Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recent Reads

I’ve finished several new books lately ranging from new releases to older books. Many of these were either books I listened to on tape because of my huge commute or Kindle downoads. Some I’ve liked, some I haven’t.

Always the Baker, Never the Bride

The story did have a fluffy little plot about a diabetic baker who meets a widower who hires her to bake at his new wedding business/hotel. Very fluffy, little development of characters and not a lot of chemistry, honestly. The book was free, you can't complain too much. But I wouldn't recommend it. There were a few significant problems that I saw. First, the editing of this book was horrible. The main character shakes her "hand" not her "head". There are repeated words, missing words and the punctuation needs some tending to. Whoever edited this did a poor job.

Secondly, the constant use of exaggerated dialect when the hero's sisters spoke was distracting and as a resident of Metro Atlanta, I can tell you even the folks born here don't speak in such a caricatured fashion. Finally, I don't mind inspirational stories, I like them in fact. But this story didn't read like an inspirational story. I more got the idea that it was a light romance the author couldn't sell anywhere else so she added in a bunch of heavy handed over the top preaching and moralizing and sold it off as an inspirational book. The minister in the story came across as not quite fitting in the story, he almost seemed pasted in. Further he was self-righteous and pushy; not the kind of character to truly reach out to people. He's constantly grabbing their hands and praying over them. Seriously. He grabs the heroine's hand at a hiking trail and starts praying over her. He corners the hero at a family dinner and starts praying over him. Not inspirational at all. No wonder the hero spends half the book trying to hide from him.

Fools Rush In

Even for the freebie it was, this book was not worth it. I have read some weak stories in the name of free, but I couldn't finish this mess. It has too many hastily introduced characters who were flat. If only this book were about Aunt Rosa. Now there is a character. But Bella is just plain dull and so is the mealy mouthed, one-dimensional "hero" who just seems to stand around and look cute. And the horrible "misunderstanding" that brings them together? She is looking for a deejay. Calls and says she is looking for a deejay to work a wedding. His response? Sure, he'll take the job. But it turns out he's not a deejay, he's a carpenter but he thought she meant a in his name is D.J. This doesn't say much about the author's respect for the intelligence of her readers. The writing is repetitive. She beats her readers over the head with her “cute” little twists.

Hide in Plain Sight

I'm not an evangelical Christian. I'm probably high on their list of people going to hell, so I'm rather stunned at finding myself having to defend this book's Christian slant. But those who left the one star negative reviews over on seemed to have failed to read the product description that clearly identified this as one of the Amish Country/inspirational stories. I found most of the reviews were knee-jerk reactions to being upset at the book being Christian based and basically just Christian-Fiction bashing. No, the grandmother falling asleep reading the Bible wasn't "random". She was clearly established as a woman of faith. Incorporating a character's faith into the story isn't nonsense. And there was nothing sexist about it. The main character was seeking security her whole life and realized that for her that didn't mean the big corporate job. She didn't give up her career, she just decid

ed to change gears and open her own small firm in a place where she could be close to her family. How is that sexist?

That said, this doesn't have the strongest plot nor is it a great work of literature, the same can be said of 99% of books published. Most people don't read because they want to explore the themes, structures and intricacies of literature. Most people read for information or to be entertained. There were some loose ends that were never tied up. A big deal was made about the gazebo, but it never went anywhere. The ledgers

being found in the oddest places being blamed on the sister just sticking them wherever, seemed a bit lame and I expected it to go somewhere but it didn't. Still it's a nice little story and as a free read it was worth the few hours of mind candy entertainment it was.

The Constant Princess

Historical fiction aside, Gregory plays fast and loose with the accepted facts about Katherine of Aragon. Taking an icon of determination, dedication, honesty and faith and turning her into a lying, scheming creature who is dedicated and faithful not to her God, but to the memory of her dead first husband she barely knew, destroys that which is honorable about this well loved and respected historical figure. Making things up to fill in the gaps is one thing, but damaging the reputation of Queen Katherine is not what historical fiction is.

Daughters of Joy

I enjoy reading Christian fiction, but this story doesn't read like Christian fiction, it reads like a sermon. Instead of the religion being a part of the character development and the plotting, the author seems to be hell bent, pardon the pun, on beating the reader over the head with heavy-handed sermonizing that drags down the story and makes it hard to wade through. I finished this from sheer stubbornness, but it wasn't an enjoyable book.

