Page to Screen: Adam’s Review of The Great Gatsby

gatsby-original-cover-artWhat defines a book as a “must read?” Is it that regardless of how old it is, people still relate to the story or still care about the characters? Or is it that one influential person really liked it and proclaimed it a “must read” and people listened?  One such “must read” (which for me was basically a “to-read” until I saw a movie trailer for it) was The Great Gatsby. Once I saw the trailer for the Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby, I couldn’t believe I had never read the book. It seemed like a giant party set in the context of the roaring 20’s (my favorite time in American history.) The complexity of the story seemed intriguing and I knew I had to check it out from the library. I read it in less than 48 hours and was obsessed with everything about it. I loved the characters, I loved the love story, I loved the symbolism, and I just loved the simple, yet complex feel of the work overall. I was told there was a movie version of it already made, but that it was not a great translation from page to screen. Even so, I wanted to try it out on my own and see if my new favorite novel could become my new favorite movie.

Sadly, for once I have to agree with the critics. From the moment I started watching the movie, I automatically felt a disconnected to it. Lost was the magical world Fitzgerald created, gone were the extravagant parties I wanted a time machine to witness, and sadly, most everything else special about the book seemed to be missing. I just couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. How could this movie have gone so wrong? Francis Ford Coppola, the genius behind the Godfather trilogy, wrote it and was a huge factor in bringing it to the screen. With a cast like Mia Farrow, Robert Redford, and Sam Waterston in the lead roles, the characters should have jumped off the screen and been bought to life. Out of the three main actors, the only one I truly believed in his/her role was Sam Waterston as the narrator Nick Carraway. He was able to portray the every-man really well.

Gatsby 1974

The magic aura and appeal of Gatsby and Daisy were lost in the translation from page to screen. These two characters are pertinent to the story, and if you miscast them you might as well not make the movie, as their story is the heart and soul of the novel/movie. Redford as Gatsby didn’t have any mystery to him. He didn’t seem like someone who was unattainable, and something about his character just was lost. He didn’t have that magic feeling about him, he just seemed like an average Joe with a really nice house. I’m trying to think if it was his acting or if it was just Redford in general, but either way he didn’t seem like the Gatsby I envisioned. When I was reading the novel, all I could think of was a young Warren Beatty or Marlon Brando playing Gatsby. They seem so clouded with mystery that I think they would have effectively portrayed one of the greatest literary characters ever written. Mia Farrow was also horribly miscast as Daisy, the lost love of Gatsby, who in a way is the original Kim Kardashian. She has no responsibility; she goes around from guy to guy, party to party, not caring about anyone’s feelings but her own. Mia Farrow seemed too white bread to play this character. In the book, she’s described as the most beautiful woman in the world, a Greek Goddess. Perfection. I couldn’t help but envision a blonde Natalie Wood or Faye Dunaway playing this character. Someone with a little bit more substance to them, but not Mia Farrow.

The-Great-Gatsby3

One hope I have for the new Baz Luhrmann version is that the magic is ignited and visible throughout the story. There is something so classic about the story, yet it also feels so modern. I think the incorporation of modern music, modern themes, and modern special effects really do the original story justice. I loved Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet as it was a fresh take on a classic story.  It still had the heart of soul of Shakespeare, but was a new and interesting way to present the story. I am already enjoying the trailers I’ve seen because it seems like they finally got it right. Gatsby seems like that mysterious figure, that person that no one really knows. I really hope Luhrmann is able to keep this mystery alive. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out a hot mess like the previous version.

Book: 6 out of 5 Stars

Movie: 1 out of 5 Stars

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scribner
Paperback: 192 pages
ISBN: 9780743273565

The Great Gatsby (1974)
Paramount Pictures
PG, 144 minutes

Kim and Kelly’s Review of Rush (Breathless #1) by Maya Banks

rmbJoining me on the blog today is my best reading buddy Kelly, of Reading With Analysis.  Our last dueling review, on Tessa Dare’s Stud Club Trilogy, showcased how romance novels could have depth (in case you didn’t read it, we love deep romance novels).  When we heard about a new erotica trilogy by author Maya Banks called The Breathless Trilogy we figured we had our next book to duel over.  We both read Rush (book one) and had similar feelings about the characters and story overall.  We decided that we wanted to write an open letter to women who are thinking of entering into a relationship similar to the one showcased in Rush.  First, the plot!

From Goodreads: Gabe, Jace, and Ash: three of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the country. They’re accustomed to getting anything they want. Anything at all. For Gabe, it’s making one particular fantasy come true with a woman who was forbidden fruit. Now she’s ripe for the picking…

When Gabe Hamilton saw Mia Crestwell walk into the ballroom for his hotel’s grand opening, he knew he was going to hell for what he had planned. After all, Mia is his best friend’s little sister. Except she’s not so little anymore. And Gabe has waited a long time to act on his desires.

Gabe has starred in Mia’s fantasies more than once, ever since she was a teenager with a huge crush on her brother’s best friend. So what if Gabe’s fourteen years older? Mia knows he’s way out of her league, but her attraction has only grown stronger with time. She’s an adult now, and there’s no reason not to act on her most secret desires.

