Monday, January 27, 2014

Goddess of Legend

The title: Goddess of Legend
The author: P.C. Cast
Publication: Berkley, 2010
Got it from: SC, 2010

Middle Age(s) Romance

There was a time, when I was in my late teens/early 20's when I was all about the Arthurian legends.  I read The Mists of Avalon when I was 17 and it blew my mind.  In university I took a whole class about the women of Arthurian legend.  As a result I have read virtually every version of this story.  So back in 2010 when I saw P.C. Cast was going to set her latest Goddess story in Camelot, I was curious what she was going to do.

Here is my quick review:  I enjoyed it.  But leave your brain at home.

Here is my long review: Isabel is a 42-year-old photojournalist who's seen it all.  Back home in Oklahoma after a traumatic experience in Afghanistan, she comes close to death when her car plunges into a lake.  Back in Camelot, Vivienne, the Water Goddess, is in need of help.  Her beloved Merlin remains in eternal sleep unless things are righted in Camelot.  And Camelot is in a mess because Guinevere and Lancelot are having an affair.  So Vivienne needs a lady to seduce Lancelot so Gwen can return to Arthur.  Isabel is given a second chance at life to complete Vivienne's mission.  Only it's Arthur she falls hard for, not Lancelot.

I had mixed feelings about this book.  I was happy to read about an older heroine and I liked that Isabel and Arthur were able to handle things like grown-ups.  It's nice to read about middle aged romance that's actually sweet and sexy, unlike so many other "literary" books that portray it as warped and dysfunctional.  Arthur was such a sweetie, so kind and good-hearted, it would be impossible to dislike him.  

But oh my word, this book is so silly.  I mean really, really, unbelievably silly.  All of the residents of Camelot pick up on Isabel's 21st century slang and begin talking like her, quoting lines from Jeopardy and wanting pedicures.  Let me put it in this analogy:

If Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur = Camelot


Goddess of Legend = Medieval Times dinner banquet

or how about:

If Mists of Avalon = Game of Thrones


Goddess of Legend =  Monty Python and the Holy Grail

In other words, don't expect much actual serious Camelot stuff.  Almost nothing happens in this book that isn't  relationship-based.  Even the "big battle" that you expect at the end doesn't really go anywhere.  At times the book felt repetitive and there was a feeling that it had been rushed to press.  With a little tweaking, it could have been a better story.  

Rating: Three Spamalots out of Five

Monday, January 13, 2014

Scandalous Desires

The title: Scandalous Desires
The author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Publication: Hachette, 2011
Got it from:  La library

I think I might be in love with Elizabeth Hoyt.  Remember last year when I read Thief of Shadows and loved it so much?  Well, reading Scandalous Desires reminded me of how much I loved that one.  I mean, I loved this one too. But Thief of Shadows is just the best.

Because I am contrary I ended up reading these two books out of order, so it was like watching one of those movies where you get the ending and you have to figure out how they got there.  And to make it more confusing for you, I haven't even read books #1 and #2 in the Maiden Lane series yet - but #6 is here in my TBR pile.  Please note - I do not recommend this.  There are a lot of intertwined stories and they are meant to be read in order.  I hadn't even intended to read this one (#3) but it was in the book sale in my library and I read the back cover and...

You see, I am obsessed with Once Upon a Time and Colin O'Donoghue/Captain Hook.  So when I saw that Scandalous Desires was about a charming roguish pirate my brain went:



"Charming" Mickey O'Connor is a pirate, but not the kind of pirate you're thinking of.  He's a river pirate, he lives in London and raids ships that come into the Thames.  He's pretty much the King of Pirates and he's a pretty bad guy.  Exactly one year earlier Silence Makepeace (Winter's sister from Thief of Shadows) had to go to Mickey to plead with him to save her husband.  What went down is a bit complicated, but what you think happened didn't happen except that Silence's husband thought it happened, and wouldn't speak to her.  And then his ship sinks and he dies and Silence goes to help her brother at the orphanage and ends up raising a baby girl, Mary Darling, who's left on the doorstep.

Only it turns out Mary is Mickey's daughter - surprise! - and she wasn't left there by chance, she was left there because he needed to hide Mary from his enemy and Silence is the only decent woman Mick knows (every other woman he knows is a whore).  Until Mick decides that Mary is in too much danger and has to keep her under his own roof.  This is when the story begins, with Silence refusing to be parted from Mary and going to live with Mick and his merry band of pirates.

