Books of the Week

I read a lot. So I figured instead of writing long boring reviews, I’d give a weekly breakdown of what I’ve read and how I liked it. I get my books from lots of different places–libraries, internet, friends, family. I’m a cheapskate, no getting around it, and so I like to read books I don’t have to pay for. (99 cent Kindle books are the next best thing. ) Suffice it to say that I’m not exactly reading the latest bestsellers most of the time. However, whatever I am reading, whether new and shiny or old and moldy, I always have an opinion.

I figured I’d share it with you. Aren’t I nice?

So this is the breakdown of this week’s books.

An Indiscreet Offer by Roberta Eckhart (Regency Romance)

The gist: Claire Dearing and her maiden Aunt Phoebe live destitute under the tyrannical thumb of Claire’s stepfather, only to discover upon his death that Claire is actually a wealthy woman.  Claire immediately decides to trade in her humdrum country existence for high living in the bright lights of London. Only, at 26, Claire is a confirmed spinster–too old for the debutante scene, but too restrained by the rules of society to entertain or take part in more risque pleasures. Her solution: pose as a young widow, spend a year in Bath making connections and perfecting her masquerade, and then take London by storm. With a wounded officer and his debutante sister aiding her scheme, Claire is certain that nothing can go wrong. That is, until she meets the Earl of Wentworth, the one man who could shatter her dreams in an instant…or fulfill her wildest fantasies.

My take: The biggest problem with this book is that it is downright dull. There is a wide and varied cast of characters, but none of them have more than a brief spark of life to them. The hero is one of the worst offenders. He is nothing more than a collection of characteristics and attributes, a pile of Regency cliches with nothing to make them fresh or even interesting. The heroine wasn’t much better. While her characterization was  a bit deeper and more original, it also drifted all over the places–outlandishly feisty in one chapter, docile and domestic in another, with no discernible arc to account for the changes. The author  also spends way too much time dwelling on minor characters and the day to day minutiae of life, and hardly any time on the main couple’s actual interactions, of which there were far too few. This works if you are Jane Austen and are bitingly satirizing the culture of your time. This book was not written by Jane Austen.

The death-knell: Less than halfway through the book, I was rooting for the wounded officer minor character to get the girl instead of the hero. Once he got paired off with a barely-there background character, I lost nearly all interest in the book.

My rating: Two out of five stars

Lakota Surrender by Karen Kay (Historical Romance)

The gist: When Kristina Bogard heads out west to rejoin her father, Major Borgard, at his Kansas outpost, she’s hoping to leave the stifling society of the east far behind. Spunky and outspoken, Kristina isn’t like the demure debutantes her mother wants her to emulate. For one thing, she holds no prejudice against Indians, thanks to an Indian nurse that taught her the Lakota sign language.  When she is called on to be the translator for Tahiska, a proud Lakota warrior, sparks fly immediately. But Tahiska has a secret mission of vengeance and soon conflicts between their two cultures threaten to tear their love apart.

My take: “Teepee  romances”  are not my usual thing, but this book was free. 🙂 I don’t know how it fares compared to other books in the field, but it definitely didn’t convert me over  to the genre. Kristina was tolerable, but her perpetual spunky modern open-mindness grated on me after a while. Tahiska was likewise okay, but nothing special. What really irritated me about this book was how Kristina and Tahiska’s lives seemed to completely revolve around each other once they meet. To some extent, this is necessary in a romance, but literally all of their previous interests and goals were completely neglected in favor of lingering gazes and stolen kisses. The relationship is super-intense from the very beginning, but it feels like the relationship is mainly about the physical. For large stretches of the book, Kristina is adamantly refusing to consider a long-term relationship with Tahiska–while indulging in steamy sex every chance she gets. I don’t have anything against a few steamy scenes, but there were so many, and it felt like it overwhelmed the actual romance. I was also unsettled by the  way the author portrayed the intercultural aspect of the relationship. There were a few nods to mutual give-and-take, but overall it felt like Kristina was making all the major sacrifices  while Tahiska made a few cursory gestures. At times, it felt like rather than falling in love, Kristina was having her identity subsumed.

