This one gets its own post because DUDE.
- Title: The Duke’s Match Girl
- Author: Lila DiPasqua
- Genre(s): Historical, Holiday
- Publisher: Self-Published, December 2013
- Source: Purchased (99¢)
- Length: 99 pages
- Trope(s): Smartass Heroine, Arrogant Aristocrat, Forgiveness & Redemption, Angry Sex, Makeup Sex,
- Quick blurb: Recently widowed duke goes on campaign to woo back his first and only love
- Grade: A (maybe an A+, need to read it again, might be lacking a big slobbery dog)
Your man has informed me of your offer. He was quite uncomfortable about relaying my response. It is for his ease that I put it to you here in writing. As to your offer — and say this with the utmost sincerity — you may take it, and insert it into your exalted posterior.
Drop whatever you are reading and READ THIS INSTEAD. No, really. Yes, the description says it’s a retelling of the Danish fairy tale, but trust me. I would never recommend a romance where the titular character freezes to death in a doorway.
Instead, it’s hilarious (the excerpt above is a mere hint) and madly sexy (as in angry makeup sex in a carriage) and breathtakingly romantic (I almost used “speechlessly” as the adjective but it sounded weird, which is kind of ironic when you think about it) with just the right amount of holiday seasoning.
Let’s just put it this way: The hero is a SMARMY ALPHA-HOLE AND I LIKED HIM ANYWAY. Christmas miracles, indeed.
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.
I’m back. Did you miss me? Don’t answer that.
- Title: The Sum of All Kisses
- Author: Julia Quinn
- Series: The Smythe-Smith Quartet, Book 3
- Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
- Publisher: Avon, October 2013
- Source: Purchased
- Length: 373 pages
- Trope(s): Enemies to Lovers, Big Misunderstanding, Evil In-Laws, Scarred/Injured for Life
- Quick blurb: Heroine who holds a grudge is forced into spending time with the man who (according to her) ruined her life.
- Quick review: This may end my auto-buy relationship with Ms. Quinn.
- Grade: C-
“I looked out my window,” he choked out. “I looked out my window at half bloody three in the morning, and there you were, gliding across the grass like some sort of erotic specter.”
Rolling along with a B-level grade — totally predictable with all the usual fluff and banter and light angst — and that lovely first kiss, and then… What the HELL happened? A ridiculously drawn-out Big Reveal sent the whole thing veering off the rails into a bad gothic melodrama like one written by Quinn’s fake-novelist creation Mrs. Gorely. I half-expected death by pigeon. Yeesh.
Yes, I’m still here. More or less.
I’ve been struggling with the anxiety and depression stuff the past few weeks, for which I prescribed myself a LOT of comfort reads, but I did manage to knock down a bit of my TBR. I’m too scatterbrained right now to do anything more coherent than ratings and drive-by comments, so here goes….
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.
A Dream Defiant by Susanna Fraser
- Title: A Dream Defiant
- Author: Susanna Fraser
- Series: N/A
- Genre(s): Historical (Regency)
- Publisher: Carina Press, July 2013
- Source: NetGalley
- Length: ~85 pages
- Trope(s): Forbidden Love, War Heroes and Widows, Family Matters
- Quick blurb: Black soldier delivers spoils of war to new widow and marries her for her protection
- Quick review: Too much story for the short format.
- Grade: B
He caught her hand. “Wait.” He slid his hands to the back of her neck, fumbling for the necklace’s clasp. He undid it and held the chain of rubies up, red and gold in the flickering candlelight. “No shackles for us,” he said, “no matter how rich.”
Loved the characters and premise, and Fraser managed to get a lot of emotion into less than 100 pages. But this story deserves more than a novella to avoid the rushed romance and resolution.
- Title: The Sweet Girl
- Author: Annabel Lyon
- Series: N/A
- Genre(s): Historical (Ancient Greece)
- Publisher: Knopf, June 2013
- Source: Public library (Overdrive epub)
- Length: 256 pages
- Trope(s): Daddy’s Girl, Bluestocking, Orphan, War & Peace, Gods & Goddesses
- Quick blurb: Aristotle’s brilliant and cosseted daughter is unprepared for real life when Alexander the Great’s death disrupts their household.