As Gabe pulls her into his provocative world, she realizes there’s a lot she doesn’t know about him or how exacting his demands can be. Their relationship is intense and obsessive, but as they cross the line from secret sexual odyssey to something deeper, their affair runs the risk of being exposed—and vulnerable to a betrayal far more intimate than either expected.

Dear Woman Who Deserves Better Than What She’s Signing Up For,

We really want to see you with a man who deserves you.  Therefore you should know that if any of the following statements ring true for your relationship, something’s wrong.

  • Did you have to sign a contract with your new “significant other?”
    • If part of the negotiations require you getting him to agree to fidelity to just you…..something’s wrong (especially when there is a whole paragraph about your fidelity to him!)
    • If you need your “significant other’s” permission to hang out with your friends, something’s wrong.
      • If you’re not allowed to speak to your friends about your relationship, something’s wrong.
      • If you get permission to hang out with your friends, and your “significant other” still gets upset because alcohol is involved, something’s wrong.  You’re in your twenties. Live it the fuck up.
    • If your contract stipulates that all your physical and financial needs will be met in return for your ceding all control over yourself and your functions, but said contract makes no mention at all of your emotional well-being, something’s wrong.
    • If your contract states that it’s totally OK for your “significant other” to share you, occasionally, with other people, and you’re not quite sure what that means, so you have to ask about it, something’s wrong.
      • If you might be on the positive side of ambivalent, once it’s explained, that’s cool. But if, when the sharing happens, you aren’t in possession of the full facts, and it’s awful, and it happens anyway, something’s wrong.
        • If your “significant other” shares you without your permission and you get upset, and his response is to just take you on a shopping spree….something’s wrong.
  • So, you’re having sex with your “significant other.”  If he’s constantly shouting at you to give him your eyes, something’s wrong. I mean really, those are your eyes! Why should you give them up?
  • While at the office, if your “significant other” says, “Hey, come over here. I’m going to put this butt plug in you, and you’re going to wear it all day,” something’s wrong. Seriously girl, that’s your butt. What if it’s Mexican lunch day in the office? You gotta say no to that chili because he wants those plugs in you all day? Hells no.
  • If your “significant other” says “I’m looking forward to f**king this sweet ass” more than once (and that once is only if there’s a lot of alcohol involved), something’s wrong.
  • If your “significant other” starts hitting on his dad’s girlfriend, like right in front of you, and you’re like, “What?!” and you leave, and then your “significant other” gets all kinds of angry at you for leaving that shit, something’s wrong.
  • If your “significant other” basically rapes your mouth because he’s too impatient to let you go at your own pace, something’s wrong.
  • If your “significant other” constantly asks you, “Did you eat?” GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE. Your fast metabolism won’t last forever and you’ll just end up obese with the amount of food he keeps plying you with.
  • If your “significant other” wants to pay you an outrageous sum of money so that you’ll be his beck and call girl (and butt-plug recipient), something’s wrong. You’re not a prostitute. You shouldn’t be treated as such.
  • If you have to pay the piper for all the stupid shit your “significant other’s” ex-wife did, something’s wrong.  That’s his baggage, girl, and it shouldn’t have anything to do with you.

As we said earlier, something’s wrong if these statements describe your relationship.  We’d be more than happy to help you get out and find someone much more worthy of you.

With sincere love,

Kelly & Kim

Kim: Now Kelly and I aren’t here to tear the WHOLE book up.  We both thought that Banks’ writing wasn’t terrible. I personally felt that there was a lot of repetition in the story.  Many of the same character traits are repeated over and over and over. Gabe is divorced. Gabe had a divorce. Gabe felt bad that he was rough with Mia. Mia couldn’t believe Gabe was so unrestrained with her. Gabe thinks about how Mia’s brother would feel if he knew how rough he was with her. On and on the repetition went.

Kelly: It’s true.  Banks wrote in complete sentences at a mostly upper-grade reading level, but the sentences were stilted and awkward.  Mia had liked Gabe in the past.  She had spent a lot of time thinking about him.  He had been attracted to her for a long time.  That kind of phrasing is present throughout the entire book, and after awhile, it got a little exhausting to read it.  I longed for a simple, clear, direct, active sentence. Probably, what I most longed for was another round of editing to make the prose more pleasant to read.

Kim: Besides the stilted and repetitive prose, I had a really hard time connecting with the characters (both main and side ones).  First and foremost, Gabe is supposed to be this hot domineering character.  Instead he comes off as a HUGE ass. He’s cold, hard, unyielding, and does what’s in his best interest ALWAYS.  I won’t tell you what happened in Paris, but suffice it to say those events solidified my dislike of the novel more than anything else.

Kelly: Yeah, it was really hard to take Gabriel seriously as the hero in this one, because he’s not remotely heroic.  He doesn’t even do a great job of being all smoldery in his alpha maleness, because he’s too busy making sure that he comes across as an alpha male (when, in actuality, he’s too caught up being wounded about how his marriage didn’t work out).  For example: “‘So impatient,’ he said, amusement in his voice.  ‘We do this my way, Mia. You forget so easily. I want….you as badly as you want me there, but I’m enjoying every second of having you tied up and in my bed. As soon as I get….inside you, I’m not going to last long, so I’m going to savor every second.’”  Isn’t that romantic?  I’ve always fantasized about having a man who won’t last long in the sack.

