Tag Archives: Chick-Lit

Jane Austen in Scarsdale

Cohen, Paula Marantz. Jane Austen in Scarsdale or, Love, Death, and the SATs (2006). 275 Pages. St Martin’s Press. $23.95

From the Cover

Anne Ehrlich is a dedicated guidance counselor steering her high-school charges through the perils of college admission. Thirteen years ago, when she was graduating from Colombia University, her wealthy family– especially her dear grandmother Winnie– persuaded her to give up the love of her life, Ben Cutler, a penniless boy from Queens College. Anne has never married and hasn’t seen Ben since– until his nephew turns up in her high school and starts applying to college.

Now Ben is a successful writer, a world traveler, and a soon-to-be married man, and Winnie’s health is beginning to fail. These changes have Anne beginning to wonder… Can old love be rekindled, or are past mistakes too painful to forget?

First Lines

“Great speaker last night, right?” Vince Flockhart, Fenimore’s principal, looked hopefully down at Anne Ehrlich, head of guidance, as she ate her grilled cheese sandwich in the faculty cafeteria. Report had it that the parents had been impressed by the speaker– though half had left in tears and the other half had been digging in the bottom of their bags for Valium.

Thoughts

I do not know much about Persuasion, as I’ve never actually read it, and I don’t recall watching a film version. From what I know, the main point is that Anne Elliot is from a good family, and falls in love with a handsome naval officer named Wentworth. Because her father, elder sister, and mentor disapprove of the match, Anne breaks it off. Several years later– when she is beyond “marriageable” age– Anne again encounters Wentworth, only now he is a successful, rich Captain. Things happen, and Anne ends up marrying Wentworth*.

If Jane Austen in Scarsdale were merely being judged on its ability to follow the general plot of Persuasion, I might have been more impressed. It does a decent job re-telling the story in modern New York. There are difficulties– as there always are when “updating” a classic– and it is hard to explain why a smart young woman would let her grandmother’s snobbery prevent her happiness.

However, it got very bogged down with the guidance counselor aspect. Several chapters were dealt dealing with “the parents,” who were all certifiable, and obnoxious. Additionally, the children were as crazed and driven as their parents, but whinier.** It didn’t really add to the story in any meaningful way, rather, it seemed to slow it down and distract from the main plot– which was supposed to relate to Persuasion. As either a retelling of Persuasion or a romance about a guidance counselor, this would have done very well, but it seemed to be suffering from an identity crisis at times.

The story still managed to be entertaining, and others may (and clearly have, judging by amazon’s rating) disagree with me, but I don’t think I particularly enjoyed it.  It scores a 2.5/5, for managing to be funny, at times, but still not good enough for me to really like it.

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* It’s been around for nearly 200 years, so I’m not concerned about spoilers.

** Good Lord. It drove me crazy to read about this. I went to one of those schools where it wasn’t “Are you going to college?” but rather, “Which college are you going to?” and I still wasn’t that crazed. I had reasonable expectations, and had worked hard enough to be near the top of my class without trying to get a 4.02. I didn’t even involve my mother very much, and she didn’t worry, because she had confidence in me, which mattered more than whatever the hell the parents in this novel seem to be doing. It felt like a little too much hyperbole, and it may have benefited from being a little less crazed.

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Kiss Me Deadly (Anthology) Part 2

Telep, Trisha (Editor). Kiss Me Deadly (2010). 430 Pages. RunningPress. $9.95

Review: Part 2 (Part 1, Part 3)

Because I have so very much to say about all of the stories in this anthology, I’ve opted to break it into parts. You can find Part 1 here, though, in short, I’ll say that Diana Peterfreund’s “Errant” is excellent. I’ve been slowly enjoying the next few stories, and I figure four is enough for another post. I hadn’t heard of any of these authors before reading this anthology, but I’ll be finding more works by a few of them after this.

