Saturday, May 16, 2009

Catch-up reviews

Did you know that root canals are really, really not fun? I do now. Sigh. Everyone thank their lucky stars for their healthy teeth -- they are so important!

Otherwise, I am enjoying my summer so far. Getting lots of good reading in. Here are some mini-reviews of books I've read over the last few weeks.

Title: Angelica
Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: 2003, Ace
Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 8.5/10
I started out not loving Shinn's Samaria series, but I have completely changed my mind. If you haven't read the series, you have to start with Archangel, or you'll really miss out. Angelica was published fourth in the series, but it actually takes place first (I think). But it should definitely be read after Archangel, Jovah's Angel, and The Alleluia Files.

More than a hundred years before Archangel, Samaria is visited at random intervals by mysterious strangers dressed all in black. They appear and disappear, leaving behind fires of utter destruction. The Archangel Gaaron is glad that his new Edori bride, Susannah, is a calm and capable woman who can help him through this crisis, while aiding him in the impossible task of controlling his wild sister Miriam. What Gaaron doesn’t know is that Susannah, who still mourns for her former lover, has a secret connection to the god Jovah—a secret that could save the whole planet. He also doesn’t know that his runaway sister has met one of the invaders and is prepared to risk everything to keep him alive.

I loved this one! So interesting. The theme is all about feeling out of place -- Susannah feels lonely and isolated among the angels and Gaaron's human sister, Miriam, feels isolated among the angels. It's so satisfying when they finally find their place that feels like "home." And the action is really exciting too.

Title: First Comes Marriage
Author: Mary Balogh
Published: 2009, Dell
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 6.5/10
The first in Balogh's new trilogy. Balogh is still an autobuy for me -- they're always comforting reads for me.

Against the scandal and seduction of Regency England, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh introduces an extraordinary family—the fiery, sensual Huxtables. Vanessa is the second daughter, proud and daring, a young widow who has her own reason for pursuing the most eligible bachelor in London. One that has nothing to do with love. Or does it?

The arrival of Elliott Wallace, the irresistibly eligible Viscount Lyngate, has thrown the country village of Throckbridge into a tizzy. Desperate to rescue her eldest sister from a loveless union, Vanessa Huxtable Dew offers herself instead. In need of a wife, Elliott takes the audacious widow up on her unconventional proposal while he pursues an urgent mission of his own. But a strange thing happens on the way to the wedding night. Two strangers with absolutely nothing in common can’t keep their hands off each other. Now, as intrigue swirls around a past secret—one with a stunning connection to the Huxtables—Elliott and Vanessa are uncovering the glorious pleasures of the marriage bed…and discovering that when it comes to wedded bliss, love can’t be far behind.

Enjoyable, though not particularly memorable. I did like it enough to buy the second in the series, and I'm sure I'll read it next time I'm in the mood for a nice Regency. I liked the relationship among the Huxtables best (their parents died and they've taken care of each other for years) -- the romance in this one was a bit problematic. Why do the ugly ducklings always have to be so sweet and perfectly well-adjusted? I found Vanessa a bit annoying.

Title: Rachel's Holiday
Author: Marian Keyes
Published: 1998, Avon
Category: General Fiction/ Chick Lit
Rating: 6/10
I read this for a book group that met twice and then sadly died. I really enjoyed it though -- for all that I love to read, I've never been in a book club before. I might try to find another.

Twenty-seven and the miserable owner of size eight feet, Rachel Walsh enjoys two naughty habits: a lover who likes his leather pants tight, and a fondness for recreational drugs. But as Rachel learns, what goes up must come down. First she loses her job, then her lover, and then finds herself being marched off to the Cloisters, Dublin's answer to the Betty Ford Clinic. Outraged—surely she's not thin enough to be an addict!—it suddenly dawns on Rachel that it's about time she had a vacation, and where better than a place crammed with jacuzzis, gyms, and rock stars going tepid turkey? What she gets instead, however, are middle-aged men in sweaters and enough group therapy to drive her to distraction.

This was a really fast, easy read (though it was long -- her editor could have slashed at least 200 pages). It was an interesting look at drug addiction -- it seemed to capture the experience well while still being funny and not too heavy. The gradual revelations about just how sad and pathetic Rachel's life had gotten were well done. I did find her extremely annoying at times -- her naivete and denial got old. And there is a sort-of love story, which I thought was distracting from the more important story of Rachel's recovery.

Title: Heart of Gold
Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: 2000, Ace
Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 7/10
Another Shinn -- this is one of her stand-alone novels.

Two races—the matriarchal indigo and the patriarchal gulden—uneasily co-exist in a single shared metropolis. Nolan, a young indigo male, loves his job working in a biological lab, though he knows he will soon be called home to his family estates to marry his longtime fiancee. Everything in his life changes when he meets Kitrini, a high-caste indigo woman who has defiantly thrown her lot in with the gulden. Issues of class, culture, gender, prejudice, loyalty, and honor shape their choices when Nolan and Kitrini realize that he holds the knowledge that could save the life of the man Kitrini has always loved.

Not my favorite Shinn. The premise is interesting, but I found the racial drama a bit heavy-handed. And I didn't like the way the heroine is in love with someone else (a terrorist, too!) for about 3/4 of the book. Makes her look a little inconsistent. Still a good read, though.


Anonymous said...

I love Shinn's Samaria series! Glad you enjoyed too.

Rosario said...

I recently joined a book club as well, and I'm also really enjoying it. They read stuff I wouldn't normally go for, which has been quite interesting. My turn to choose a book is next September, and I've gone for S. Kearsley's The Winter Sea. It will be fun to see what they think. I'm especially interested to see who this mostly English group will root for ;)

nath said...

Interesting selection of books, Jennie... but unfortunately, none that I would pick up ^_^;

Laura said...

We seem to have similar reading interests--nice to know I'm not the only librarian who enjoys Regency romance.

I've read a few Marion Keyes novels and find that the "could slash 200 pages" issue is common--they're enjoyable, but ultimately that extra paper just started to annoy me (I read several all in a row).

Jennie said...

lasrisas -- Samaria is just such an interesting world! I've really loved them. I'm sad I've only got one more to read. ;)

Rosario -- That's great! I hope they like TWS. It seems like a really good choice for a book club -- I'd think it would appeal to a pretty large audience.

Nath -- I'm surprised you don't like Sharon Shinn - she's sort of similar to Maria V. Snyder, who I know you like. :)

Laura -- I love a good Regency! So cozy and comforting somehow. And my problem with Marion Keyes is the problem I have with a lot of "chick lit": I tend to get tired of the heroine before the book is over. But they are very readable.

nath said...

I don't get that feeling ^_^; I've tried reading one of her fantasy, I think it was Thirteeth House... and nope either.

Kate Diamond said...

I love the Samaria books! "Archangel" is probably my favorite, mostly because I adore Gabriel. What a hottie.

That scene where she wakes up under his wings, and his eyes are so blue that they color the air around her?