Mia was also a bit difficult to connect with, mostly because Gabriel was such an asshole. It’s hard to feel admiration for anyone who’d put up with his shit.  She’s not nearly as spineless as some female characters in erotic novels (coughAnacough), but I certainly wouldn’t call her a strong character. I mean, honestly… she signs that damn contract and enters into a “something” with Gabe knowing that it’s not really a relationship, and there isn’t a satisfactory reason given for that.  I don’t know a lot of ladies who would put themselves in that kind of situation without any kind of security at all, and I just couldn’t comprehend Mia’s motivations.

Kim: Yes! I definitely don’t see Mia as a strong willed woman.  She seemed extremely spineless to me and was willing to let Gabe walk all over her just so she could be with him.  I’m sorry, but to me that’s pathetic and desperate.  You’ve been pining over this guy for a long time, get the chance to be with him, and he acts like a jerk! Are you really so obsessed with having a relationship with him that you’re willing to sacrifice any and all self-respect?

Kelly: I also had a few problems with the secondary characters.  I totally get that Banks had to set up the next few books in the series, but there were a lot of references (repetitive ones) to Jace’s and Ash’s backgrounds that were completely distracting in this story.  I was like, “Great, so Ash doesn’t like his family. Fantastic. What does that have to do with whether or not Mia gets fucked in her sweet ass during this encounter with Gabe?”

Kim: TRUE STORY. I too understand about setting up a series, but even the storylines with Mia’s stalker and Gabe’s ex-wife went absolutely nowhere.  They created conflict where none was needed.  I truly felt that with a bit more editing and some cuts to the storyline here and there, the book would have appealed to me more. I can’t say that I would have loved it, because I can’t love a book if I don’t love its characters. And I definitely didn’t love Gabe and Mia.

Kelly: I’d like to bring up one of the weirdest things about this book: the difference (sometimes huge) between what the reader knows (or is thinking) and what the characters know (or are feeling).  For example, there’s a scene in the second half of the book where the reader is privy to Gabe’s thoughts and motivations (both pretty awful), but Mia isn’t.  When the situation blows up all over everything, Mia’s rather quick to forgive Gabe, because she doesn’t actually know how awful it really was, but the reader does.  And the reader is like, dude… that guy is SUCH an asshole… (and he never tells Mia, so the reader goes into the super sappy happy ending knowing he’s a dick, but to Mia, he’s a great catch. Yuck.)  Also, during all the butt plug moments, the characters are both pretty caught up in how awesome and super sexy it is that Gabe keeps shoving things up Mia’s ass.  As a reader, though, I couldn’t get past this thought: “What if she has to poo?”  It completely pulled me out of the story.

Kim: YES TO ALL OF THIS. I think that’s the main reason I couldn’t cheer for this couple.  We know WAY more about Gabe than Mia does.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) we’ve both opted out of continuing with this series.  We have heard from several fans of Bank’s works that this isn’t her best.  Being the open-minded individuals that we are, we’ve decided to try her Sweet Series out.  We’ll be dueling book one in the series, Sweet Surrender, within the next few weeks, so keep an eye out. (Remember, it’s your eyes. You don’t have to give them up!)

Kim: 1 out of 5 Stars
Kelly: 2 out of 5 Stars

Rush by Maya Banks
Penguin Group (2013)
eBook 416 pages
ISBN: 9781101620366

Christine’s Review of The Cottage by Alan K. Austin

I love Shakespeare.  And like any red-blooded American, I love a good conspiracy theory.  Conspiracy theories are the backbone of this country.  Since I am not only an American, but also a lover of English literature, I love conspiracy theories about who was the “true” author of Shakespeare’s plays.  So when I was offered The Cottage to read and review, I thought it was a perfect match.

The Cottage is a mystery novel that revolves around Jack Duncan, a documentary filmmaker, who is trying to get to the bottom of the Shakespeare conspiracy whilst also trying to solve the mystery of what happened to his missing fiancée. If that sounds a bit odd and like it doesn’t tie in together–it’s because it doesn’t. The mystery and plots of The Cottage are so disjointed and confusing, that I honestly don’t know how to write a decent summary of this book. So I’ll just give you the official summary.

Filmmaker Jack Duncan knows almost nothing about Terri Osborne, but is so entranced by her that he proposes, and, to his surprise, she accepts. Celebrating in an Omaha restaurant known as a hangout for actors, Duncan is distracted by a stranger who tries to interest him in filming a story about a mystery hundreds of years old. While his back is turned, Terri vanishes—from both the present and, it seems, from the past, as though she had existed for only a few months.

Duncan eventually summons police for help in finding Terri, but then realizes that he is their main suspect in her disappearance. As his arrest seems imminent he is sent to England to oversee a filmed quest for the “real” Shakespeare. But Duncan’s “escape” to England is not so lucky after all. The Keepers of the Shakespeare Myth have some nasty surprises waiting for him. And the pleasant old literary mystery leads him straight into a timeless nightmare in which no one can be trusted and he himself may be the villain.

The investigation in Nebraska becomes inexplicably intertwined with the mysteries in England and a race ensues to determine who will be lucky enough to destroy Jack Duncan and bury the truth about Shakespeare for good.

