Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review - Married by Mistake

This review is so late I basically missed a review, and for that I apologize.  I've actually been caught up doing Camp Nanowrimo, that is to say, I've been writing a new book and realized that there was a Nano event going on a few days after I started.  So I've been writing like a maniac and unfortunately that means that all of my other projects have suffered.  But this blog has been the first thing to go since always, so at least I'm predictable, if nothing else.

This review is of Married by Mistake, by Abby Gaines.  In all fairness I read the book last week and should have written a review then, but since I use reading these books as a way of procrastination from writing my own and writing my own as procrastination from writing reviews, some of the details have slipped my mind.

So there's there's this woman, right?

Just kidding.

Casey signs up for a reality show where women put their potential grooms on the spot to propose on live TV, which actually sounds like it could be a reality show in real life.  I'm a little surprised it's not.  She gets dumped, the guy who owns the station has to do something, so he marries her, they don't know that the marriage is real, and they're stuck pretending to be a happy couple for a month until they can get an anullment.  Female lead grows and learns to be selfish (in a good way?), male lead grows and learns to have emotions and they're both happy and still married at the end of the book.

The chick starts out as a pushover and her man teaches her that it's necessary to think about yourself every once in a while, and while I think that's an excellent lesson and one I myself can relate to intimitely, it took me years to change and this woman completely changes everything about her personality in about a week and a half.  I just made that up, it could have been two weeks.  Less than a month.  I like the lesson that you can change, I resent it being presented as happening so easily.  Casey gets everything that she wants from the beginning to the end, including a wonderful romance (where the male lead adores her, even though at the beginning he tells her that it's a teenage fairy tale to want to be loved that way, and I agree with him) and even a little side blurb that she's writing a young adult novel and it's finished, edited, and sold in the month that they're living together.  I think that was particularly unnecessary, and even maybe a little bit of author insertion.  Nothing happens so easily.  Not change, not love, not selling books.

I guess the male lead is also so rich that he gets reporters and paparazzi surrounding his house and writing about how their marriage might not be real, and even lying to get jobs as maids.  The legality of that seems a little fishy, but since the whole thing about their marriage being real and them being unable to easily get an anullment also strikes me so it's just par for the course of the book.  There's just so much about this book that screams 'fake!' to me.  How easily she forgets about a man she's been with since high school.  How much of a sham their relationship was in the first place in order to make her relationship with male lead seem so much richer and fuller.

The book is fluff, and I know I shouldn't expect too much of it, but when I went to amazon and found it still the top book after a week of me not checking I'm a little disappointed.  It's just another book where a perfect woman gets everything she wants from a rich man who falls madly in love with her and everything's perfect.  I didn't like the side romances, either.  Sam and what's-her-face didn't have anything in common before, and there was only the beginnings of an attaction there because she finally notices that he's handsome.  Gag me with a spoon!  That's not the basis of a relationship!  Then she's a bitch and he grows a spine and everything is happy ever after.  Wait, what?

If you can't tell, I thought this book was dumb.  The problems weren't really problems, the drama was fake, and the people were faker.  Is that a word?  More fake?  Anyways.  The only thing that I did actually like about it was the relationship between Casey and her mother in law.  They actually had a good thing going and I liked how they became actual friends over the course of the book.  Otherwise, it was pretty awful.  Three stars, because the writing wasn't that bad, not really, I just expect more from a story.

Because this is still the top selling book I'm going to have to go with the second choice, which is actually not a romance, thank God.  But it is religious, and we'll see how that goes.  I hope it's good.  The book in question is The Apostle: The Life of Paul, by John Pollock.  That should be up by tomorrow because this one is running so late, I'll try to get myself back on my self imposed schedule.  See you then, thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review - In the Blood

I read this book yesterday but didn't quite get around to reviewing it until today.  Don't drink and read, kids! So this is the review of In the Blood, by Steve Robinson.  I've never read a genealogical crime mystery before... didn't even know they existed.  But I guess geneology is a big thing?  Big enough to get this book on the bestseller list, that's for sure.

First things first.  I don't know anything about the genre but it seemed like a fairly straight forward thriller with the mystery coming solely from the fact that the characters had some secrets dating back hundreds of years.  The hero of the book was a geneologist, Mister Jefferson Tayte, who seemed a rather lackluster hero for this kind of story but also a very honest one, which both won and lost points, breaking this book pretty even on that front.  The author is honest about the protagonist's less than stellar appearance, his fears, his unstoppable urges in eating every sweet thing that enters the pages of the book.  It's this honesty, however, that makes his later transformation into an action hero so unlikely.

The writing was fine but not stellar, par for the course for a commercial novel.  Nothing really stood out about the writing or the settings except a couple of typos in the latter third of the book.  A wrong 'their' and unclosed quotation marks really make it seem like a less than polished, even unfinished work.  Even one typo in a published book makes me feel like there was some sloppy editing going on.  It might be unfair to judge so critically but I do expect published works to be as finely crafted and impeccably polished as possible.