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Kiss Me Deadly (Anthology) Part 1

Telep, Trisha (Editor). Kiss Me Deadly (2010). 430 Pages. RunningPress. $9.95

Review: Part 1 (Part 2, Part 3)

This was a definite impulse grab. I was at Borders, looking for a specific book, though at the moment I can no longer remember which book I sought. I don’t think I remembered what I was looking for then, either. When I walk into a building which contains more than a few books, I tend to get a little sidetracked. So I was staring at the Y.A. Paranormal section, feeling a little concerned for the sheer quantity of Twilight-knockoffs — we all know them, they’re the generic vampire romance that has exploded since sparkly vampires were first published — and my eye fell upon Kiss Me Deadly. I had a moment of oh dear, not another, but I’m such a fan of anthologies as a way to sample new authors that I couldn’t help picking it up.

I know it wasn’t an author’s name that grabbed me, because I have to admit that I do not know a single author from this volume. (Though I did also grab Shiver while I was there, because as a fan of romance, paranormal, and young adult, it seemed like a reasonable combo.)I think it was the Editor’s Note which opened the volume which got my attention;

Love in the time of… Zombies?

Somehow, that just doesn’t have the classic ring of Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s famous novel Love in the Time of Cholera* …  my bet, after titles like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter**, is that this is likely in some publisher’s pipeline somewhere, probably slated for publication next year, or the year after that. (Intro)

Anyway, in a sort of gimmick-y “paranormal = horror” way, there are 13 stories in this volume. Because I do intend to talk at least a little bit about each of them, I’m going to cut this into several posts.

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Blood Bound

Briggs, Patricia. Blood Bound (2007). 292 Pages. Ace Fantasy. $7.99

Mercy Thompson: Book Two

Please be aware that it is extremely likely that there are spoilers for the first book. You have been warned. Proceed with caution.

I was so excited when I figured out there was another book in this series. I hadn’t yet figured out that most authors write whole collections of books these days, as stand-alone novels just don’t sell as well. Well, that might not be the case, but it would hardly be surprising. Anyway, this is one character I was glad to see again.

Stefan is collecting his favor, and boy is it a doozy. There’s a sorcerer-turned-vampire who’s infected with a demon, and it’s bringing unwanted attention to the supernatural world. Sure, people know about some of the fae– the cuter, weaker, and less-threatening fae, anyway– and people have learned about the werewolves, but the vampires remain a closely-guarded secret. It’s not exactly easy to both suck blood and be a good guy*.

We learn a lot more about Mercy’s past, and her powers. More of Mercy’s character gets to shine through here, and she manages to kick some ass without being the most powerful being ever. She’s got some unique talents– compliments of her Walker heritage– which enable her to help her friends when they are unable to help themselves. Native American walkers used to hunt vampires, until the vampires hunted the walkers into near extinction. (One doesn’t expect vampires to worry about committing genocide.) Mercy learns more about herself and her abilities from this vampiric entanglement than she learned growing up with werewolves.

Of course, Mercy’s love-life gets more complicated– both Samuel and Adam are vying for her affection. She’s got quite the past with Samuel, and doesn’t quite buy that he loves her for the right reasons. Adam is a pack Alpha, and comes with a lot of werewolf complications. There’s a lot more coming Mercy’s way, and despite the fact that this is largely a paranormal romance, Mercy’s love-life takes a back seat to the adventure in this novel.

The Quick Version:

Mercy remains a kick-ass heroine who has a strong voice. Her story grows more complicated as the story goes on. She kicks some ass. And characters actually seem to grow. This gets a 4/5, because I don’t generally give a damn about vampires, and this plot is not my favorite. (Though it remains pretty well written, and solid.)

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* And universes with “good vampires” are made of suck. (Pun not intended) (I’m looking at YOU, Twilight.)