I was so confused by the end of this book that I honestly didn’t know how to approach this review. So I’m just going to give it you straight. The characters are one-dimensional.  The plot and subplots make little to no sense.  Towards the end of the book, we are introduced to even more plot with regards to Jack Duncan’s life and his missing fiancée and we leave the Shakespeare conspiracy behind entirely.  It came out of left field and left me yelling “WHAT?!” at my copy of the book.  In the end, it just made me want to watch Shakespeare and read conspiracy theories on Wikipedia, which I did.  For what it’s worth, Christopher Plummer in The Tempest is wonderful and I still subscribe to the “Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare” theory. I recommend forgetting about the question of authorship and enjoying a night at your local community’s summer production of a Shakespeare play. Trust me, they are everywhere and they are more enjoyable than The Cottage.

1 out of 5 stars

The Cottage by Alan K. Austin
iUniverse (2011)
Paperback: 224 pages
ISBN: 9781462068692

Special thanks to Sandy from Author Solutions for sending me my review copy!

Playing Catch Up: Romance Edition – Round 2

So I read a LOT of books.  I’m up to 100, but I’ve only reviewed 78.  Life has been really hectic recently with my sister’s wedding coming up, followed by my trip to Mexico soon after.  In an effort to get myself organized before I leave, I’m trying to catch up 100% on my reviews before I leave. With that being said, here is another catch up post of several more romance novels I’ve recently read!

#79 The Marriage Bargain (Marriage to a Billionaire #1) by Jennifer Probst – summary from Goodreads

To save her family home, impulsive bookstore owner, Alexa Maria McKenzie, casts a love spell. But she never planned on conjuring up her best friend’s older brother—the powerful man who once shattered her heart.

Billionaire Nicholas Ryan doesn’t believe in marriage, but in order to inherit his father’s corporation, he needs a wife and needs one fast. When he discovers his sister’s childhood friend is in dire financial straits, he’s offers Alexa a bold proposition.

A marriage in name only with certain rules: Avoid entanglement. Keep things all business. Do not fall in love. The arrangement is only for a year so the rules shouldn’t be that hard to follow, right?  Except fate has a way of upsetting the best-laid plans…

There is a definite reason that The Marriage Bargain has been listed on NY Times bestselling ebook list week after week….it’s Probst’s stellar storytelling capabilities!  Alexa and Nick are “puzzle box” characters.  The more you learn about them the more you realize how much you don’t know about them.  It takes a while to fit all their pieces together, but eventually you learn enough about them to get inside their heads and hearts and understand their motives and actions.

Nick is really messed up because of his father.  He doesn’t believe in getting attached to anyone because he doesn’t think he is worth anyone’s love, and also doesn’t think he has the strength to stay in a relationship.  Alexa is fiercely loyal to those she loves, and will do anything and everything in her power to save them, including entering into a loveless marriage.  To see Alexa and Nick try to sift through all their personal issues while trying to understand what is happening to them as a couple….well it’s an interestingly bumpy ride.

Final Thoughts: Read it. (There are lots of cute animals in it too!)

4 out of 5 Stars

The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst
Entangled Publishing (2012)
eBook: 414 pages
ISBN: 2940013903296

#80 Intentions of the Earl (Scandalous Sisters #1) by Rose Gordon – summary from Goodreads

When the impoverished Andrew Black, Earl of Townson, hits rock bottom, he makes an agreement that will end his eight year poverty streak once and for all. In order to gain his fortune he must do but one simple thing: ruin an innocent girl’s reputation enough to make her flee to America.

Brooke Banks isn’t interested in marriage, or so she thinks. She came to London to have a good time, and that’s exactly what she’s doing. Widely known for her tendency to flout the rules, she suspects nothing when a handsome stranger appears on her doorstep.

Thirteen days, a handful of kisses and one scandalous situation later, Andrew and Brooke will have to choose to stick to their original plans, or decide if a life together is worth the risk.

Brooke is so much fun to read.  She completely bucks what society expects of a proper woman, refusing to be anything but herself. (A woman after my own heart!)  It’s refreshing to read about a woman of Brooke’s strength, as there are many times the heroines of romance novels are wishy-washy and just do as society expects.  Andrew is another unconventional choice in that he is an anti-hero at first.  You root for him and Brooke along the way and hope that he begins to see some sense and stop his deceitful plan.

Final Thoughts: The story is good as are the characters.  The editing is a bit poor in this eBook, and can make for a jarring read at times.

3 out of 5 Stars

Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon
Rose Gordon (2011)
eBook: 749 pages
ISBN: 2940032922674

#81 Liberty for Paul (Scandalous Sisters #2) by Rose Gordon – summary from Goodreads

Liberty Banks loves revenge almost as much as she hates one Mister Paul Grimes, who, she considers to be the most improper creature she has ever clapped eyes upon. But when her plans for revenge against Paul go bust, she suddenly finds herself walking down the aisle to him.

Once married, a battle of the wills breaks out as each tries to reform the other. Liberty wants nothing more than to have a proper husband. And, much to Liberty’s dismay, Paul will stop at nothing to have is all too proper wife do something–anything–to break the rules of society, specifically do the most improper thing imaginable which is to fall in love with the most improper man: her own husband.