My rating: Two and a half stars

The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry (YA Fantasy)

The gist: Once, Lucinda Chapdelaine lived in the lap of luxury with her loving parents…until they left for the royal ball one night and never came back. Since then, Lucinda’s worked in her uncle’s jewelry shop, under the thumb of her meanspirited aunt. Then one day, Lucinda’s life changes forever when not one, but two unlikely visitors arrive in the shop–Crown Prince Gregor whose smile sets Lucinda’s heart pounding, and the Amaranth Witch, who brings a incredible precious jewel and the opportunity for Lucinda to regain what she’s lost. But when the jewel goes missing, Lucinda must risk everything to recover it, as it she gets drawn into a struggle between two powerful beings and fights for her own happily-ever-after.

My take: The first couple of chapters are wonderful. The balance of exposition and action is perfect, the characterizations are subtle, but effective, the banter between Lucinda and her prince is delightful, and best of all, Lucinda’s internal monologue is charming, poignant, and hilarious all at once. I was hooked instantly and sat down at once to read the rest of the book…which sadly never lived up to the promise of those first chapters. The story gets bogged down by Beryl, the Amaranth Witch, and her odd and uneven characterization. Beryl is a powerful being from a glorious world without pain, who fell into this world by accident and is bound there by a tragedy in her past. The story is never sure whether Beryl is a wise, mentoring fairy godmother or an ignorant and innocent lost little girl. Either way, it glorifies her to an annoying degree. Equally irritating is the story’s treatment of Peter, a boyish thief who Lucinda is forced to ally with. When they first meet, Lucinda is uncommonly kind to Peter, and he responds by robbing her–an act which he offers only the smallest modicum of remorse for later. He causes her nothing but trouble, yet is treated as a charming rogue by the narrative. I found him unsympathetic and annoying. Inconsistencies and wallbanger  moments  marred the plot a little, but the biggest disappointment was how the story couldn’t keep up the sweet, charming, slightly dorky interplay between Lucinda and Gregor, and had their romance progress in clunky fits and starts instead.

My rating:  Three stars

The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth (YA Historical Fiction)

The gist: Cousins Emilia and Luka and the rest of their gyspy family struggle to survive under Cromwell’s harsh reign. But when an innocent visit to a fair turns deadly, it’s up to Emilia and Luka to save their family from execution. Their grandmother Magda gives them an ancient charm–the gypsy crown–and charges them to unite it with four others–scattered throughout the Rom clans. Emilia, who has the gift of prophecy, believes in the legend of the charms and the power they bring her, while Luka is more interested in the practical help their relatives can give them. Either way, they must navigate through a labyrinth of spies, traitors, Royalists, and Roundheads and sacrifice what they most hold dear to save the ones they love/

My take: I found this to be a very interesting historical novel with just the right touch of fantasy elements. The story immerses you in a time period that I definitely have not read enough fiction set in, while sending you on a nonstop adventure. I also liked how this story had a boy/girl team working together, but didn’t bring romance into the story. (Although I thought there might have been a spark between Emilia and Tom…oh well, squires’ sons and gypsies’ daughters don’t exactly mix.) Apparently, in Australia, this was published as a series of six books, which were compiled and edited together into the book that I read. Evidently, one entire book (The Cats Eye Shell) was removed, and I have no idea whether the books that were kept were edited down. The sections that deal with the quest for each charm are distinct, but they are also much shorter than I would expect a book to be. The change definitely helps explain the hurried pace of the books. I sort of wish I could have read the original series.

My rating: four stars

Currently Reading:

The Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley

To Be Read:

Enchantment by Alethea Kontis

Curricle and Chaise by Lizzie Church

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

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~ by Morgan Star on September 15, 2012.

One Response to “Books of the Week”

  1. […] to impossible not to compare this book to The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry, which I read last week. I picked both books up at the local library at the same time. They’re both YA fantasy with […]

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