Tag: romance


Review – The Moonspinners

Posted 1 November, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Moonspinners by Mary StewartThe Moonspinners, Mary Stewart

I’m wondering if I ever really say anything different about Mary Stewart’s books. They’re fairly formulaic, really: fairly independent young woman meets young man who may or may not be her cousin, there is some dramatic problem to be resolved, and they resolve it while falling in love, often improbably fast or due to some supernatural intervention (as in Touch Not the Cat and Thornyhold). They’re better than they sound, though: the atmosphere Stewart produces is amazing, and quite a lot of her female characters are actually quite strong and certainly have agency. The main character here, for example, spends most of the story getting pushed to one side by the male characters who don’t want her to get involved — but she’s the one who really sorts everything out.

This isn’t my favourite of Stewart’s books by far, but I think I enjoyed it more this time than I did the first time. Partly because yay, familiar comfort read, no doubt. Nothing wrong with that.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Timeless

Posted 28 October, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 9 Comments

Cover of Timeless by Gail CarrigerTimeless, Gail Carriger

If you’re enjoying the series, then this is basically more of the same sort of tone and plot, relationships, etc. There are a couple of nice developments — Biffy and Lyall’s relationship is particularly nice, and if you’re a fan of happily ever afters, then Conall and Alexia have a solution to something that was a problem, mostly unspoken, from the beginning. It ties up a lot of plot threads, including stuff about the God Breaker plague, Floote’s mysteriousness, and Alexia’s father.

Plenty of drama drama, silly nicknames and sex-positivity, and general silliness. I’m glad to have finished the series, but I’m a bit reluctant to jump into Prudence… The silliness has always been a touch beyond my interest, and I’ve heard other critical things about it. We’ll see. I do own it, so I might as well try!

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Thornyhold

Posted 14 October, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Thornyhold by Mary StewartThornyhold, Mary Stewart

Compared to Stewart’s other romance/mystery stories, this is rather gentle. It’s more about family being there for you, about everyday magic, about finding yourself at last and fitting yourself into the world. The protagonist, Gilly, really hasn’t had a chance to grow up, or at least to grow out of her parents’ expectations, and here she finds space to do exactly that, thanks to the cottage left for her by her godmother.

It honestly sounds at some point like there’s something more sinister going on — and to be honest, the antagonist’s plan is kind of creepy and weird, and there’s animal abuse that really mustn’t be discounted as harmless that I think kind of gets waved away by the ending. And the fact that the antagonist’s plan doesn’t end up working on the intended target, but does work on an unsuspecting and previously uninterested person… hm. That’s kind of not a happy ending, not a reason to relax. If you’re going to have a world where something like a love potion works, and the protagonist is concerned about it up to the point where she meets the man she wants… Hm.

But really, that’s bringing serious issues from fantasy stories into a primarily-romance story, where it’s meant to be unproblematic. So I let it go. (Pause for musical interlude.)

Not my favourite of Mary Stewart’s books (although honestly, I don’t know what I would pick — maybe The Ivy Tree, or Nine Coaches Waiting?) but fun enough when you take it as a gentle romance story with a little tang of mystery and magic.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Wildfire at Midnight

Posted 5 October, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Wildfire at Midnight by Mary StewartWildfire at Midnight, Mary Stewart

It was a grey and drizzly day, this morning — even if it brightened up later — so I felt like turning to one of my comfort reads. Wildfire at Midnight isn’t one of my favourite Stewart novels, and indeed the sense of dread and atmosphere in the book makes it perhaps a touch darker than the others, especially with the moral conflict in the last part where Gianetta thinks she knows who did the crime.

The crime itself is pretty chillingly awful; I can’t remember if any of Stewart’s other novels features a mentally ill antagonist, but that’s how it winds up in this one. And he is pretty unsettling, when you compare his later behaviour with all the rest of the book, and think about what lay under the surface… Not a comfortable thought, certainly. It’s also not the warmest in terms of romance, since that’s barely there — there’s one or two great scenes which establish something, but not enough to really make you root for the relationship to happen.

So overall, definitely still not my favourite. But it’s Mary Stewart: the writing is atmospheric, the heroine is self-sufficient, and the ending is, for the heroine at least, a happy one.