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Moon Called

Briggs, Patricia. Moon Called (2006). 288 Pages. Ace Fantasy. $7.99

Mercy Thompson: Book One

I suppose since I just reviewed book five in this series, I should probably take some time to go back and talk about the earlier books. I keep re-reading this series, and I enjoy it every single time I do. The covers connect with each other, since they have a steady, constant artist. Despite what the cover leads you to believe, Mercy does not wear cropped belly-shirts. She’s above that.

Meet Mercedes Thompson, Volkswagen Mechanic. She’s very aware of the irony of her name, but tends to go by Mercy, so it’s not as much of a running joke as it might be. Mercy is a walker– that is, she can transform into a coyote at will. As far as she knows, she’s the only one of her kind, which leaves her knowing very little about the full extent of her abilities.

Mercy has a long back-story which is revealed very neatly as she explains herself to a new werewolf. It manages to be expository without feeling contrived, and in essence explains that Mercy was raised by the Marrok– the ruler of the werewolves. She knows more about werewolves than any other non-were, and uses this knowledge to her advantage (to both torment and survive her handsome were-neighbor Adam, among other things.)

Anyway, Mercy starts off by picking up Mac- a stray wolf- and stupidly locking herself in a garage with him and a dead body. Adam manages to save her, but things get weirder and crazier with every page until we reach an impressive climax. Of course, there’s a lot going on: Samuel (the Marrok’s son) re-enters Mercy’s life after a long absence. Stefan, the vampire, helps Mercy out. The Marrok steps in. There’s even a Witch. There is kidnapping, mystery, and suspense. By the end of the book, you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next.

Mercy herself is the reason this book is so great. She has an amazing voice, and a strong personality. She kicks just a little more ass than most girls, without being over-powered and flawless. She’s one of the better heroines out there, and I look forward to her books.

The Quick Version:

I loved this book. (I love this whole series.) I feel like it’s just the right amount of ass kicking (by Mercy and her posse) and mystery. We learn about the characters, and I actually cared what happened to them. It was a well written story which kept you turning pages. It gets a 5/5.

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Silver Borne

Briggs, Patricia. Silver Borne (2010). 342 Pages. Penguin. $24.95

Mercy Thompson: Book Five

Please be aware that there are spoilers for the first four books in this series. Proceed at your own risk.

I’ve been waiting for this book since I first figured out that you can put books on hold through the library. Every few days I would creep further up the queue, until I was finally able to pick it up. When I did, I momentarily debated re-reading the other books in the series, before deciding that it would be silly to waste any time. Of all the supernatural fiction, there are only a few authors I really enjoy, and Patricia Briggs is one of them. I’m going to review this one out of order, because I read it without re-reading the others, and because it’s due at the library.

I’ll say right now that I enjoyed it a lot, but it had a sense of finality at the end which had me asking “Is this the last book in the series?” It’s not, by the way. There are a lot of urban fantasy novels out there, and a lot of them are very “Meh.” This is not one of those series. Nor is it one of those series where you find yourself wondering why you’re still reading, because it’s become so formulaic and you don’t really give a damn. Continue reading

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My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon (Anthology)

Elrod, P.N. My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon (2008). 358 Pages. St Martin’s Griffin. $13.95

I like trade paperbacks, they’re big, and they feel solid when you hold them. However, they’re tough on my style (what little there is) because while most of my purses are chosen for their ability to carry a book, mass market paperbacks are more common, and fit into more of my purses more easily. I checked this book out well over a month ago, and have been slowly reading it, trying to get through it, and wondering why it was so very difficult to read. I’ve decided that it is because of its format, and the fact that it is so very hard to fit it into my purse, so I haven’t been taking it to work for lunch-time reading.

