Monday, December 31, 2012

The Heart of Christmas

The title: The Heart of Christmas
The author: Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick, Courtney Milan
Publication: Harlequin, 2009
Got it from: JL, Xmas 2010

Happy New Year, everyone! It feels like forever since I last reviewed a book (although my blog is saying it's only been a month and a half).  This book is the answer to clue #3 from my year-end entry, the "Three ladies of Christmas."  I have read all of these authors before - Nicola Cornick less so, although I have a couple of her books on my TBR pile and will hopefully make my way to them this year.  

Overall I found this book to be a little too plagued with jaded rogues and saintly heroines to give it a high rating as a whole.  With some exceptions.

Mary Balogh's story is "A Handful of Gold."  It's a warm-and-fuzzy tale of a woman who becomes a dancer (back then, basically a prostitute) to pay for her sick sister's medical care.  Enter the rakish earl, who wants to pay for her company over Christmas.  In the end she wins him over by being sweet, innocent, and bringing Christmas cheer to all.  And she can deliver babies.  I felt a bit meh about this story. I'd probably give it a C.

Nicola Cornick's story is "The Season for Suitors."  The blurb for this one sounded promising, with a young lady asking for advice from a rake about how to avoid rakes.  However, I don't think the person writing the blurb actually read the story since this wasn't really about this and plus the heroine's last name on the back was incorrect.  I was very disappointed that nothing ever came of that plot, which would have been amusing.  The story seemed disjointed and I couldn't muster up much feeling for either the hero or the heroine. I kept checking to see how many more pages were left as I was reading.  I'd give it a C-.

It's hard to believe that Courtney Milan was basically unknown when her story, "This Wicked Gift," was published.  It's a prequel of sorts to Proof by Seduction (Gareth Carhart makes a cameo appearance!)  It's by far my favourite of the three stories, and I actually rushed to read it first.  My goodnesss can the woman write.  I'm not usually much for descriptions, but one line in particular just transported me: "A wild wind whipped down the street, carrying with it the last few tired leaves from some faraway square and the earthy scent of winter mold."  It gave me shivers.  There is something so real about Milan's characters and settings, something lovely even in the ugliness of 19th century London.  The story itself was intriguing, about a young woman who has to "repay" a man who helps settle her brother's debt.  It sounds like a sordid premise, but the author managed to turn my expectations upside down and inside out.  Even though the heroine was almost too kind and understanding to be believed, I really ended up caring about her.  I'm giving this story a B+.

See you in 2013!

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Round-Up

The last six months or so have not been great for reading.  So much of my reading energy has been taken up with trying to run and read for two book clubs.  I've also been letting go of my old reading habit of forcing myself to finish a book I don't like.  This year I probably started about five or six books that I eventually sent to the scrap heap without finishing, for one reason or another.

Although this year has been discouraging in terms of the number and quality of the books I've been reading, I'm optimistic about 2013.  My goal as always is to continue to find quality books that I love and blog about them here.  I hope soon to be back on track and I should have some new posts in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, here's my 2012 reading in a nutshell:

Even though I started out skeptical of Shannon Hale's Austenland series, I really got into it the further I went along.  I love the idea of a Jane Austen themed park and it makes me wish it were real.  I hope that there will be more books in the series and that the movie will eventually be released.

I can't stop thinking about The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin.  Maybe because it's so different from the other non-fiction books that I read.  It was such a wonderful adventure story.  I think it's my favourite non-fiction of the year, even more so than Introvert by Susan Cain.

Sweet Talking Man by Bettina Krahn was my favourite romance of the year.  Sherry Thomas is a better writer and I'm looking forward to reading more of her stories, but I just found this one really appealed to me.  It was funny and interesting and I loved the setting of Gilded Age New York. 

My obsession of the year - SHERLOCK!

In the spirit of Sherlock, I will leave you with twelve clues as to what you'll see on this blog in the coming months.  Check back next year to see which books matched the clues!

1. One First Lady
2. Two sets of magicians
3. Three ladies of Christmas
4. An intrepid woman reporter
5. The real lives of Downton Abbey
6. Pirates!
7. The secret history of a major city
8. A classic children's book I've never read
9. A very "viral" book
10. Lost books
11. A dear enemy
12. A prairie tale