Monday, 27 February 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #6


Ah, Monday, you are nobody's friend.  BUT I will forgive you your general sins because you allow me the opportunity to tell everyone what I'm reading, courtesy of Sheila @ BookJourney.  It could be worse.

It feels as though it's been a good week for reading here in the LitAddictedBrit household.  I've had a lot of train journeys to and from meetings and I know that I should have been working and reading papers, I kind of may have sort of spent some of them reading...:-s  Still, at least it got me reading again, right?!


What have I read in the past week?

It's been a while since I read the first but I recently got a serious urge to pick up the second book in Brent Weeks' Night Angel series (Shadow's Edge) and the second turned out to be even better!  Honestly, I finished it and just stared at my eReader on the train doing an impression of someone who had taken complete leave of their senses.  If I'd had the third one on my eReader at the time, I'd probably still be looping around Yorkshire on the train reading it. 

Then I spoke to my Dad who was reading Snowdrops by A.D. Miller and persuaded me that I should pick it up too.  He bought me a copy for Christmas so I had it handy.  I read it in just a few days and declared myself on a roll.  It was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize last year but that obviously doesn't mean it will be great.  As it happened, it was.  It wasn't always the best story but it was an extremely well-written portrait of the Russian underworld.  Definitely worth reading!

What am I reading now?

After reading about how amazing Kelley Armstrong for a long time, I finally got round to buying and reading Bitten. As is so often the case, everyone was right. There are plenty of werewolves (as the name would suggest) but in a more vicious and properly animalistic way. I'm really enjoying it and I'm about 100 pages from the end so am pretty much at the point where I snarl at anyone who interrupts me...

What am I planning on reading this week?

I've had a bit of a grotty day at work today so when I passed the library on the way home from work and it was OPEN (which is a minor miracle, believe me), I ducked in to cheer myself up. I snatched up Before I Go To Sleep by S.J.Watson (because I'm totally in love with the idea for reminding me of the film Memento), The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill (because I loved The Woman in Black), Virals by Kathy Reichs (because Ellie at Musings of A Bookshop Girl said it was good and it struck my fancy) and The Blackstone Key by Rose Melikan (which I've never even heard of but which looked good and because I fancied picking up a curve ball while I was there). So it'll be on of those! Any recommendations :)


Happy Monday to all :)

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Review: 'Darkfever' by Karen Marie Moning

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads.com)

MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks…until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….

Review

When the final book in this series came out, it seemed as though my Google Reader was filled with glowing reviews.  Since I was intrigued enough by the idea of a dark take on the fae, I requested the first in the series from the library and settled in to start at the beginning.

Mac in the first few chapters of the book reminded me a heck of a lot of Sookie Stackhouse from Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series.  She goes to great lengths to explain how wonderfully happy-go-lucky she is, she's blonde and thin and more concerned with maintaining a tan and perfect manicure than doing anything meaningful and works in a bar for the love of it.  Moning does a great job of creating an image that's completely at odds with the darkness of Dublin's back streets.  I suppose you could say that she does too good a job.  So intent does she seem on maintaining it that Mac wastes no opportunity to describe her pretty outfits (right down to the name of her nail varnish!), frilly underwear, luscious blonde hair, lithe young body etc...I get it, you're attractive, please move on.  

For a start to a series, it's alright but that's probably the best I'd say.  I've not read of books about the fae so I was interested in the associated mythology and history. I didn't feel dumped upon as the artefacts and key fae characters and monsters are introduced only as fast as Mac can learn about them and note them in her journal.  Every now and then I felt a bit confused but I'd rather feel muddled for a short-time than read page after page of misplaced history lessons.  

Aside from Mac, the main other character is the apparently brash Jerricho Barrons. Often described with the attention to detail that Mac lavishes upon herself but still a much more intriguing cast member. There's a lot that isn't known about Jerricho and I'm still not clear on whether I'm supposed to like him or whether he has a bad streak hidden away. He made up a lot for the Mac's in-your-face.

Th
e duo's adventures are showered with encounters with vampires (that may or may not actually be vampires), gangsters, a fae prince that inflicts some kind of death-by-orgasm torture (pretty weird!) and plenty of other sinister beings haunting Dublin's alleys.  The atmosphere is gloomy and appropriately malignant.  So you see, there were points that I liked amongst the bits I didn't so hopefully this whole review won't come across as horribly negative.

