I guess it’s not really “full snark.” It’s more like half-snark with vitriolic overtones of CAPSLOCK OF RAGE.
- Title: A Light in the Window: An Irish Christmas Love Story
- Author: Julie Lessman
- Genre(s): Historical,
- Publisher: Ten Talents Press, November 2012
- Source: Purchased (99¢ promo)
- Length: 407 pages
- Trope(s): DON’T EVEN ASK .
- Quick blurb: DON’T MAKE ME GO THERE.
- Quick review: WHAT PART OF “CAPSLOCK OF RAGE” ARE YOU NOT UNDERSTANDING?
- Grade: DNF
He flinched. “I have faith,” he said, a bristle of hurt in his voice.
“Yes, of course you do,” she said quickly, gaze gentle as she tapped a finger to her head. “Up here.” She slowly slid a hand to her heart, taking great pains to soften her words. “But based on what I know of a man of your ilk, I worry that it doesn’t live here.” She studied the confusion in his face and tried again. “I believe that in your mind, your faith is deep—doctrine, precepts, catechism—but when it comes to living it?” Her smile was sad as she curled her hand over her chest. “I suspect it may be heart shallow.”
Yes, it’s THAT BAD. If this were a movie (God help us, and I mean that literally), the tagline would be “She has a License to Judge — and she know how to use it.”
The only thing “inspirational” about this book is my overwhelming desire to tell the Saint Mary Sue “heroine” to TAKE HER UNBEARABLE SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS and STUFF IT SOMEWHERE UNSPEAKABLE and go somewhere FAR, FAR AWAY.
That smarmy smile on the cover model’s face? It’s THAT for the ENTIRE BOOK. It’s being HIT OVER THE HEAD with SANCTIMONIOUS PREACHING in every. freaking. chapter. I skimmed ahead in hopes of the “heroine” finding herself in need of enlightenment and redemption, but of course not. She’s PIOUS. She’s VIRTUOUS. And she makes sure everyone around her knows it.
I DETEST (and that’s putting it mildly) the “You’re Not Worthy of Love Until You’re as Godly as Me” inspie trope, and this book is built on PILES AND PILES of that HOLIER-THAN-THOU HYPOCRISY. It’s ironic — and not in a good way — to find such a pharisaic message glorified and rewarded in a Christmas novel.
I am now wishlisting books by narrator. I am officially addicted.
That would be “highly recommended” as in “read this NOW, dammit, your life is meaningless without this book.”
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Narrated by Allan Corduner
I avoided this for years because it’s told from Death’s point of view. I was a dumbass. It’s stunning. From start to finish. I can’t even begin to count how many times I nearly drove off the road trying to bookmark a “holy SHIT, that was good” passage.
It’s one of those books that uses language in an entirely unique way. I kept thinking the title should be “The Word Thief” instead, because Zusak somehow manages to turn seemingly simple words and phrases into characters in their own right. Just read the prologue in the sample, you’ll see what I mean.
Falling for the Teacher by Dorothy Clark
- Title: Falling for the Teacher
- Author: Dorothy Clark
- Series: Pinewood Weddings
- Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical (1841 Upstate New York)
- Publisher: Harlequin, September 2013
- Category: Love Inspired Historical
- Source: NetGalley
- Length: 288 pages
- Trope(s): Tragic Past, Small Town, Extreme Self-Doubt
- Quick blurb: Schoolteacher returns home to care for her ailing grandparents and finds the brother of her rapist managing the family business.
- Quick review: Really annoyed with the heroine in the beginning, but chemistry and character development turned this into an unexpectedly emotional read.
- Grade: B
He rose and looked down into her eyes. “Sadie….”
Her name was a gruff plea from his constricted throat – her answer a barely heard whisper. Time was lost in his need to comfort her, to protect her, to love her forever. He sucked in a breath, fighting his heart with every bit of strength he possessed and hating himself for winning the battle. “I’ll see you safe to the house.”
I struggled with Sadie’s overwrought, baseless accusations in the first third of the book, but as Cole slowly wins her over, we get the backstory details we need to root for their HEA.
Read these. All of them.
Especially this first one. IT’S FABULOUSLY GOOD AND IT WON THE RITA AND IT’S FREE.
Did I mention the part about it being FREE?
Just read it already.
- Title: Against the Tide
- Author: Elizabeth Camden
- Genre(s): Historical, Inspiration
- Publisher: Bethany House, October 2012
- Source: Publisher
- Length: 362 pages
- Trope(s): Enigmatic Loner Hero, Tough but Nearly Desperate Heroine, Villain With a Fatal Weakness, Kidnapping, Addiction
- Quick blurb: Naval translator gets drawn into a former opium smuggler’s quest for redemption.
- Quick review: Another one for the “Written JUST FOR ME” category.
- Grade: A-
I’m always on the hunt for new and different in romance, and when it comes in the form of an inspirational historical suspense story centering on the opium trade in late 19th-century Boston – with a gorgeous cover as a bonus – I am helpless to resist.
I’ve read Against the Tide three times now, and I’ve been sitting on this review for months because I’m both enthralled and a bit conflicted. The characters are complex and memorable, and the setting and suspense had me in a full-on book trance even on the second and third reads. Only one element in the narrative bothered me enough to add a minus instead of a plus to the letter grade, but it’s one that’s central to the story.
- Title: Unrivaled
- Author: Siri Mitchell
- Series: N/A
- Genre(s): Inspirational, Historical (1910 U.S.)
- Publisher: Bethany House, March 2013
- Source: NetGalley ($9.99 ebook)
- Length: 384 pages
- Trope(s): Family Drama, Reluctant Debutante, Reluctant Heir
- Quick blurb: St. Louis debutante tries desperately to save her ailing father’s beloved candy company, but struggles with her feelings for their rival’s son.
- Quick review: Fun historical premise and setting, memorable characters and complex conflicts — but not my favorite by Mitchell
- Grade: B
“I’ve always thought a meringue is a thing like hope, buoyed as they they are plenty of hot air. A bit pretentious at the start, don’t you think?” He settled his hands on his chest. “But that let that hope wait, let that resolve harden for a while…. Leave the oven door closed, and something wonderful happens. You just have to be willing to wait for it.”
I’d recommend this book for the historical world-building alone. Mitchell combines the early 1900s time period with the drama of rival family businesses to create a unique atmosphere that’s light-hearted and restless and constantly evolving — just like her main characters.
The one thing this book was lacking was a cohesive faith message. I love the low-key and understated spirituality in all of Mitchell’s books, but concentrating all of it in one secondary character — especially one who talks in circles — made it seem like an afterthought instead of an integral part of the story.
- Title: Somewhere to Call Home
- Author: Janet Lee Barton
- Series/Category: Love Inspired Historical
- Genre(s): Historical (1890s US), Inspirational
- Publisher: Harlequin, October 2012
- Source: Amazon ($3.82 ebook)
- Length: 288 pages
- Trope(s): Small-Town Girl, Private Detective, Mean Girl, Evil Banker
- Quick blurb: Miss Mary Sue McGoodytwoshoes in the big city.
- Quick review: I am restraining myself from unleashing the snark — but only because I couldn’t even finish it.
- Grade: DNF
I made it to about 40%, and nothing had happened. Zero tension, zero drama, and zero indication of what the actual conflict might be. There was, however, plenty to make fun of.
I’m only going Half-Snark on this because (a) I didn’t finish it; and (b) it’s an inspirational. But all the ingredients of a “This Is Why People Make Fun of Harlequins” are there. Trust me.