One thing I would like to know, from other readers — there’s a scene early on where Gianetta is talking to the actress, Marcia. They’re talking about the two schoolteachers who are there together: the rather sullen older one, Marion, and the younger one, Roberta. Marcia calls them “schwärmerinen”. That seems to mean something to Gianetta, and she treats it as something scandalous/libellous — what on earth’s the implication meant to be? I have the feeling I’m too young to know context.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Grand Sophy

Posted 2 October, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Grand Sophy by Georgette HeyerThe Grand Sophy, Georgette Heyer
Originally reviewed 8th August, 2013

Hah! This isn’t my favourite Georgette Heyer novel, but I think it might have made me laugh the most so far. God, what a cast of characters, and how ridiculous they all are — Sophy is fantastic, with her matchmaking and her provoking ways and her complete disregard for propriety. I loved the relationship between her and Charles — the last few chapters made me positively hoot with laughter.

I’m sure that people who would never like this genre won’t be convinced by this, but I think I’m being brought to get over my original feelings by Heyer’s work. It’s well written, well paced, and hilariously funny: Sophy’s matchmaking rather pokes fun at the genre, I think: she seems to consider people’s lives as though they’re in a novel and figures out what they would/could do if they were fictional. I half-wanted her to carry everything off, and half-wanted everything to end in a magnificent tangle that would teach her a lesson.

As with Mary Stewart’s work, I wrinkled my nose a little at the potential for cousin-marrying and all that sort of thing, but given the setting, it makes perfect sense.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Landline

Posted 28 September, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Landline by Rainbow RowellLandline, Rainbow Rowell

Stand by for opinions!

Reading the reviews of this book, there’s a significant subset of people who think that Neal is a bad person, a bad character: he’s holding back Georgie from her career; he’s jealous of her close friendship with another man; he has a tantrum and takes his kids to Omaha without their mother because she’s working on something which could, potentially, be her big break, and can’t go with them. I know there were people who read it as anti-feminism, trying to imply Georgie should have spent her time in the home instead of focusing on her career, condemning her close friendship with a man, etc.

As the daughter of a woman with a career and a man who gave up his for me and my sister, I can’t read it that simply. I know exactly how much work my dad puts into keeping the house clean, tidy, and a nice place to live. Neal does that, here, and still finds time to be affectionate to his wife, to play constantly with their children, to do favours for her. And mostly, he doesn’t complain about all the things he has to do. He just wants more of Georgie in his life — to feel like he is her priority, and not Seth. He doesn’t seem to resent Georgie for the fact that he gave up his career for the kids — she didn’t even ask him to, he chose to — and at one point he outright says that if she says that he comes before Seth in her life, he believes her and trusts her, and will not ask her to choose.

It is entirely fair for him to ask her to put some work into the relationship too, and not just rely on him to pick up all the slack. It’s not feminism to simply reverse the roles and leave the husband at home, unsatisfied with his life.

I honestly didn’t find anything Neal asked for unreasonable, and though sometimes his behaviour was a little over the top, let’s not pretend that people have to be perfect in order to deserve love, respect, and partnership. Taking the kids off to Omaha without their mother was unfair to the kids, as well as to Georgie, and so just came across as spiteful. Sometimes his surliness was very unappealing.

But the whole point of this book is about working on a relationship. Making it work. Trying to be a better person, trying to be better to your partner. Owning up when you’ve done wrong. We see more of that from Georgie, because it’s fairly tightly focused on her POV, but in the connection-to-the-past scenes, we see a younger Neal trying to figure it out too.

And, as always, Rowell writes well about that connection between people — the physical connection, the closeness, and how gestures of affection don’t have to be stereotyped kisses. The titular landline is, in fact, just a prop, a way to make the bridge between the characters in the past and present — this isn’t science fiction. It’s romance with a touch of magic. It never gets explained, because it really isn’t the point of the story. You may find that unsatisfying, particularly if you are a fan of time travel stories and the like, but it would be a completely different book if it focused on that aspect (and probably not very characteristic of Rowell’s style).

This isn’t YA, like Eleanor & Park or Fangirl, so it is different. It’s a much more adult experience of love and relationships. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Blood Bound

Posted 14 September, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Blood Bound by Patricia BriggsBlood Bound, Patricia Briggs

Okay, this review on Goodreads kind of sums up some of the problems I’m having. All the super-werewolf-dominance stuff is getting on my nerves, partly because these dynamics are not true of actual wolves in the wild (it’s based on an understanding of wolf social behaviour in captivity), and I am noticing that Mercy’s not a fan of other female characters (at least ones that might be rivals; Jesse, as the daughter of her love interest, is okay) because they’re all submissive or concerned with their appearance or whatever. (Though to be fair, this book does have a few moments of understanding between Mercy and Honey.)