Ultimately though, I couldn't find the love that a lot of people seem to for this book/series becauase there were a few things that let it down that seemed fundamental to Moning's style. They bothered me while I was reading it but bother me even more in retrospect.  Aside from Mac's obsession with her appearance, there are far too many lines of the "If only I'd known that..."/"Little did I know then that..."/"That was all about to change" ilk for my liking.  The first couple of times it was a little annoying but since Mac still wasn't aware of the impending disaster, I could forgive it.  Anyway, it happens for the whole book and, rather than create tension (which I assume was the idea), managed to disrupt it.  Part of the joy of reading books like this should be never knowing what is coming next or which corner the nasties are hiding behind.  Hints from the narrator are bothersome.  At least to me.

This is also one of those books that is very much part of a series.  If I'm reading the first book in a series, I like it to work reasonably well as a stand-alone in that the particular focus or plot of that book is rounded of but leave enough mystery in general to spur me on to the next book.  That sounds really picky!  Hopefully you know what I mean...the main plot of this one is Mac's pursuit of the her sister's murderer.  As the story hastens to an end, that's dealt with swiftly so that the remainder of the series (I'm guessing) can be set up.  Disappointing.   

Overall:  A fair pass at a start to a series.  This review sounds as though I hated the book and I didn't.  It was annoying in places but it was a quick, easy read that did hold my attention.  I'm not exactly clamouring to get hold of Bloodfever but if I happen across it at a library, I'd possibly pick it up.  Bottom line: I wouldn't part with actual money to read the rest of the series but I'd probably carry on if a free opportunity came up.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dat
e finished:  21January 2012
Format:  Paperback
Source:  Library
Genre:  Fantasy; Urban Fantasy
Published: by Delacorte Press in October 2006

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Roof Beam Reader's Magical March Reading Challenge

So it seems that Adam at Roof Beam Reader has a knack for coming up with challenges that I find near impossible to resist! This time it's the... 













Purpose: To read and review works of Fantasy, Science-Fiction, or Magical Realism (for my literary folks).

Details:

From now until March 4th, the Mister Linky widget will be available so people can sign-up to p
articipate in the Magical March Reading Challenge. 

Throughout the month of March, a Mister Linky will be available for pre-registered challengers to link-up their qualifying reviews. There are different “classes” of magician, outlined below, and completion of the various levels could earn you a prize!

Other: There will be “Weekly Wand Mini-Challenges” posted on each Saturday of the mo
nth. These could be trivia challenges, random tasks, blogger treasure hunts, etc. Winners of each challenge will earn a Wand, and those Wands will be tracked to be entered to win another magical prize!

Th
e Levels:

Magician’s Class: 1-2 Books Read & Reviewed 1 Book $10 or Less

Sorcerer’s Class: 3-5 Books Read & Reviewed 1 Book $12 or Less

Wizard’s Class: 6-7 Books Read & Reviewed 1 Book $15 or Less

Grand Merlin Class: 8+ Books Read & Reviewed 1+ Book(s) $20 or Less


You don't have to visit here too often to work out that fantasy is my favourite genre.  If I'm feeling in a slump or in need of a comfort read, it's where I turn.  My reading and blogging in 2012 so far has been haphazard, which is irritating me, so it makes sense I suppose that I turn to a fantasy based reading challenge to get back "in the zone", as it were.

I'm going to aim for Sorcerer's Class and, although I will no doubt change my mind (I'm contrary like that), my current plan is to read:

Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks

The Ranger's Apprentice 1: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan 

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett 

For the rules and the sign-up post, head over here. You know you want to!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Review: 'Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief' by Rick Riordan


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis (taken from Waterstones.com)

Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God. I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. That's when things started really going wrong. Now I spend my time fighting with swords, battling monsters with my friends, and generally trying to stay alive. This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I've stolen his lightning bolt - and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea. Can Percy find the lightning bolt before a fully-fledged war of the Gods erupts?

Review

When I was younger, I had a beautifully illustrated hardback book of Greek myths that I begged my Mum for ages to buy.  My memories of the reasons why (aside from the obvious beauty of the book itself) are hazy but I'm fairly sure my imagination had been stirred by studying the history of Ancient Greece at school.  Regardless of the reason why I wanted it in the first place, when I finally had it, I loved it dearly.  