Anyway, this is a very solid volume with a lot of stories that I really enjoyed. I sort of wish I’d read My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding first, but this was an impulse grab from a bookshelf, so I didn’t realize there was another volume in this set. (Though it’s hardly a prequel/sequel pair, as most of the stories are unique from the first volume, though I hesitate to call them stand-alones.) Continue reading

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Hard Day’s Knight

MacAlister, Katie. Hard Day’s Knight (2005). 344 Pages. Signet. $6.99

Hot men in tights and armor, women in bust-enhancing bodices, swords, horses, the world’s largest renaissance faire, and an international jousting tournament form the backdrop for Hard Day’s Knight. I love Faires, and enjoyed reading about them, especially because despite the increasing summer heat, I’m still cooler and more relaxed enjoying them in book form than wandering around in dry, dusty heat and longing for winter.

Anyway, Pepper Marsh is our newest heroine; she’s curvy, she’s sassy, and she’s wicked in bed.* The unemployed, single Pepper is more than willing to come to a Faire with her cousin CJ (especially when promised hot men in tights), and is even willing to work as a Harlot for a wench’s guild. Unfortunately for Pepper, things at the Faire don’t go exactly as she planned. Behemoth– the cat she is watching– does not like to behave, and leads Pepper straight into the path of two handsome men on very large horses (one of whom nearly runs her down, while the other “saves” her). We are introduced to Farrell– a blonde-haired blue-eyed drool-worthy knight– and Walker — the black-haired grey-eyed anti-hero. There is a long, bitter rivalry between the two which is about to overflow into a battle for Pepper’s heart.

Walker is a strong, distant hero with a sad past that haunts him, and is very much the center of the story (despite the fact that it is actually about Pepper, nearly everything revolves around Walker and his past). He’s not the hero you expect, and his past is not what you think it is. He and Pepper work well together, despite being seeming opposites. They both force each other to confront ghosts of their past, and they grow together.

As usual with Katie Mac, you find yourself laughing aloud a lot, there are several very steamy scenes, and there is a lot of drama. Two people who are seemingly too different find a way to work together, and the book itself really draws you in.

The Quick Version:

The setting really works for the story in this case; the faire gives it a concrete setting, the jousting gives it a solid future, and the characters do seem to grow (at least a little bit) from beginning to end. Toward the end of the book, there’s just a little too much “misunderstanding” to really leave me happy. I found myself wondering what the hell was going on, and not really sure what the characters were thinking. It was enjoyable, and I did tear through it like I do with all the other Katie MacAlister books I’ve read. As much as I like the Faire setting though, this book only gets a 3; it’s good, but not brilliant.

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* Unlike a few of the heroines, she’s not much of a babbler, which was nice.

This book is part of the Local Library Reading Challenge!

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The Darcy Cousins

Fairview, Monica. The Darcy Cousins (2010). 432 Pages. Sourcebooks Inc. $14.99

As the sequel to a Pride & Prejudice sequel, I have to admit that I was not expecting much. Sure, I enjoyed The Other Mr. Darcy immensely, and I thought that Ms Fairview did an excellent job and had beautiful prose, but I was also expecting that she would be a one-hit-wonder, so imagine my surprise when I found that I loved this book just as much as (if not more than) its prequel, which makes me glad I own it*.

Seventeen year-old Georgiana Darcy** is a proper young lady who– thanks to her incredibly overprotective older brother– has lead a very sheltered life. When Miss Clarissa Darcy– younger sister to Robert– arrives leaving a trail of impropriety in her wake, Georgiana hardly knows what to do. Her lively American cousin drags Georgiana along as she rushes headlong into her first London Season.

Young men flock to Clarissa– she is outgoing and charming, and far less reserved than most British ladies. Georgiana is awed by her cousin, and seeks to take pages from her book, learning to be a strong young woman while still being proper is a fine line to tread, but Georgiana attempts it nonetheless. There are several very handsome, very available young men vying for the attention of both Georgiana and Clarissa, which is just fine until both ladies find themselves to be interested in the very same young man.

The plot is not quite so simple as cousins fighting over one young man,  however. Clarissa has her reasons for her appearance in England, Anne deBourgh discovers her backbone, and Georgiana grows up from innocent child to strong woman. This story is mostly (but not exclusively) about Georgiana; the other female cousins are present, but are not really the focus of the story.