The book had the most laughable collection of plot elements I've ever seen. It was almost as if the writer wrote a list of all the possible elements of a prairie Christian fiction story and tried desperately to work them all in. We have the grieving widow, the grieving widower, the grieving mother who has lost her only child, the misunderstood and badly behaved little child who just needs love, the reformed alcoholic, the man abused by his father, desperate not to repeat the cycle, the reformed prostitute, the wayward wife who comes home, the cross-cultural relationship between a White man and a Native American woman, the biracial child it produces and the resulting bigotry of the community, there is the rogue who threatens the virtue of our heroine, we have the prodigal son who errs and then returns home, and the woman who the doctors have told she will die if she gets pregnant but who puts her faith in God and gets pregnant again because it was her fault her husband had an affair with the reformed prostitute (who becomes pregnant as a result) when she asked him to abstain from sex. (Anyone not clear on what the sequel that focuses on the reformed prostitute will incorporate? I hear the death bells tolling now.)

No wonder this book was such a mess.

Cowboy Trouble

Couldn't even finish this and I can stubborn my way through a lot of bad fiction. This one creeped me out. In the first half of this book, all of the male characters can best be described as creepers and potential serial killers. Who walks up to a complete stranger while wearing chaps and starts carrying her stuff in to her new house? What big-city, single woman living alone doesn't call 911 the minute cowboy dude starts touching her stuff? What hero is in his 30's and still lives with mom and dad? Then there is the town character: a guy everyone says is crazy who dresses up dead animals in tutus and baseball uniforms?

I know this was also a suspense/murder mystery, but seriously, by half way through a romance novel I shouldn't still be wondering if the hero is going to pull out a knife and slice and dice the heroine or if he has the missing girl locked in his basement. The writer makes way too much of the heroines physical attraction to the sheriff who isn't the hero. I mean a casual notice is one thing, drooling is another. On top of it all the editing and formatting are terrible. Don't bother with this one.

The Boleyn Inheritance

This is the story of three women who found their lives dramatically affected by the death of Anne Boleyn. Ann of Cleves, sent by her family to marry a man who had buried all three of his previous wives, including one he beheaded. Jane Boleyn, sister-in-law to the former Queen whose testimony sent doomed Queen Anne and Jane’s husband George Boleyn to the scaffold. And young Katherine Howard, unprepared for the position her greedy family thrust her into and who find her self the heir to Anne Boleyn’s most horrible legacy.

Gregory sticks closer to history without her usual playing fast and loose with facts. All three women are portrayed with all their faults and with their more intriguing qualities as well. Ann is the clever woman who was forged in the fire of one tyrant only to be married to another. The most clever of Henry’s wives, she is the only one to survive with Henry’s good will and brotherly affection. Katherine Howard is strangely sympathetic as Gregory reminds us she was only a child of 15 married to an old man, grossly obese and stinking of the rotting flesh of a wound that wouldn’t heal. She was full of her own self with few thoughts in her head beyond dresses and jewels. A malleable girl, not just for a King, but for those who sought to manipulate her.

Dancing in the Moonlight

This was a nice little story. I almost didn't get it after reading some of the Amazon reviews, but I've concluded those who left the nasty one star reviews are either people who don't really like this genre, have no real clue about the effects of a serious trauma on a person or people who look for some reason to leave nasty reviews. There was good character development, the author took time to show us in flashbacks how the relationship between the H/h developed over the many years of their acquaintance. The h is moody and annoying with huge chips on her shoulders but the first chip is an understandable thorn in her side from the loss of a beloved father and the need to blame someone. The second chip is perfectly understandable as well as she tries to deal with the complex emotions and trials of dealing with a physical trauma that changes her life forever. She's only five months out of the horrors of war and the devastation of losing a limb and some reviewers think it would be realistic for her to be eager to believe someone could love her and all happy sweet and nice? That's not how it works. Some people carry those wounds their entire lives.

Ignore the negative reviews at Amazon and definitely go for this one. The characters are strong and will provoke a reaction from you. Even the secondary characters are well developed and the plot is well formulated. The only reason I rate this higher was that the plot did spend a bit too much time with them actually working on the ranch jobs...then they did more ranch jobs...then they did more ranch jobs...and neither is a rancher.