The Lightning Thief reminded me of a lot of the reasons why I loved that book; exciting tales of valiant heroes that mixed with all-powerful Gods and went questing about recovering artefacts and rescuing their women folk.  The Lightning Thief combines the mystique and history that charmed me then against a modern backdrop more or less completely successfully.  From the moment Percy finds out the truth about his identity (and actually a little bit before that), a whole host of mystical creatures descend on the book and I was totally caught up in the "Spot the Myth" game that I was playing with myself.  

There were odd snippets and conversations that referred to the Greek Gods' general disgruntlement at being ignored by modern society and how they dealt with their marginalisation that were subtle and made the story flow a heck of a lot better than it otherwise might have done.  Their physical manifestations are also a quirky new dimension.  Because obviously Ares, the God of War, would be a huge angry motorcycle-riding thug.  As with so many of the things I liked about this book, it was just plain fun!

The characters range from fully-fledged Gods through Demi-Gods to descendants of Gods that are now not much more than disassociated teens hanging out in a specially designed camp but are all very likeable.  My favourite was actually Hades (yep, the same Hades that's the God of the Underworld).  He had less of a sanctimonious edge (obviously...) than a lot of the other characters and was 'bad' in a kind of endearing, grouchy way that was spot on.   

The only minor down side was that it took me a while to get used to Percy's 'voice'.  He can be a little petulant and "woe is me".  Even though I knew I was being a grumpy old person, I still found myself frustrated at the self-pitying tone.  This was either resolved by the appearance of a minotaur (See?! Brilliance!) and the picking up in pace that will always result or by Percy facing up to the truth about his identity and generally being a lot more likeable.  Whichever is the case, Percy's teenage wit grew on me and I barely noticed what had bothered me early on (note: 'barely', not 'never').

For quite a short book, a lot happens. In short, I admit it, I'm a fan. So now I can watch the film. Lovely stuff.


Overall: A brilliant start to a series! Light-hearted and fast-paced with twists and turns around every corner, this book genuinely is extremely difficult to put down.  I'd recommend it to anyone that has ever indulged in a little Greek mythology as a way to rekindle the love and anyone that hasn't as just a tiny hint at how awesome they are.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished:  04 January 2012
Format:  eBook
Source:  Library's eBook site
Genre:  Fantasy; YA
Published: by Miramax in June 2005

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A Classics Challenge: Classic Characters

The February prompt from November's Autumn looks at the characters in the classics that we're reading.  I actually hadn't started one for 4 January so this is my first post for the challenge.  

This month, the focus is on CHARACTERS. 

I've been reading The Count of Monte Cristo for...well, for most of February so far, actually.  If you've read this one, you'll know that there are a lot of characters to choose from, although the obvious choice is the title character.  I thought I'd dodge the obvious and instead go for Caderousse.  



Level 1:  What are your first impressions of them? Find a portrait or photograph that closely embodies how you imagine them.

Caderousse is one of those characters that, as soon as you meet them, you just know shouldn't hang around with anyone that might lead him astray.  Jealous of Edmond Dantes' success, Caderousse is drowning his sorrows with the even more jealous Danglars.  

First impressions?  Weak and frustrating. There are at least a few opportunities for Caderousse to help Edmond and either chooses to remain ignorant or is manipulated by Danglars into letting all of them pass by.  Obviously, there would be no story if it weren't for Caderousse's cowardice so that's one reason why I've chosen him.  

A picture:  There are a huge number of TV and film adaptations of this book, I had a quick look to see whether any of the actors that had played Caderousse matched up to how I imagined him.  As it happens, this is Caderousse as played in a French adaptation that matches up nicely to my image of him.


Level 2:  How has the character changed? Has your opinion of them altered? Are there aspects of their character you aspire to? or hope never to be?

**This part will be based on my thoughts as I approach the middle of the book - watch out for spoilers, please!! **

After escaping the Château D'If, Edmond's a touch aggrieved about spending his youth locked up with only an elderly monk for company and scraps to eat.  Revenge is the name of the game for Monsieur Dantes.  Caderousse is impoverished, unhappily married and riddled with guilt.  When Dantes first happens across him, I was all "Ha - that's what happens when you abandon your friends when they need you most!".  

As time goes by, thought, I actually find myself feeling sorry for him!  The choices that he made were consistently horrendous but he knows that.  Compared with other characters that did stand by Dantes (and are ruined as a result), I find myself wondering whether it's better to at least try and defend those that need defending, even though it might not do any good, or whether it's better to just be there for them when you can do something effective.  Obviously, everybody would like to think that they would make the best choices because ultimately you never know whether your efforts will work or not.  