Not really sure where to even go with this one. Liberty may be the most annoying heroine I’ve ever read.  She misconstrues every conversation and act from Paul and honestly after the first few chapters it was really annoying.  I found myself banging my head against a wall with Liberty’s antics.  The only reason I finished this one was so that I could continue on to book 3, To Win His Wayward Wife.  I wasn’t sure if I needed the preceding plot to understand the story of book 3.  I can happily tell you that you don’t.

Final Thoughts: Skip book 2.  Stick with 1 and 3.

1 out of 5 Stars

Liberty for Paul by Rose Gordon
TALC Publishing (2011)
eBook: 208 pages
ISBN: 2940013450943

#82 To Win His Wayward Wife (Scandalous Sisters #3) by Rose Gordon – summary from Goodreads

Not to be outdone by her sisters’ marriage-producing scandals, quiet and withdrawn Madison Banks quickly finds herself walking down the aisle to a man who has secretly loved her for years.

Her groom, however, has no idea how to show his new bride that he truly loves her and following a bungled wedding night, finds himself in a position to either win his wife once and for all or lose her forever.

Can he prove himself worthy of her? Will she accept his love? Or will jealousy and past insecurities tear the pair apart?

Unarguably the best in the trilogy.  Gordon’s writing capabilities have evidently grown leaps and bounds from books 1 & 2.  Even the editing of the eBook has significantly improved.  Even if you were to take all the improved writing away, Madison and her groom (I won’t say who it is, because it’s a surprise) are the most fascinating of the three couples.  Madison’s past is heartbreaking.  The one man she thought she could love rejected her, leaving her in the clutches of  a boy she used to be infatuated with.  By the time she realized Robbie would never be marrying her she had other problems on her hands, as well as a crushed soul.  Her life in America was truly sorrow- filled.  She is definitely the sister you cheer for, hoping that somewhere along the way she’ll find true love.  Her husband has a nasty reputation, but a huge secret that could change Madison’s family’s view of him.  Watching him try to court his wife and win her heart, well it’s the stuff good romances are made of.

Final thoughts: Madison’s a worthy heroine with a worthy love story you don’t want to miss.

4 out of 5 Stars

To Win His Wayward Wife by Rose Gordon
TALC Publishing (2011)
eBook: 213 pages
ISBN: 2940013450950

#83 Lord of Vengeance by Lara Adrian – summary from Goodreads

Taken captive by Gunnar Rutledge, a dark knight sworn to destroy her father, Raina d’Bussy must teach forgiveness to a man who knows no mercy and lives only to exact revenge on his enemy. But time in Gunnar’s keep stirs an unwanted passion in Raina, and something far more perilous, when she finds herself falling in love with the one man she should never desire.

For Gunnar, vengeance is all that matters. He seeks the ultimate price from his enemy’s beautiful young daughter, claiming Raina as his hostage. But the proud beauty defies him at every turn, tempting him like no other. Setting out to break Raina’s glorious spirit, Gunnar instead finds himself bewitched by her goodness, her strength. Can he seize the justice he is due without losing Raina forever?

Wow.  The chemistry between Gunnar and Raina is absolutely sizzling.  Adrian writes their growing attraction in a first-rate manner.  Neither is sure how they should feel towards the other because of Gunnar’s vow of vengeance against Raina’s father.  Raina should hate Gunnar but finds herself strangely attracted to him, all the while growing more and more suspicious of her father’s past as memories from her childhood resurface.  The inner turmoil and conflict that Raina deals with are exquisitely written and are among the best passages in Adrian’s work.

Adrian’s secondary characters are all enticing additions to the story line.  Nigel’s character is a great addition to the conflict already existing between Gunnar and d’Bussy.  His conflicting personality is like a poison, affecting everyone it touches: Gunnar, Raina, d’Bussy, and Burc.  No one is safe from his demonic nature.  In essence Nigel and Gunnar have many similarities.  They are both hellbent on seeking vengeance, but where one begins the see the light, darkness completely engulfs the other.  They’re interesting antithesis of each other.

Final Thoughts: If my thoughts above haven’t sold you on trying this book, nothing will. TRY IT!

5 out of 5 Stars

Lord of Vengeance by Lara Adrian
Lara Adrian, LLC (2012)
eBook: 1,074 pages
ISBN: 2940014484893

Playing Catch Up: Novella Edition

Continuing on with my trend of catching up on reviews, I present the novella edition!  A lot of the books/series I’ve been reading lately have had novellas attached to them, helping me increase my total reads for the year.  Even though they’re shorter in length I still believe they deserve to be counted towards my total goal.  (Some of them are really freaking good!) So, without further ado….

#70 Once Upon A Winter’s Eve (Spindle Cove #1.5) by Tessa Dare – summary from Goodreads:

Violet Winterbottom is a quiet girl. She speaks six languages, but seldom raises her voice. She endured bitter heartbreak in perfect silence. The gentlemen aren’t beating down her door.  Until the night of the Spindle Cove Christmas ball, when a mysterious stranger crashes into the ballroom and collapses at Violet’s feet. His coarse attire and near-criminal good looks would put any sensible young lady on her guard. He’s wet, chilled, bleeding, and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue.   Only Violet understands him. And she knows he’s not what he seems.  She has one night to draw forth the secrets of this dangerously handsome rogue. Is he a smuggler? A fugitive? An enemy spy? She needs answers by sunrise, but her captive would rather seduce than confess. To learn his secrets, Violet must reveal hers—and open herself to adventure, passion, and the unthinkable… Love.