The Quick Version:

Again, the prose is strong, and manages to be Austenesque without imitating Austen outright. Georgiana is a fascinating main character who really grows from an innocent, naive child into a strong young woman through the book. Clarissa, too, grows, as does Anne, though neither of them are truly the center of the plot. It will be interesting to see if either of these characters end up with their own P&P Sequel-Sequel-Sequel. The book gets a 5/5, because as the story retreats further from the original book, it becomes stronger and more original.

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*I searched all of the libraries which I have a card to, as well as Link+, only to find out that not a single library owned a copy. When I went to Borders, I learned that they supposedly had one copy, but nobody could find it. I was nearly ready to give up, when I found out that you can have store employees locate and reserve books for you at Borders. This discovery will likely save me a ton of time and money in the future, as I won’t have to browse the store to find what I want, I can come in, pick it up, and flee before my tab reaches the hundreds as it usually does.

** I find the way that the eldest is “Miss ___” while the others are “Miss ___ ____” as in, Miss Darcy and Miss Clarissa Darcy or “Mr ___” and “Mr ___ ____”, like Mr Darcy and Mr Robert Darcy very interesting. It gets a bit confusing at times because of this, but mostly it’s easy to resolve if you pay attention to the presence or absence of first names.

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Blow Me Down

MacAlister, Katie. Blow Me Down (2005). 359 Pages. Signet. $6.99

I said it last night; Katie MacAlister is dangerous. I started reading Blow Me Down this afternoon, and found that I could not put it down  until I finished it a few hours ago. My unfortunate boyfriend tried to speak to me once or twice, and found himself glared and/or growled at until he gave up. It was another of those books-I-grabbed-from-the-library-on-impulse, and I’m glad I did.

Anyway, Blow Me Down is about Amy, the incredibly organized, mildly neurotic, financial analyst. She’s divorced, and has a sixteen year-old daughter. I’m not usually a fan of “real life” in my romance. Divorce brings back bad memories, and relates to unpleasant experiences, and frequently makes it all-too-easy for characters to wallow. Katie’s characters have never fallen victim to that particular sort of wallowing, and even when they have been divorced, it’s never the center of their personality, and is really not one of their hangups.

Oh, right. So Amy the divorced, organized, neurotic financial analyst and mother of one techno-geek teenage girl finds herself playing her daughter’s new Virtual Reality beta in the middle of a storm. She’s zapped by lightning, and wakes up on a pirate island. Amy is a strange woman who finds herself organizing the finances of an entire brothel in an effort to set up retirement plans for computer-controlled-pirate-prostitutes. Of course, she meets Black Corbin, a man who is feared on the island of Turtle’s Back, and unfortunately for Amy, their attraction to each other is mutual and immediate. However, all is not easy, or as it seems in this pirate game.

Something has gone horribly wrong in this Virtual Reality setup. It’s a truly immersive game with cutting-edge technology which renders everything in such a way that you truly do experience the game’s events*. You can smell the privies, and feel the breeze on your face, or the kisses of an attractive pirate. However, there is no longer any way out. Corbin, Amy and Holder are trapped, and have to find a way to escape the game before anything else goes wrong.

The swashbuckling begins here. And boy oh boy is it some pirate-astic swashbuckling. And adventuring, and some hot and sweaty romance scenes.

The end is… not surprising, but that’s OK, because it was an enjoyable book.

The Quick Version:

As usual, I really enjoyed the book. I started it, and several hours later I realized just how much time had disappeared between when I started reading and when I finally put it down. I really enjoyed this one, and had no trouble suspending my disbelief. The trouble I did have, however was with the fact that I had the story figured out within the first couple chapters. It gets a 4.5/5, because I liked it a lot, but it’s predictable.

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* One of the reviews I glanced at suggested that this was a plot problem. I’m a little concerned about people who read romance novels looking for realism.

This book is part of the Local Library Reading Challenge!

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