Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Wicked Wager

The Wicked WagerThe Wicked Wager by Anya Wylde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy from the author herself. Thanks, Anya!

While sneaking out of a window to avoid being trapped into matrimony, Lord Richard Hamilton encounters Miss Emma Grey cursing inventively in the darkness and immediately falls in love with her. Because her uncle, the Duke of Arden, has his doubts about the match and wishes them to wait a year to marry, the young lovers agree to Richard's harebrained scheme to disguise himself as an elderly gardener so he can follow Emma to the duke's home and find a way to somehow compromise her, thereby forcing the wedding date to be moved up. Unsurprisingly, nothing goes quite as planned, and soon Richard's best friend is called in to pretend to be Richard, while the real Richard tries to avoid being blackmailed by the duke's widowed sister. Emma's cousin is dismayed to find herself pursued by Emma's supposed fiance, and he is horrified to find himself pursued by another of her houseguests.

I enjoyed this light historical-romance-turned-murder-mystery. It was fun, and the scene with the mouse in the breakfast room made me laugh out loud. The novel's tone reminded me often of Noel Coward plays: bordering on farcical. Willing suspension of disbelief is required, for there is simply no way an earl in 1800s England could ever hope to successfully masquerade as a duke's head gardener, not even to win a ridiculous wager. Ask anyone who's ever seen Gosford Park or Downton Abbey--servants had their own hierarchy, rules, patterns of speech, and customs, and no earl would ever have been able to fool any of them for a moment.

Still, the silliness was a breath of fresh air during a gloomy week in February, and thankfully Ms. Wylde didn't spend too much time describing the canoodling couples, as those sections often made my eyes roll.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary, setting is secondary. There are no real sex scenes, and only mild period swearing.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Still Life with Shape-Shifter

Still Life with Shape-Shifter (Shifting Circle, #2)Still Life with Shape-Shifter by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in this series is much better than the first, in my opinion. I found Melanie to be a more sympathetic character--the protective older sister who's practically raised her shape-shifting sister, Ann. Ann is young and heedless, fun-loving and full of enthusiasm. She doesn't worry about much of anything, whereas Melanie worries constantly. Enter Brody Westerbrook, a secondary character in book one, who is researching a book on shapeshifters, and all of Melanie's instincts go on high alert. Matters are soon complicated by their mutual attraction and Ann's mischievous impulse to invite Brody to go with them for lunch, dinner, and pie. Soon, though, Melanie starts noticing that Ann tires more easily, a concern echoed by Ann's boyfriend William, brother to Dante from the first book.

The chapters from Melanie's point of view alternate with chapters from Janet's point of view. Janet starts out as a teenage girl who has compassion for an injured wolf, first feeding and then bandaging his leg. Since this is a book about shapeshifters, it comes as no surprise to readers that the wolf is only a wolf half the time and the rest of the time is a teenage boy. The two develop a friendship and then fall in love, a relationship that continues even as Janet goes to college and graduate school.

It takes until nearly the end of the novel before the two storylines intersect. I kept waiting and waiting, trying to figure out how the characters were connected since they lived in separate states and didn't seem to have anything in common other than their loved ones' genetic trait of shapeshifting. Shinn left the timeline purposefully vague--it's not clear until the last couple of chapters when Janet's story actually takes place.

I am curious to see how many books Shinn writes in this series. This one has a lot of world-building aspects, establishing more rules and context for the existence of shapeshifters, more parameters and potential characters. I have a hard time knowing how to categorize it, as I can't quite bring myself to label it fantasy, although in many ways it is. I may change my mind later--who knows?

For readers' advisors: character doorway is primary, story secondary. There are a few sex scenes and some swearing. Nothing terribly explicit, though.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

99-cent Sale on His Good Opinion

To celebrate the release of her second novel, Nancy Kelley has put her first on sale for $0.99, but the sale is almost over.  And right now to publicize the sale, she's offering a giveaway of the paperback version:

If you'd rather just buy the ebook version of His Good Opinion while it's still $0.99, head on over to iBooks, Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, or, but hurry!  This offer ends Thursday night, Feb. 28, 2013.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride

Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride (Dark Angel #1-2)Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book would have scored a much higher rating in my mind had it not been for the sex--or rather, rape--scenes toward the end of each novella, particularly the first. I do not care if "exercising marital rights" is historically accurate; doing so while your new bride is sobbing and thinks you publicly humiliated her in order to trap her into marrying you will DESTROY YOUR MARRIAGE. It will not "save" it!! Even the character himself admits it feels like rape. Yes, that's because it IS rape! You do not have her consent. She hates you, and even if you are super gentle with her and make her body respond a little bit, that will just make her hate you even more!!

I really like Mary Balogh as an author, but these early novellas of hers should have been rewritten first or never seen the light of day ever again.

Dark Angel was a 4-star novella until the rape scene, and then it dropped to -10 stars.
Lord Carew's Bride was also a 4-star novella until the bordering-on-rape scene, and then it dropped to 2 stars.

The two novellas have intersecting characters, particularly the heroines who are cousins. Both start out imagining themselves in love with the same man, who turns out to be a total slimeball. I will not bother to summarize the plots. Goodreads and the back of the book do that well enough. I just want to be done with this book and move on. I'm so disappointed! They were so good at first....

For readers' advisors: story and character doorways, but skip this one in favor of her other works.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Every Day

Every DayEvery Day by David Levithan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be someone else? Have you ever wished to live a different life with a different family? To be a different person?

Every morning, A wakes up inside a different body. Sometimes boys, sometimes girls, but never the same person twice. The host body is always the same age A is, and always lives within a few hours of the previous host, but everything else is random, with no explanations. It has always been this way for A, and that's OK...until the day A wakes up in Justin's body and meets Rhiannon. Suddenly, experiencing someone else's life for a day is not enough. A has fallen in love and is desperate to spend more time with Rhiannon, even to the point of making the host bodies lie to their parents and friends and sneak away to her town, heedless of the consequences. A long ago gave up the dream of having a permanent family, yet now A's untethered soul craves connection like never before. But is it possible to love someone whose outside changes every day? How can they make this complicated existence work for a long-term relationship?

The concept of this book is what first grabbed my attention. What would it be like to inhabit someone else's body? Rely on his or her memories to navigate unfamiliar surroundings? Would you use your time to observe and learn, experience new things and new ways of life, or would you take over the body and direct it to serve your own desires? I loved how Levithan addressed the ethics and moral dilemmas unique to this story's premise, and I loved the perspective A has on life, especially life as a teenager--something real-life teenagers inherently lack. Books are windows to other worlds, and this one felt fresh, new, and imaginative.

For readers' advisors: character doorway is definitely primary, story secondary. There is one scene where A and Rhiannon nearly have sex, but it isn't graphic. Not really any bad language to speak of.

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