The amazing thing about Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series are the heroines.  At first glance they are a mish-mosh of odd women.  They’re shy wallflowers and women interested in science; they’re the women that don’t fit into “normal” society.  Dare gives these women a safe place (Spindle Cove) to come into their own, heal from the pain of being outsiders from society, etc.  It’s her use of the unusual heroine and their creative backstories that make this series so special.  Dare’s superb writing style is also something to note here.  This novella runs at an extremely fast pace, but Violet’s story is so enchanting that you don’t mind.  I can’t tell you about the hero of the story, as it’ll ruin the surprise, but suffice it to say he’s proof that the cards life deals to us aren’t always what we expect.  But, with time and an open mind and heart, we can learn lessons from each instance and grow.

Final thoughts: Add this novella AND this series to your to-read list. (Book one is A Night to Surrender and book two is A Week To Be Wicked)

5 out of 5 Stars

Once Upon A Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare
Samhain Publishing, Ltd (2011)
eBook: 233 pages
ISBN: 9781609288822

#71 Forevermore (Jewel Trilogy #2.5) by Lauren Royal – summary from Goodreads:

England, 1667

Sensible Clarice Bradford is content in her widowhood. She has a pretty one-room cottage and a lovely little daughter, and the last thing she wants is another husband. Until one fairytale evening when she’s invited to a wedding at a castle…

Scottish gentleman Sir Cameron Leslie is smitten with the shy, English beauty at first sight. He’s fiercely drawn to the very strength and independence that make her unwilling to throw caution to the wind and bestow her heart on a younger man. Though passion flares between them, it will take everything Cameron can muster to reawaken Clarice’s long-forgotten dreams of true love…

Forevermore is part of Lauren Royal’s Jewel Trilogy.  The events take place after books one and two (Amethyst and Emerald) but before book three (Amber). Royal, as we’ve come to expect from her, gives us amazingly tortured characters that we can’t help but fall in love with.  

Clarice is a woman who was dealt difficult blows in her life.  She was married at the tender age of 15 to a man who was almost three times her age.  Not only was he much older than her, but you’re lead to believe he was physically and verbally abusive.  Years after his death Lord Cainewood (of Emerald) brings her a little girl who is need of a home.  Having always wished for children she takes the little girl in, vowing it will be the start to a happier life for herself.  It’s been a year since she adopted Mary and her life has never seemed happier.  Cameron, on the other hand, has led a sort of charmed life, living in Scotland and caring for his family’s ancestral lands.  Until seeing Clarice at his cousin’s wedding he realizes he’s never been in love (how sad!!).  Watching him try to win Clarice’s heart and squash her fears with his tenderness and kindness was joyful.  His scenes with little Mary were beautiful and made me love him even more!

Final Thoughts: If you haven’t yet added this series to your to-read pile you’re seriously missing out.

4 out of 5 Stars

Forevermore by Lauren Royal
Novelty Books (2012)
Paperback: 185 pages
ISBN: 2940014071192

#72 Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan by Mary Lydon Simonsen – summary from Goodreads:

While Jane Bennet is recuperating at Netherfield Park, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are frequently thrown into each other’s company. Despite initial resistance, the pair find that their first impressions are changing, especially after Lizzy overhears a conversation between Darcy and Charles Bingley using the language of the fan. Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan is a short story showing how two people come together through a series of comical miscues.

Those following the blog are well aware of the fact that I’m a huge fan of Simonsen’s writing.  She always comes up with new and creative ways to make us fall in love with Darcy and Elizabeth’s story.  Having read many Regency novels that employ the use of fans by ladies of respectable status, I’ve been curious about what all the motions of these fans meant.  It was really fascinating to have the “rules of the fan” interjected throughout the story as a plot device.

Once Darcy and Elizabeth become “friends”, they get on a conversation about tombstone markers.  Elizabeth tells him that Mr. Bennet enjoys walking through cemeteries looking for the most unique ones.  Reading the tombstone markers (that Simonsen later told me actually exist) were really funny, and they added a quirky humor to the story.

Final thoughts: Simonsen always leaves me wanting more, and that’s exactly how I felt upon completing The Language of the Fan.  Click here for more of my reviews of Simonsen’s books!

4 out of 5 Stars

Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Quail Creek Publishing (2011)
eBook: 25 pages
ISBN: 2940012938916

#73 Seven Day Loan (The Original Sinners #.5)  by Tiffany Reisz – summary from Goodreads:

A trained submissive, Eleanor will do whatever her master commands…even spend a week with a stranger. Daniel has been a recluse since his wife’s death, and Eleanor’s lover thinks spending time with her will be therapeutic–especially since Daniel is also a Dom.  Despite her defiant streak, Eleanor can’t resist giving in to Daniel’s erotic demands. But while she’ll let him have her body, she’s determined to keep a guard around her heart. Even if Daniel wants to make Eleanor his permanently….

Seven Day Loan is a prequel to Reisz’s The Siren , a prequel that I of course would read AFTER reading The Siren (oh well).  The biggest OMG” moment of The Siren is when you find out what Soren’s profession is.  His profession is discussed in Seven Day Loan hence why I suggest reading it after, making the reveal in The Siren more of a surprise.

