had advance warning. Yeah, not so much.

I absolutely and utterly hated this book. I think it might actually be the worst book I’ve ever read. Usually when I find fault with a book, there’s something else about it that makes it not quite so horrid. Say, if the language is bad, the characters have redeeming qualities, and so forth. But this sorry excuse for a novel was quite honestly bad in every imaginable way.

The main character, C.J., is such a Mary Sue it’s not even funny. She’s an American actress who is absolutely obsessed with Jane Austen and is about to get her big break landing a role as Jane Austen in a two-character Broadway play. Guess who the author is? An American actress who is seriously into Jane Austen and played that very person in a two-character play (if it was on Broadway I don’t particularly know, but it doesn’t seem too unlikely). And of course, C.J. is perfect in every single way. Ergo1, Mary Sue.

The story is nearly always told from C.J.’s point-of-view, except occasionally when it suddenly changes to be the point-of-view of whatever other person happens to be nearby. These changes feel very crudely done and seemed to serve no real purpose, except to confuse and annoy.

As if that wasn’t enough, the language is absolutely horrible. The author seems bent on sticking as many big and fancy words in there as she possibly can, with no regard to if they fit the feel of the rest of it, or not. And don’t get me started on the sex scenes! My god, they made my eyes bleed. Let’s just say there was a little too much ear-licking for my tastes, and just in general terribly unappealing. Nothing even remotely sexy about the writing there. I think she was going for romantic/hot and steamy, but completely and utterly failed.

Another bone of contention I have with this book is how the women of 1801 are portrayed as compared to C.J., who is the representative of the 21st century woman. The former, with a few exceptions, are made out to be exceedingly unintelligent, whilst C.J. is so clever and so well-read, which we are made to understand is how all 21st century women are. I think there might be something in that, don’t get me wrong (we do have access to a lot more information, these days), but I don’t exactly think C.J. is the average modern day woman either. She is well-acquainted with early 19th century law, knows more about heart conditions than the Georgian physician (true that medicine has made advances since 1801, but would a layperson really know more than a doctor, even if he was a backwards one? I’m not so sure), and uses Latin phrases in everyday conversation2 quite a lot. I just don’t buy that this is the average woman of our time. But then, as mentioned previously, C.J. is a Mary Sue and thus cannot be held to the same standards as the rest of us.

One last thing I have a problem with is the character Lady Dalrymple. She’s eccentric, but a nice person and rather well-liked, even, as far as I can tell, by Jane Austen. Now, if you are familiar with your Austen novels, you will know that in Persuasion, there is a character with that very same name. This person, however, is a rather proud and disagreeable lady. One would assume that Elyot’s chosen the names for her characters to make it out that Jane Austen took the names of her characters from people she knew (there are other examples of this as well). If that is indeed the case, I feel sorry for Lady Dalrymple to be thus abused by someone who apparently quite liked her.

The rating, if anyone’s having any sort of doubt at this point, is an F. I would go lower if I could, but I can’t, and so an F it is. The only reason I read ’til the end (I’ll have to admit to skipping some passages that were too much to bear), was because I’d spent money on the book and didn’t want that to have been a complete waste.

1. Oh, I’ll be made to eat that ergo before the end of this review, you mark my word.
2. This is when I eat my ergo.


3rd February, 2008
Eclipse; Stephenie Meyer
— Love @ 13:11 Comments (6)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Eclipse; Stephenie Meyer Eclipse
by Stephenie Meyer
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
628 pages
Atom Books
ISBN: 978-1-904233-90-9

First line: All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain.

Back cover blurb:
As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob — knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?

Thoughts: It turns out that I’d somehow misunderstood that spoiler I read, because what I feared would happen, didn’t. At least not the way I thought it would, nor was it as bad as I thought it would be. In other words, I still like Jacob Black. Like him a lot, in fact. Even if I got really quite angry with him at one point, because dude! he needs to learn to listen to what people say!

I still don’t care much about either Bella or Edward. Bella, I’ve realised, reminds me a little of someone I used to know very well, with the exception that she (Bella, that is) can make decisions and stick with them, even if it’s hard.

I think this is my favourite of the series so far, even if some things made me exclaim “Ew! Ew! Ew!” whilst reading, and the divide between girlish and boyish interests/talents/&c still bothers me a lot.

A B rating is in order and I have to say I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, which is published sometime this summer, unless I am much mistaken.


31st January, 2008
New Moon; Stephenie Meyer
— Love @ 20:03 Comments (6)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

New Moon; Stephenie Meyer New Moon
by Stephenie Meyer
American

For the A-Z reading challenge.

English
595 pages
Atom Books
ISBN: 978-1-904233-88-6

First line: I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the one where you have to run, run till your lungs burst, but you can’t make your body move fast enough.

Back cover blurb:
For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is even more dangerous than Bella could ever have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of one evil vampire, but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realize their troubles may be just beginning…

Thoughts: I quite like Jacob Black. I know it’s not quite the done thing, especially if you ask the Edward Cullen camp, but I can’t help it! I did accidentally read a spoiler at some point, so I’m not sure that I will keep liking Jacob, but I kind of hope I do, because as of yet, he’s the only character I’m not unmoved by. (Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’m moved by Bella, in that she annoys me greatly from time to time.)