- Quick review: Odd and uncomfortable.
- Grade: D+
Herpyllis says when a man is at ease his testicles are tender, but when he’s excited they go wizened and tight. I don’t know if she’s trying to give me the world or take it away.
This short book attempts to tell a big story with tragedy and treachery and sinister deities (and yes, magical man parts are involved), and it isn’t very successful.
The modern YA voice, combined with the Fancy Allegorical Lit-Fic Pretensions, had me disconnected from beginning to end. Just because you CAN use first-person present-tense and anachronistic language to show off your textbook-level grasp of Greek history and mythology doesn’t mean you SHOULD.
As with The Pianist in the Dark, I want this story told by a different author. I’m not the right reader for this book — and I have no clue who the intended audience is.
- Title: Flowers from the Storm
- Author: Laura Kinsale
- Narrator: Nicholas Boulton
- Series: N/A
- Genre(s): Historical
- Publisher: Avon, 1992
- Source: Purchased ($2.99 ebook, $3.49 audiobook)
- Length: 565 pages (19 hours)
- Trope(s): Sheltered Spinster, Dukish Duke, Evil In-Laws, ANGST ANGST AND MORE ANGST (did I mention the ANGST?)
- Quick blurb: Sheltered Quaker woman feels called to help a notorious (but brilliant) duke when she finds him wrongfully imprisoned in her uncle’s asylum.
- Quick review: Go away and leave me alone. I’m still swooning.
- Grade: A- for story, A+ for narration
“It was an Opening,” she whispered.
“It was…you,” he said.
OH. MY. GOD. You people weren’t kidding about this book. Good lord. It’s going to take me months to recover my equilibrium, and god help whatever books I’m reading and listening to next.
The minus on the story grade is for the slight lag in the pacing after the [NO SPOILERS], and I wondered about Maddie being called “Duchess” instead of “Your Grace,” and I couldn’t figure out why her father didn’t play more of a role in her spiritual conundrum, but then I had to replay the last chapter three times because, you know, OH. MY. GOD.
[Gimme a sec, I need to swoon again: *~*SWOON*~* <thud>]
Sorry, where was I? With the wrong narrator, this audiobook would have been a disaster of epic proportions. Nicholas Boulton captured Jervaulx’s anger and anguish — and Maddy’s longing and confusion — so bloody brilliantly I had my headphones on all night for four nights straight. And I stayed up until 3 o’clock this morning and I don’t care if I fall asleep at my desk and drool on my keyboard.
These characters, and all their lovely, glorious angst, will live with me — and I can’t think of much higher praise for an author than that.
- Title(s): The Bronze Bow
- Author: Elizabeth George Speare
- Series: N/A
- Genre(s): Historical, Young Adult
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 1961
- Source: Purchased ($1.99 ebook promo, $1.99 audio)
- Length: 256 pages (7.5 hours)
- Trope(s): Coming of Age, Angry Young Man, Revenge and Redemption
- Quick blurb: Young blacksmith’s dreams of avenging his father’s death are disrupted by the unwanted responsibilities of adulthood — and his encounters with a charismatic traveling preacher.
- Quick review: Now THIS is how to write historical fiction.
- Grade: B+ for story, A for narration
He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
This book won the Newbery Medal in 1962, and I can’t believe I’ve never read it before. The historical world-building is utterly enthralling, and narrator Pete Bradbury made the complex characters vivid and unique — I was there every minute, and there were more than a few times I lingered in the parking lot when I arrived at work to listen just a few minutes longer.
The plot went in directions I never expected, and I loved how the secondary characters grew and changed — even more so than the main character. Just when you think Daniel has finally gotten his head out of his nether regions, he has another hissy fit about something and must begin his spiritual and emotional journey all over again. My frustrations with his self-centered cluelessness lowered the grade a bit, but this book might just have a place on the DIK list.