ANYWAY – Seriously, you must read this. Daniel is heavenly.  The time he and Nora spend together is HOT and it definitely helps us get to know Nora just a bit more.  She is an enigma of a character, one that I’m anxious to keep learning about.

As expected Reisz’s writing style is exquisite and leaves the reader wanting more.  I can’t get enough of her stories and am greatly looking forward to the publication of book two in The Original Sinners series, The Angel, in September.  Reisz has a number of sequels to Seven Day Loan, as well as The Siren posted for FREE on her website.  Click here to read them!

Final thoughts: Read it. No, seriously. Read it.

5 out of 5 Stars

Seven Day Loan by Tiffany Reisz
Harlequin (2010)
eBook: 34 pages
ISBN: 9781426851599

#74 Bargain with the Devil by Enid Wilson – summary from Goodreads:

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy learns of the debacle involving Elizabeth Bennet’s sister several months after he was rejected by Elizabeth, and volunteers to help find her sister, of his own accord.  But what if Miss Elizabeth had requested Mr. Darcy’s aid in just a few days after the disastrous proposal at Hunsford, and he was still very angry with her refusal? What if he decided to be ungentlemanly, and demanded a very particular reward from her in exchange for his assistance?  This steamy, funny Pride and Prejudice what-if short story explores that scenario with wit, emotion and intriguing plot twists that take this perennial favorite to another direction.

Oh man. Where are Austen’s characters that I fell so in love with? Elizabeth? Darcy? Hello? Are you out there? I ask because they were definitely not present in this novella.  For example, there was the inclusion of Elizabeth dressing up as a man to follow Darcy, who teaches her how to “scratch” herself like a man. The entire situation was odd and awkward.  Not only that, but the storyline with Caroline Bingley and black magic was off the wall.

The back and forth between first person and third person narrative made for choppy and somewhat confusing reading.  The actual writing has potential, with the help of some strong editing.  I kept wanting to break out my red pen, but that wouldn’t really help on a nook.

Final thoughts: Skip it.  Try reading Wilson’s Fire and Cross instead.

1 out of 5 Stars

Bargain With The Devil by Enid Wilson
Lulu Press (2011)
eBook: 73 pages
ISBN: 9781447530657

So, there you have it.  The second installment in my “playing catch up” posts.  I hope you enjoy reading these blurbs as much as I enjoy writing them!  Reading and reviewing these novellas has definitely expanded the variety of my reviews this year.  They are fun ways to experience a quick story that is great for those who don’t have the time for a full novel.  I definitely recommend that you add some of these to your “to read” piles at home.

As always, happy reading!

Todd’s Review of Do No Harm by Cliff Bacchus

When I first received a review request for a new medical mystery/suspense thriller, Do No Harm by Cliff Bacchus, my interest was immediately piqued.  I’m generally a sucker for suspense books, and the fact that this one was written by a physician and involved a medical component made it even more enticing.  So, without further ado, I began reading (on the plane over to Ohio for my cousin’s wedding, to be exact).

Do No Harm begins with an introduction to Dr. Al Chandler, a physician who has been enjoying a growing practice and general success in his personal and professional life.  He has a close relationship to the newly minted President of the United States, who thinks so highly of him that he asks him to be a part of his new administration.  Chandler, although quite humbled and taken aback, declines.  He states that his interests lie in helping others and he feels that working under the new President would take him away from his true duties.  After this, he meets Pandora Coltman, a sensual woman who attracts him instantaneously and convinces him to leave everything and travel with her to Atlantic Isle, a small island in the Bahamas where she lives.  There, Chandler begins working for the island’s hospital in the emergency room, and gets to know his new boss, Obi Falconer.  He and Pandora marry, and all seems well until Chandler begins to notice that Pandora has a history with some men on the island, including Falconer.  The mystery deepens when he discovers Pandora’s lifeless body in their backyard by the pool.  Chandler is the main suspect, and he must work to clear his name.  Can he do it in time?

I have to say, it was rather difficult to write that plot paragraph.  Normally, I have no trouble writing the plot summaries of books that I review, but this was a challenge.  Why, you may ask?  Well, Bacchus’ style of writing is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I’ll admit, perhaps he was going for a retroactive point of view, or attempting a different style, but for some reason everything seemed incredibly disjointed and in the passive voice.  Fragmented plot lines were interjected with snippets of dialogue which were out-of-place and didn’t add to the overall conversation.  For example, here is a conversation between Chandler and his friend Arnold:

“Can we subdue Falconer?”  Kennedy reared up and walked off a few steps.  “T-the night’s old.  I’m off duty.  I was forgetting.  I’m doing a ten-minute stand-up late tonight at The Comedy Club.”

“I’ll call them tomorrow about the milk.  They drink American ‘Macarthur’ only, and every morning.”

“Power to America!  Forward march, out!”

“Just a minute.”  Chandler stepped over to his parents’ bedroom to check on them and on the snake.

“Al, the good boy.  Mother’s boy!”