I suppose the difference between Caderousse and other characters that try to help after the plot to destroy Dantes has played out is that Caderousse could have stopped events ever unfurling.  So he is more culpable than most but, I suppose, has suffered more too.  Karma, maybe?

Oh, and perhaps it's already clear but NO, I do not want aspire to be gutless and betray my friends.  Shocking, I know. 

I'm only about half way through this so I have plenty more characters to meet or reacquaint myself with.  Characters is one of the things that Dumas does best so if that's what you're into, you'll love The Count of Monte Cristo.  

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Weekend Cooking Review: 'Economy Gastronomy' by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett

Aside from books and reading, my other great love is food and cooking.  I love putting ingredients together and sitting down with my boyfriend, friends or family and eating something lovely.  It stands to reason, therefore, that I also love reading about cooking.  I have a ridiculous amount of cookbooks.  They are the only books that don't drive my boyfriend insane with the amount of space that they take up because my obsession with cooking balances nicely with our mutual appreciation of eating nice food.  

SO I figured that it was about time my cookbooks saw the light of day on my blog.  Fortunately for me, Beth Fish Reads hosts a weekend meme that fits in perfectly: Weekend Cooking.

It obviously took me ages to decide which of my many beloveds to feature first but then I saw this one and knew that it had to be it.  

Economy Gastronomy by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett

I have used this book more than any other not because it has the most glamorous or exotic recipes but because it's one of those cookbooks that highlights the benefits of simple, home-cooked food and features a whole host of ideas that show you that you don't have to spend hours in the kitchen every night to enjoy healthy food without any preservatives or hidden nasties.  There are some pages about how much food the average house wastes and how much money families spend if they consistently use ready-meals.  The subtitle 'Eat Better and Spend Less' is spot on.  

The main reason I love this book so much is because it totally fits into our lifestyle.  The idea is that you cook when you have the time to either do more prep or leave something to simmer while you potter around and enjoy the delicious smells and then you use whatever 'base' meal you've cooked over the course of the next few days in a range of different but equally yummy ways.  I will quite happily hum my way around my kitchen for a large part of Sunday afternoon chopping and sautéing if it means that I get to eat meals during the week that taste as though I've spent hours slaving away despite only taking a few minutes to put together.  

Our hands-down favourite is this dangerously moreish offering.  The smell of the herbs with the bacon and beef slowly cooking is divine and the end result is totally worth the wait.  Perfect for a Sunday evening before heading back out to work:  


Ingredients: 3 tbsp olive oil; 10 shallots (peeled but left whole); 3 bay leaves; 350g dry-cured bacon lardons; a handful of fresh thyme sprigs; 5 garlic cloves; 750ml red wine; 2.5kg chuck steak; 1 litre of beef stock; 2 x 415g cans beef consommé 

Method:  

1.  Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.

2.  Heat the oil in a large roasting tray over a medium heat. Add the shallots, bay leaves, bacon lardons, thyme and garlic, and fry gently for 10-15 minutes, or until the shallots have softened and are translucent and the bacon lardons are beginning to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan.

3.  Add the wine and scrape the sediment from the bottom of the roasting tray using a wooden spoon. Bring the wine to a simmer and continue to simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the volume of liquid has reduced.

4.  Season the cubed meat, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

5.  Lay the seasoned meat on top of the shallots, lardons and wine mixture without mixing it. Pour over the stock and consommé so that the meat is all well covered.

6.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover the tray with foil and transfer to the oven. Cook for 2½-3½ hours. Test the meat for tenderness after 1½ hours by squeezing a piece between your thumb and forefinger. If it gives, remove the foil covering and continue to cook the beef daube, uncovered, for the remaining cooking time, until the sauce has thickened and the beef is tender.

7.  When the beef is really tender and the sauce has thickened, remove the beef daube from the oven and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

I usually serve with a green vegetable (cabbage works nicely) and mashed potatoes.


Then comes the best bit:  after you've eaten this, you save what's left (by freezing it, if you prefer and your meat wasn't frozen before you cooked this) and have Pappardelle with Slow-cooked Beef and Mushrooms (which is amazing with a tomato and basil salsa) and Cornish pasties.  You get the idea, hopefully.  You might spend more on the 'big cook' than you would normally spend but it more than balances out in time and reward.