What basically follows is a classic Beauty and the Beast story with a twist.  Silence, who's as much a do-gooder as her brother, ends up charming all the pirates, right down to their mangy dog.  It's a testament to Hoyt's great writing that I didn't absolutely love the two main characters but I loved the story.  Silence is almost too sweet, and Mickey is a jerk, but they grow and learn and feel like fully rounded characters.  The pace never flagged, it was perfect balance of heart and humour.  And sexy.  Hoyt's writing is so very, very addictive.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Rosie Project

The title: The Rosie Project
The author: Graeme Simsion
Publication: HarperCollins, 2013
Got it from:  DC, Xmas 2013

I got The Rosie Project for Christmas this year and read it in three days.  Three days!  As Don himself would say: Incredible!  I think it was a combination of having time off and being starved for an actually fun book.  I loved it all the way through.

(Here's another 2014 resolution for me: stop reading books I'm not enjoying.  I do it all the time, like I'm going to win some sort of medal for it.  For instance, before Christmas I was reading What Happens at Christmas by Victoria Alexander.  And it was just...fine.  It was okay.  The old me would have just kept dragging on with it.  But here's the thing: if I have to keep checking how many pages are left, that's not a good sign.  So eff it.  You know what?  According to Goodreads, I personally own 191 books that I have yet to read.  There are plenty of books in the sea.  I am thirty-one years old and I'm tired of reading books that don't do anything for me.  It's going to be hard to break this habit.  I will have to keep reminding myself - put down the book and walk away.  Even if I spent $20 on it.  Even if it was a present.)

I'm probably the only person on the planet who hasn't read The Rosie Project yet, but I say meh. I read a book when I'm good and ready for it.  I'm never going to be one of those cutting-edge people who stays ahead of the book curve.  I read what I like, when I like, at my own sweet slow pace.  Having said that, this book was a breeze.  It's about a genetics professor, Don Tillman, who is extremely rigid and organized and guided by logic and science.  He has difficulty making connections with others, but nevertheless feels that he would like to have a wife.  So he develops The Wife Project, a detailed questionnaire to help him find the perfect mate.  Naturally, the woman that he does end up falling for, Rosie, fails the questionnaire and is all "wrong" for him.

The Rosie Project reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon,  with the story told from the perspective of a somewhat autistic hero.  But where I wanted to strangle the brat from The Curious Incident, I really liked Don.  For one thing, he does have emotions, albeit ones he's not particularly in touch with.  One of Don's few friends, an elderly woman in his apartment complex, has lost her husband to Alzheimer's and misses getting flowers from him on her birthday.  Don is perceptive enough to bring joy to her life by buying them for her himself.  In contrast is Don's other friend, fellow professor Gene.  Gene is a complete sleazeball who regularly cheats on his wife and is Don's foil is every way.  Gene is ruled by emotions and instincts alone, with disastrous consequences for everyone around him.  It's no coincidence that I hated Gene as much as I did, as it helped me sympathize with Don more.

Naturally this book has a lot of humour as Don uses logic to try to figure out illogical human emotions.  I wouldn't classify this book as a romance per se, rather a romantic comedy. (If it had been written by and about a woman, it would have been classified as chick lit, a term I abhor).  It's really all about Don and I never really got a feel for Rosie as a character, other than that she's supposed to be a free spirit.  But this is really about Don and his discovery of himself and his capacity to love.  It sounds serious, but it only feels like fun.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Here are the answers to last week's/last year's quiz:

1. One First Lady
A Marked Man by Barbara Hamilton

2. Two sets of magicians
The Grand Tour by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia C. Wrede
The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett

3. Three ladies of Christmas
The Heart of Christmas by Mary Balogh, Nicola Cornick and Courtney Milan

4. An intrepid woman reporter
Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman (technically featuring two intrepid women reporters!)

5. The real lives of Downton Abbey  (moved to 2014)(?)

6. Pirates!
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe

7. The secret history of a major city
Two possible answers to this one:
Lost London by Richard Guard
Full Frontal T.O. by Patrick Cummins and Shawn Micallef

8. A classic children's book I've never read
The Besty-Tacy Treasury by Maud Hart Lovelace

9. A very "viral" book
Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918 by Gina Kolata

10. Lost books  (this one is a work in progress.  I am about halfway done).

11. A dear enemy
My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway

12. A prairie tale
Two possible answers for this one:
The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure
Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell

What's ahead in 2014?  This year it's going to be primarily about romance, and rereading some favourite stories.  I'm not going to give specific clues, but this year I'm hoping to read romances about:

Early feminist activists
More pirates!
...and an Arctic explorer!

Here's hoping I have more chances to read, read, read and review!