The characters were, after the fact, dull and not very interesting.  JT himself seemed, more than anything, to be a shallow and ungrateful person who was not as good as his job as the author was trying to portray.  At one point a colleague mentions a newspaper article about the family they're trying to find and he knows nothing about it, only to easily find it later on what he claims is his favorite website for antiquated newspaper headlines.  If he really was as thorough as he is claimed to be, shouldn't he have already found it?  He doesn't appreciate help when it is given even if it comes from a source that annoys him (and that annoyance is based off of nothing more than the other being just as good at the job as he is) and feels very little of either guilt or... or anything, really, when that annoyance is later killed.

The author introduces a love interest who compares JT's eyes to the eyes of a former pet and their attachment strikes me as either the author feeling the need to give the hero some kind of happily ever after or just further proof that JT isn't the kind of person who should be the hero anyway.  That reminds me of the first thing I didn't like about the book, and that's when Tayte falls asleep for most of an eight hour flight, including the landing, when he supposedly has this incredible fear of flying.  I don't mind flying and I still can't sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time, especially while flying over oceans.  

The thriller parts of the book seemed forced and every interation with the police left me wanting to scream at the book for not locking Tatye up instead of letting him continue to interfere.  There are explosions, guns, a woman being chained to a rock and waiting for the tide to come in... all of the makings of a cheesy adventure story, and with the geneology having taken a far second place at this point, it becomes such.  My favorite line in the book is, "I'm a geneologist, for Christ's sakes!" and that's only because it was so silly that it made me laugh out loud.  Because when push comes to shove it seems that everyone in the book- the police and the hero included - forgets that Tayte is an unqualified fat American and falls over themselves getting out of the way so that he can be the hero and save the day.  It's not just silly, it's stupid.

And that seems to be my final thought.  It's not just silly, it's stupid.  The motivations are questionable to the point of breaking my tenuous hold on my suspension of disbelief.  The mystery would be a good one if there wasn't so much crap between each clue... to be quite honest by the time the next piece of the puzzle is found I had completely forgotten to care about the last one.  Too long for the little tension employed.

So.  It looks like the next book on my list to be reviewed on Sunday is Married by Mistake, by Abby Gaines.  I look forward to reading the next piece of garbage being passed off as commercial literature these days, and I hope you do too.  'Til Sunday!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Review - The Inconvenient Duchess

For some, inexplicable reason, Love Will Find A Way by Barbara Freethy has been at the top of the free bestseller list since Wednesday, so instead of choosing the top book I went with the second book, which at the time was The Inconvenient Duchess, by Christine Merrill.
I just finished reading, and I must say that for starters I am very disappointed that this book doesn't answer the one burning question that I had before I even cracked open the (digital) cover.
Why is this duchess inconvenient?  Is she, I dunno, calling at a bad time?  Right in the middle of dinner, maybe, duchessing around?  The world may never know, because I sure as hell didn't find out, and I read the whole thing.
Anyway.  I was going to start out the same way I always do, when I say that a book wasn't that bad and was actually very readable and then go into detail about everything that seperates a book of this caliber from actual good literature, but one of my biggest pet peeves about these books comes from their formulas, and if there's one thing I don't want to do it's get stuck in a rut.  You know it's formulaic as well as I do - it's commercial romance.  That's the reason these things get read, because it's mostly like reading the same book over and over again except the words are different every time.
It's magic!
So what I'm going to do instead is this: I'm just going to say that I liked the protagonists.
Crazy, huh?  Tell me about it.
I liked that she seemed rational.  I liked the fact that she and her husband actually discussed their issues (mostly) instead of sidestepping them and creating false drama when if they just took thirty seconds to explain things the whole relationship could be salvaged.  I liked that she wasn't a perfect, wonderful human being, either.  There were a couple of moments when she's shown to maybe be artificially propped up (she gets grudging respect from the maids because she knows about cleaning solutions, she's worried about a ball when everyone loves her anyway), but not many, and I understand that the formula prohibits too much deviation from the mean, so in this case I'll let it slide because I'm in a good mood tonight.
The husband, too, was a rational character.  Instead of leaving the mystery of her origins to languish in the backs of our minds until the dramatic reveal, he finds them out as soon as humanly possible, and by the time the blackmail of the younger brother that in a lesser novel would tear them apart comes to fruition, he not only already knows about the issues but has solved them.  Their relationship is a good one, and a solid one, and I liked it.
There are other issues, there always are in any novel, but I won't touch on them here, not tonight.  Read any other review that I've written about a romance novel and I'm sure you'll find echoes of everything I dislike about the genre.  They're always just a bit too surreal for me, too happy go lucky.  But then again, I'm just a bitter old woman.  Not really.  What am I talking about?
Oh, the book.  Right.  Not a bad one, and one that I probably enjoyed more than a lot of the other free bestsellers I've read so far on Amazon.  Not, you know, wonderful, and the sex scenes were pretty bleh (I like 'em hot) but not a bad book, overall.  In fact I would even go so far as to say that it was remarkably decent.  How's that for an backhanded compliment?