This is just one small example of the odd conversations that permeate the work.  It seems as if there is a lot of backstory to this particular conversation, i.e. what is behind the mentioning of milk and a snake, but they are only briefly explained beforehand, with the reader left guessing as to what Bacchus means when he inserts these dialogue points.  It’s as if we’re reading only parts of a complete story, missing the parts that connect the dots of these rapid-fire conversations that are apparently here to move the plot forward.  Additionally, there is a ton of 70’s era verbiage, with the words “daddy-o” and “pigs”, as well as “heavy” appearing repeatedly.  I doubt this story was supposed to take place in the 1970’s, as I wasn’t given any more clues to this effect, but the dialogue sure was from this time.  In all, despite these flaws, Bacchus has the skeleton of a good murder mystery.  After some serious revision of the dialogue, and descriptive paragraphs, there actually could be a workable novel underneath this current work.  On the positive side, Bacchus does highlight corruption in medicine and shines light on a problem that affects us all, whether it be directly or through increasing insurance costs due to fraud.  This is definitely a noteworthy cause to highlight.

1 out of 5 stars

Do No Harm by Cliff Bacchus, MD
Abbott Press (2011)
Paperback: 228 pages
ISBN:  1458200965

Many thanks to Jessie at Author Solutions for sending me this copy for review!

#36 A Review of Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard by Belinda Roberts

Cover Image

I’m always up for trying a new novel in the Jane Austen fan fiction world.  Sometimes they’re amazing, sometimes not.  Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard unfortunately falls in the latter category.  If you don’t want to read spoilers about the book, then I suggest you stop reading here.  I will be talking about the book from beginning to end, in order to showcase the craziness that was this book.  When I first read the back of the book I knew that it was meant to be read by young adults and was meant to make them laugh.  I do take these things into consideration when reviewing/reading YA books.  Up until now I’ve always laughed/cried at the right times and really enjoyed the stories I’ve read for young adults.  Unfortunately, the humor that Roberts writes in this book borders on ridiculous. 

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice that takes place in the sea resort town of Salcombe.  The particulars of P&P happen relatively similar to the original: Jane and Bingley meet and have an instant attraction, Darcy and Elizabeth dislike each other at first, Elizabeth meets/becomes attracted to Wickham, Darcy tells Elizabeth how he feels, she is disgusted by him and his pride, and so on and so on.  There were some differences in this retelling for the obvious reason that it’s a contemporary young adult novel. 

My first critique of the novel was with the flow of the writing.  The book uses Austen’s text one minute then flips to contemporary language the next.  It makes for an extremely choppy reading pattern.  The characterizations of the characters were really weak as well, with Lydia being the standout example.  Throughout the entire novel she is selfish and completely boy-crazy.  (Nothing new there)  It’s the Wickham debacle and the aftermath that is crazy.  Wickham brings Lydia to a strip club to work there and make money for them, when they’re found by Darcy.  When Lydia returns home she’s ashamed of what she’s done, and two pages later, (I KID YOU NOT) she decides to become a nun and go on missionary trips.  I literally re-read those two pages about ten times, trying to figure out what I was missing.  There is no way that anyone makes that drastic of a life decision that fast.  More ridiculous characterizations: Lady Catherine calling another woman “a hot babe”, and a mortifyingly shy Georgiana that hides when people are near.  Most of Austen’s characters are just sadly unrecognizable. 

Like I said earlier, I understand that this was supposed to be a comedic approach to P&P, but I got lost in how nonsensical some of the scenes were.  Darcy’s second proposal is probably the craziest thing I’ve ever read.  Here is a brief rundown: Darcy and Elizabeth are walking, when Darcy suddenly falls off a cliff (I must pause here and tell you that people are ALWAYS falling off cliffs in this book). Ok back to the proposal scene: Darcy tries to yell up to Elizabeth and ask her if she loves him.  Due to a crazy wind storm they can’t hear what the other is saying.  Darcy just so happens to have a copy of Pride and Prejudice in his back pocket, which he whips out and writes a note to Elizabeth on.  He ties it to a rock and throws it over the top of the cliff, unwillingly knocking Elizabeth out.  He proceeds to wait for a response by reading P&P while hanging off the side of a cliff.  Elizabeth comes to, reads his note, and throws two rocks over the edge of the note.  (Darcy’s note said if you love me throw two rocks off the cliff, and if you don’t love me throw one).  Since he was engrossed in the book, he doesn’t see how many rocks come over the cliff and writes Elizabeth another note.  She then proceeds to throw two BOULDERS over the edge of the cliff.  Sound ridiculous?! It was. 

I’m so disappointed that the publisher, Sourcebooks, actually published this.  They publish so many amazing Austen fan fiction novels that when I see their logo on a book I automatically pick it up.  I respect them as publishers so much that I don’t need to know the author or anything about the novel. I trust their judgement.  This book has put a little bit of a crack in that relationship that will hopefully heal upon finding a new amazing Sourcebook novel.

So here we are at the end of my review.  I don’t normally tell people not to read a book. I like to let them make their own opinion as everyone’s tastes are different.  Unfortunately, I have to go against my own policy and HIGHLY suggest that you steer clear of this novel.  You will regret the time you wasted reading this trite, weakly written book.

1 out of 5 Stars

Mr. Darcy Goes Overboard by Belinda Roberts
Sourcebooks (2011)
Paperback 224 pages