Still not crazy about Edward. I don’t dislike him either, though. I guess I just don’t see the massive appeal.

On the whole, I’m still kind of hooked on these books, and that’s despite not being crazy about characters, plot or, technically, the writing. It’s a bit like it is with the Tony Hill books by Val McDermid (except I am excessively fond of Tony). I don’t think they’re very well-written, but they are always full of excitement and I keep reading, because you get hooked so quickly and there’s no way I could put one down unfinished. (That only applies to her Tony books, though. I’ve read a couple of others of hers, and without the appeal of Tony, there’s no appeal at all.) Anyway, what I was trying to say, before I got side-tracked, is that Meyer’s writing makes me want to know what happens next, and so I’ve already started on Eclipse.

New Moon gets a B rating. It was going to get a C, but then I remembered that Twilight got a B, and I don’t like this book less than the first in the series, so a B it has to be.


16th January, 2008
Twilight; Stephenie Meyer
— Love @ 16:14 Comments (28)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, English, Fantasy, First in a Series, Romance, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Twilight; Stephenie Meyer Twilight
by Stephenie Meyer
American

For the Young Adult, First in a Series and A-Z reading challenges.

English
434 pages
Atom Books
ISBN: 978-1-904233-65-7

First line: I’d never given much thought to how I would die—though I’d had reason enough in the last few months—but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

Back cover blurb:
When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret.

What Bella does not realize is that the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those she around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back…

Thoughts: I heard such different accounts of this book as puzzled me exceedingly*. Before I ordered it, I found only positive views in different book blogs. Of course, the second I pressed the confirm button on the book order, the more negative reviews started popping up.

After reading the book myself, I find myself in the camp in the middle. I wasn’t as completely blown away by Edward as others have been, but neither was I completely and utterly annoyed with Bella. Edward is okay, but he’s not one of those fictional characters I see myself falling in love with. As for Bella, I was a little peeved at her over a couple of things (mostly how she treats her father, because I refuse to believe he is as useless at cooking as she makes him out to be. He has, as he himself says, survived on his own for seventeen years, after all).

On the whole, I thought the book was good enough and I definitely want to read the sequels (already ordered them, in fact), but I find myself a bit of a sceptic when it comes to the great Bella/Edward romance. It’s a little too intense for my liking, to be honest. Either way, I do look forward to see where the story is going and this, the first installment, receives a well-deserved B grade.

*See what I did there?


15th January, 2008
Boy Meets Boy; David Levithan
— Love @ 21:00 Comments (3)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, C, English, GLBT interest, Humour, Romance, YA Challenge 2008, Young Adult

Boy Meets Boy Boy Meets Boy
by David Levithan
American

For the Young Adult and A-Z reading challenges.

English
185 pages
Random House
ISBN: 0-375-83299-8

First line: 9 P.M. on a November Saturday.

Back cover blurb:
Love is never easy. Especially if you’re Paul. He’s a sophomore at a high school like no other—and these are his friends:
Infinite Darlene, the homecoming queen and star quarterback
Joni, Paul’s best friend who may not be his best friend anymore
Tony, his other best friend, who can’t leave the house unless his parents think he’s going on a date… with a girl
Kyle, the ex-boyfriend who won’t go away
Rip, the school bookie, who sets the odds…
And Noah, The Boy. The one who changes everything.

Thoughts: I don’t quite know what to say about this book. I liked it well enough—it was short, sweet and quite funny—but I feel a complaint coming on, and one that’s going to make you roll your eyes at me. Remember how I often gripe about the bleak and depressing nature of a lot of gay-related stories? Well, I’m just about to take issue with one being too upbeat and positive. There seems to be no way to win!

The thing is, though, that while the town that Paul lives in is quite fun to read about and rather cute, it’s too perfect. It would be great if there were a town like his, but I think we’re a long way from that, still. Sadly enough.

Let’s face it, though: we don’t always ask for complete realism from short YA novels. In other words, I’m giving it a C rating, because it’s what I think it deserves. A little more realism (with the same basic plot/romance) and it’d have been a B or a C, depending on the language and characters. No one really clicked with me, like other literary characters have in the past, but if I had to pick one that moved me more than the others, I would pick Tony. He seemed the most realistic to me.


5th January, 2008
An Assembly Such as This; Pamela Aidan
— Love @ 22:49 Comments (5)
Filed under: A-Z Reading Challenge, B, Back to History, English, First in a Series, Historical, Romance

An Assembly Such as This; Pamela Aidan An Assembly Such as This
by Pamela Aidan
American

For the First in a Series, Back to History and A-Z reading challenges.

English
256 pages
Touchstone
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9134-7

First line: Fitzwilliam George Alexander Darcy rose from his seat in the Bingley carriage and reluctantly descended to earth before the assembly hall above the only inn to which the small market town of Meryton could lay claim.