The only thing I would say is that this probably isn't a great book if you have a house full of vegetarians.  There are a few of the 'base' dishes that are vegetarian (there's a pumpkin one and a tomato one, for example) but most are meat-centric.  Other than that, there's plenty of pictures and the recipes themselves are described in a really straight-forward way.  I whole-heartedly recommend this for a new way of approaching your cooking week, whether you're a beginner or more-advanced.  

Other note-worthy recipes that I've tried and loved:  Norwegian Fish Pie; Colonel Merrett's Bucket of Chicken [a kind of home-made KFC-type thing]; Slow-roasted Shoulder of Lamb

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Review: 'Pure' by Julianna Baggott

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . . 

Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run. 

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . . 


Review

The book blogosphere seems to be lighting up with apocalyptic explosions and revelling in the aftermath at the moment.  After reading the amazing Divergent by Veronica Roth, I started keeping one eye on the many emerging dystopian tales, in case something equally amazing that I could devour and then rave about.

Along came Pure; dystopian fiction the adult way.  I've seen whisperings that this book is intended to straddle the YA/Adult divide.  For me, this was well and truly in the grown-up camp.  The world is bleak and the story is tragic and barbaric, not to mention gory.  

Most of the survivors of the Detonations have horrific burn scars or have been 'fused' with items or creatures that they were holding or near at the time.  Pressia was holding her doll at the time of the Detonation and now lives with her doll's head for a hand while Bradwell (who was running through a field) has birds embedded in his back.  Seriously dark stuff but morbidly clever. There are a whole army of novels that focus on the cleaner side of world-changing disasters, whether its years down the line after the dust has settled and society re-established or by looking inside the Dome at how that society should be rebuilt.  The idea that society might still exist, albeit damaged almost beyond recognition, is original and chilling.  Maybe that's why I resented the chapters where I was forced to follow Lyra (a Pure) in the Dome.  The sterilised world interrupted the atmosphere that had gradually been built and, despite being a remarkable contrast, slowed the pace even further.  

The images that were so unique at the beginning soon became laboured. Every time a new character or set of characters are introduced, they are accompanied by a graphic account of their various mutations.  Objectively, I could see that the survivors are defined by their scars and 'wear them' as badges of honour, marks of their will to endure. Subjectively, I started to see it as gratuitous.  The descriptions are increasingly terrible and have a whiff of shock tactics lingering about them.  One particular group of women are fused to the babies that they were trying to protect during the Detonations.  So, yes, it's clever but it's also emotionally draining and hard to read.  A job well done for Ms Baggott, I suppose. 

The characters are strange.  Pressia is determined, strong, intelligent and fiercely loyal.  I should have adored her.  Similarly Partridge, running from the Dome and in search of family, is disarmingly innocent and charming and I wanted to like him.  The problem is that the characters are lost in the midst of the horror and dirt of the world they inhabit and it's hard to bond with them and, ultimately, care about their fates.  The constantly switching narrative is probably also partly to blame for the general feeling of detachment.  Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective, including Pressia, Partridge and Lyra to name but a few.  It's good to see the world from a number of views but it's hard to build a relationship with a narrator that you might not hear from for another 100 pages.  

Despite not enjoying reading Pure that much, I can appreciate that it was beautifully written.  Baggott's ability to design and describe a broken world is immense and her descriptions are stunning.  Devastatingly so.  If you do read this and are feeling resilient, there are some great passages.

After a dramatic start, this book became a serious slog. It's crazy that a book so arguably action-packed could seem so slow and be such terribly hard work.  And yet, after 100 pages or so, every time I picked it up it was just to get it read, rather than to enjoy reading it.  I kept hoping that I would pass a point where I would be swept into the story and get carried through to the end.  Sadly, I never found that point.  For that reason, and despite all of its virtues, I would only really recommend this to someone with the time to amble their way through a horrifying vision of a world almost without humanity.  If you're looking for a fast-paced read, this one certainly isn't for you.