Oh!  The next book.  The next book that I'm going to be reading is, as of this writing, In The Blood: A Geneological Crime Mystery #1, by Jefferson Tayte.  Oh, geneology.  Is that a genre now, too?  What the heck and under what rock have I been living?  See you on Wednesday for the review!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Okay, so I'm back.  This should be the last big gap for a while, and I had a really decent excuse for this one.  I went to Japan!  For my honeymoon!  And then we moved out of state and I'm going back to school and everything is wonderful.  But that means no big vacations or plans for a while (YEARS), so I'm stuck writing.
Getting back into the reviewing aspect of the game by posting a review of a book I picked out last night, the top free seller on Amazon, which happened to be (drumroll please) LOVE WILL FIND A WAY, by Barbara Freethy.  I was going to post it tomorrow but I ended up reading the whole thing today, and I wanted to write about it while the details were still fresh, and also avoid doing any real work on my novel and still pretend to be productive.

The book wasn't bad.  It wasn't inspired, or particularly special, and it was one of those books that makes me want to forget that I read it as soon as I put it down, but it still wasn't bad.  I read it all in one sitting, so that's saying something.  I also read incredibly quickly, so it's not saying much.  And I feel all the worse about it because I read it so all of the questions I had would be answered, but I was even more disappointed when those questions were answered by uninspired, boring answers.
To start - the book features a single, widowed mother (the single parent thing being a running gag I only realized when I read the chapters at the end of the book featuring other works... is that really a romance genre? single parent romance?) who is trying to find the answers about her husband's death while trying to resist the only other man she's ever loved.  The insurance company has ruled his death a suicide, leaving her no options but to try and prove otherwise, which strikes me to the quick about the legality of that all, but who ever said fiction needs to follow the rules?  I personally hate it when things don't make sense, but seeing as this was the top selling book last night I'm obviously in the minority.
So she goes to her husband's best friend, Dylan, a bigshot... what, architect?  No... he just builds things.  Reads blueprints.  I dunno what those are called but he's good at it and it only matters so that he can build the house that his love interest - Rachel? - has always wanted.  I'm getting ahead of myself; I have been drinking.
Books like these make me need a drink.
So the whole thing is about did he cheat or didn't he cheat, Rachel's younger sister being terrified about being found out to be an artist like she's secretly working for Al Qaida, her underwear being in the husband's apartment but secretly being totally innocent, and a lot of thrown in drama to make the story interesting.
Let me be the first to tell you, it didn't really work.
There were a lot of interesting questions, from the get go.  I enjoyed the drama and the tension of did he cheat or didn't he, who is this mystery woman, and how far down does the rabbit hole go.  But it really felt that the author could have done something truly shocking, something to really make us think, and then just went with the safe, commercial ending.  OH, he wasn't cheating.  He just had a daughter sixteen years ago and was trying to do the right thing.  Of course... how family friendly.  And Rachel immediately accepts this other child into her life, because she's also wonderful and perfect.
What's the deal, Barbara Freethy?  Why shy away from a bit of a tougher issue?  Why make everything happy and rainbows at the end, why aren't some of these characters left with a bit of pain?
Happy endings are perfectly boring, and so was this book.  I was interested until I actually found out what the secrets were, and then I felt like my time had been wasted.  There's way too much old drama being brought up, when I'm getting old enough now myself to look back and see how much of a moron I was when I was a teenager.  But to these characters, there's enough from eighteen to call up an ex and do the "if you ever loved me," bit.  If an ex did that to me I'd probably laugh in his face and hang up, if I even remembered his name.
It's a silly premise, silly, flat characters, and a boring, safe story.  Commercial, sure.  But not at all artistic, and too commercial to spend money on, because it's all too clear how it's going to end and even the mystery, which had so much promise, disappoints in the end.  But not to be too critical, at least it's readable.  The words themselves aren't too bad, it's just the plot that suffers.  Sorry, Barbara.  It was so very, very clear from reading those last twenty pages of first chapters that you have a formula, and it's not that good of one.  Challenge yourself a little... you'll enjoy it more.

Otherwise, I'm going to pick another book to review, which should be going live on Sunday.  I'm going to try to hold myself to two reviews a week, now that I don't have school for another six weeks and I haven't found a job yet.  Haven't been looking too hard, either, but don't tell anyone.  Top seller on Amazon is still... God damn it, it's the same book.  Okay, I'll check again tomorrow.  The same book?  Really?