But… it’s still kind of fun anyway, if you keep in mind that yeah, it’s heavy on the tropes. The mystery pulls us deeper into vampire lore and politics, for this book, which is quite fun. I have had enough of the love triangle… quadrilateral… thing, but I sort of knew I was signing on for it with these books. I will be quite interested to see how Mercy and Adam negotiate the issue of dominance between them; it could end up being quite an interesting dynamic, and I like that Adam is conscious of it and willing to work on it. We’ll see how that goes in the next book or two, I guess.

We’re also getting more development of what Mercy is capable of, and she does start being more active and less inclined to let the wolves tell her what to do. It is cool that she works within a team, but I wish they didn’t hold her back so much.

Oh, and I love Warren and Kyle, and there needs to be 100% more of them.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Mariana

Posted 6 September, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Mariana by Susanna KearsleyMariana, Susanna Kearsley

This surprised me with the bittersweetness of the ending. I guess I was expecting a happier one after The Winter Sea managed to work it all out. Still, it’s satisfying that this dodged my expectations, and in more way than one — it deceived me all the way through about the identity of a particular character, and yet when it became clear, it was suddenly obvious as anything. And I do care enough about the other characters to be a little sad about the way it works out; not everyone is going to be happy, for sure.

This is a slow build, really, with Julia’s slow feeling her way into the past, the lack of urgent drive in either timeline until pretty late on. It’s not my favourite of Kearsley’s books, perhaps, but it was fun to read, I got involved with the characters, and it definitely manages to pin down that sense of place which I’ve enjoyed in her other books. I could almost drift in Julia’s life, Julia’s house, while reading this, just as Julia drifted into Mariana’s world… It feels close enough to touch.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Magic Strikes

Posted 1 September, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Magic Strikes by Ilona AndrewsMagic Strikes, Ilona Andrews

I only meant to pick up the second Patricia Briggs book when I was at the library, but then I spotted this and Magic Bleeds, and I couldn’t resist it. It’s exactly what I’m in the mood for right now: snarky, full of action and a will-they-won’t-they romance. Curran and Kate are rather more powerful in that regard than either of Mercy’s paramours; I think I’ll read Magic Bleeds next, since I’m obviously in the mood for this world.

Again, it’s not deathless prose, the most subtle thing ever, etc, etc. However, I do like the worldbuilding, the slow reveal of Kate’s heritage, the various tangles of loyalties and friendships between the characters, and yeah, the snappy dialogue. If this one doesn’t make you laugh, then you must be in a state. (Or it isn’t your thing, and that’s fine. For me, though, it’s funny because it’s a give and take. No one gets humiliated, no one backs down.)

The action was particularly good in this one, with the arena fights. The mythological stuff in the background is interesting, too, and characters I didn’t expect to be developed were given a bit more time, a bit more colour.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Named of the Dragon

Posted 5 August, 2015 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Named of the Dragon by Susanna KearsleyNamed of the Dragon, Susanna Kearsley

Silly story: when I finished The Winter Sea, I thought, darn, I really want a story by Kearsley that is set in Wales, in that landscape, which I love and feel part of. Because she does a great job with landscape, with the feelings it can invoke, but Scotland or Cornwall aren’t my landscapes.

Then I remembered I had already got a couple of chapters into Named of the Dragon. Suffice it to say that the landscape was satisfactory, and I would probably have felt homesick had I read this when not in Wales. Particularly at the bit with the lovely little chapel, St Govan’s — I’ve meant to go there for a while, because of the Gawain link, and this reminded me.

I’m not sure why I stopped at that point, before; while I adore the Welsh and Arthurian aspects of this book, it might have been the characters that didn’t work for me. Mostly the supporting characters: Elen, with her Arthurian fantasy; Bridget, with her flirtations and lack of remorse over basically planning to cheat on her partner; Christopher, with the general veneer of charm that lacked the warmth of (I couldn’t help but make the comparison) Stuart in The Winter Sea. I enjoy Kearsley’s books, but sometimes the supernatural links are too tenuous for me, or rather, too tenuously explained, too tangential to the actual emotional plot.

Because really, it doesn’t matter if Elen and her baby are really somehow related to Igraine and Arthur. What matters is the main character’s gradual acceptance of her own child’s death, her ability to finally put it aside and belong in the present, and help someone else. It doesn’t matter if Gareth and Lyn are somehow linked back to Gareth and Lynette, because their relationship is all their own anyway (and let’s face it, Lyn’s not half as nasty as Lynette, and this Gareth is at least twice as nasty as Fairhands).

I was glad that the romance wasn’t laid on too thick, here. There’s hope, potential, but nothing certain. If the book had been longer, more would have been okay, but for the length and where the story stopped, it was right to stop at that moment of potential.

Rating: 3/5

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