Back cover blurb:
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me.”

So begins the timeless romance of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s classic novel which is beloved by millions, but little is revealed in the book about the mysterious and handsome hero, Mr. Darcy. And so the question has long remained: Who is Fitzwilliam Darcy?
In An Assembly Such as This, Pamela Aidan finally answers that long-standing question. In this first book of her Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy, she reintroduces us to Darcy during his visit to Hertfordshire with his friend Charles Bingley and reveals Darcy’s hidden perspective on the events of Pride and Prejudice. As Darcy spends more time at Netherfield supervising Bingley and fending off Miss Bingley’s persistent advances, his unwilling attraction to Elizabeth grows—as does his concern about her relationship with his nemesis, George Wickham.

Thoughts: Unlike Darcy’s Story, which I read in December, this book really captured me from the first chapter. Here is Mr. Darcy as I have always pictured him. The other characters, some of which are original characters, are well-written as well and especially Fletcher, Darcy’s valet, won my heartfelt approval.

On the whole, it felt as though it was written very much in the spirit of Austen herself, and there was much giggling and squeeing from me as I read it.

The only negative thing about it is that it’s the first in a series and I hadn’t realised that the whole series would make up the events in Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I thought the following two books would relate the events after Darcy’s and Lizzy’s wedding. As I found it was not the case, I shall simply have to hunt down the following two volumes at my earliest convenience, as I will not rest until I know what happens next (shut up! Yes, I know I know what happens next, but I don’t have Aidan’s Darcy’s take on it, so there!).

For now, it’s a B grade. If the rest of the series proves to be as good as this, I might bump it up to an A in the end.


23rd December, 2007
Darcy’s Story; Janet Aylmer
— Love @ 13:14 Comments (1)
Filed under: C, English, Historical, Romance

Darcy's Story; Janet Aylmer Darcy’s Story
by Janet Aylmer
British

English
277 pages
Harper Collins
ISBN: 0-06-114870-9

First line: It is a consequence of possessing an income of ten thousand pounds a year that a man may order his life to his own liking, and chose his own society.

Back cover blurb:
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has long stood among the most beloved novels of all time. The story of Elizabeth Bennet’s blossoming romance with “haughty, reserved and fastidious” Fitzwilliam Darcy has enchanted readers for nearly two centuries. Yet, Mr Darcy has always remained an intriguing enigma—his thoughts, feelings, and motivations hidden behind a cold, impenetrable exterior… until now.
With the utmost respect for Austen’s original masterwork, author Janet Aylmer lovingly retells Pride and Prejudice from a bold new perspective: seeing events as they transpire through the eyes of Darcy himself. One of the world’s great love stories takes on breathtaking new life, and one of fiction’s greatest romantic heroes becomes even more sympathetic, compelling, attractive, and accessible, all through the imagination and artistry of a truly gifted storyteller.

Thoughts: When I was fourteen, I discovered Austen-inspired fanfiction online. It’s been a long time since I last read any, but upon browsing a few book blogs a couple of months ago, I was reminded of the published and printed fanfiction that is out there. Darcy’s Story is the first of these that I read and, while I can’t say that it was absolutely and utterly fantastic, it was a decent read. I minded a bit that certain parts were repetetive in the extreme, and I thought the style of writing was a bit far from Austen’s own, but on the whole, the book still earns itself a C.


4th November, 2007
Northanger Abbey; Jane Austen
— Love @ 18:15 Comments (2)
Filed under: B, Classics, English, Historical, Romance

Northanger Abbey; Jane Austen Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen
British

English
236 pages
Penguin Popular Classics
ISBN: 0-14-062075-3

First line: No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

Back cover blurb:
Northanger Abbey is Jane Austen’s amusing and bitingly satirical pastiche of the ‘Gothic’ romances popular in her day.

Catherine Morland, an unremarkable tomboy as a child, is thrown amongst all the ‘difficulties and dangers’ of Bath at the ripe age of seventeen. Armed with an unworldly charm and a vivid imagination, she must overcome the caprices of elegant society, encountering along the way such characters as the vacuous Mrs Allen, coquettish Isabella and the brash bully John Thorpe. Catherine’s invitation to Northanger Abbey, in her eyes a haven of coffins, skeletons and other Gothic devices, does lead to an adventure, though one she didn’t expect, and her misjudgement of the ambitious, somewhat villainous General Tilney is not wholly unjustified. However, with the ‘unromantic’ hero Henry Tilney, Catherine gradually progresses towards maturity and self-knowledge.

Thoughts: I first read this almost ten years ago and I must say I had a whole new appreciation for it this time around. I don’t remember liking it exceptionally well before, but now I was quite enamoured — especially with Henry Tilney, who I believe I thought quite a bore previously. I still haven’t read any of the Gothic novels that Austen refers to on a number of occasions, but I do plan on getting some of them read within the next year. Perhaps I should have left my re-read of this until after, to appreciate it even more, but I don’t think it was absolutely necessary. And, after all, I could always read this again, should the fancy strike.

I give this book a B. It’s not the best book I ever read, but it was enjoyable.