Overall:  This seems to be a book that you either love or hate and I've read as many positive reviews as I have negative.  For me, it was a brilliant idea executed in a style that didn't seem to fit its subject matter.  Elegantly told but somewhat excruciating to read (for more than one reason) and part of a series I can't see myself reading any more of.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date finished:  16 January 2012
Format:  eBook
Source:  NetGalley
Genre:  Dystopian fiction
Published: by Grand Central Publishing in February 2012

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Review: 'The Spurned Viscountess' by Shelley Munro

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads.com)

Cursed with the sight and rumors of witchcraft, Rosalind's only chance at an ordinary life is marriage to Lucien, Viscount Hastings. She doesn't expect love, only security and children of her own. Determined to go through with the wedding, she allows nothing she encounters at the gloomy Castle St. Clare to dissuade her.

Recently returned from the Continent, Lucien has no time for the English mouse his family has arranged for him to marry--not when he's plotting to avenge the murder of his beloved Francesca. He has no intention of bedding Rosalind, not even to sire an heir.

Though spurned by her bridegroom, Rosalind turns to him for protection when she is plagued by a series of mysterious accidents and haunted by terrifying visions. Forced to keep Rosalind close--and tempted into passionate kisses--Lucien soon finds himself in grave danger of falling in love with his own wife...

The Review

I can't remember now why I picked this book up because it was way back in December.  I can only imagine that it's the same as the reason I ever head in the historical romance direction.  I was pretty tired toward the end of the year and reading short sort-of-historical romances is my equivalent of watching a trashy chick flick.  I know that they're cheesy and that they're never going to win any literary prizes but I like them.  Don't judge me.

So why,you might ask, am I about to moan about the writing? Ok, so you weren't going to ask because you didn't know I was going to.  But I am so that's my way of warning you that this is a sort of strange review.  I pick up a book because I want to have a certain trash factor and then I bemoan the dressing up of said trash....wait, let me explain!

I have absolutely no problems with stereotypes.  Heck, I was actually hoping for a ridiculously brooding gentleman, a woman to simper her way into his stony heart, a suitably conniving stepmother and an appropriately gloomy and mysterious mansion.  The writing interrupted my mind-numbed enjoyment by being noticeably repetitive.  I lost count of the amount of times that Rosalind "lifted her chin" in a display of stubbornness and/or determination.  Likewise Lucien's scowling.  At first, the attempts to round out the characters with some mannerisms were nice touches.  After a while, every time either of those particular examples came up, I did a kind of eye-roll to myself and grumbled a bit.  I'm fun like that.

Writing aside, the narrative is muddled and a little odd, switching between Rosalind and Lucien's POVs indiscriminately.  At first, it was a good balance between Rosalind's good intentions and Lucien's brooding.  They're both reasonable characters with decent back stories.  Even that became repetitive, though, as the chapters started to seem similar.  In general, it's interesting to see the same event from two perspectives.  Not so much when there's a pervasive sense of deja vu.

Rather than enhancing the story, the magical twist of Rosalind having "the sight" came across as a slightly lazy technique.  Rosalind can read the minds of anyone she physically touches.  Persecuted for years because of her uncanny abilities, Rosalind professes to always wear gloves so as to avoid unwanted contact and alerting to her new unsuspecting family to her quirk (a great idea that I'm pretty sure would work a lot better if she actually ever remembered to wear them).  Every now and then, Rosalind gets a handy peek into her unsuspecting spouse's mind, which obviously makes it much easier for the author to have Rosalind understand his social and emotional ineptitude.  Because obviously talking to your husband to get to know him is a much longer process and could be a bit like hard work.  

It's not all bad and I might be being unfair.  There are pirates, smugglers, secret passages and there is plenty going on.  It's a reasonably fast-paced novel and the last quarter is rather exciting because the characters are finally far apart enough that the alternating POV technique doesn't seem awkward and actually serves to heighten the drama.  Even in my interest, I also managed to be disappointed, because the writing was much better and it was a hint at what the book could have been.  What I'm saying, badly, is that it's not terrible...just not great.


Oh, and there is an adult scene or two so if you're of a sensitive disposition when it comes to raunch, you have been warned.  

Overall:  I sound as though I hated it.  I didn't hate it, it was just flawed.  If you want something quick and not overly taxing and are feeling tolerant of not-so-perfect writing, you'll have a lovely time with The Spurned Viscountess.  If you read it fast enough that you don't have time to focus too closely on its shortcomings, you'll probably really like it!



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Date finished:  19 December 2011
Format:  eBook
Source:  NetGalley
Genre:  Mystery; Historical fiction; Romance
Published: by Carina Press in September 2010