26 June 2017

The Wives' Revenge by Lindsey Hutchinson

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Women's Fiction
Format: Free digital ARC provided via Netgalley in exchange for honest review
Expected publication date: 01 Jul 2017
Heat level: None

Disclaimer: There is an affiliate link at the end of this post. If you click through and buy something, it will help me add a few coins to my grocery money. Thanks!

The Wives' Revenge by Lindsey Hutchinson is the story of the Wednesbury Wives, a group of friends living in a poverty-stricken English village in 1884. This small group is an informal mafia of sorts who can be counted on by the other women of the village to help in situations that the police of that time usually ignored, such as a husband beating his wife. The book spans many years, from the time Violet, the daughter of one of the Wives, was in elementary school until well into her adult years.

I don't know the official term used in the publishing world for this type of book, but I would call it a slice-of-life novel or perhaps a family saga. It doesn't focus on one big problem that needs to be resolved. Instead, there is a series of anecdotes in chronological order that show how the Wednesbury Wives gain power and respect over time. It has a rhythm of showing the reader a problem, telling the reader how the Wives solved the problem, then moving on to the next problem. 

Hutchinson's writing style was troublesome for me at first because I didn't feel like I was there with the characters; it was like someone describing a movie to you instead of you watching the movie yourself. Somewhere around the 30% mark, however, the story became more engaging. I believe the inclusion of more dialogue was the key. I would rather read what the characters actually said than to have the narrative text just tell me that they talked.

While some of the topics that this book touches on (rape, wife beating, abortion, poverty) are pretty serious, there is a simplicity to it that may or may not appeal to certain readers. There wasn't much to set the Wives apart from each other except for their names; the dialogue made them sound almost interchangeable. The ease with which they came up with a solution for every problem may strike some readers as unrealistic. I was able to accept all of that, but there were certain punishments the Wives administered that I had trouble overlooking. 

Despite the flaws I mentioned, this wasn't too bad for a weekend read. If you want to indulge in some escapism that doesn't involve magic or superheroes yet the bad guys still get their comeuppance, you may want to give this a try.

The Wives' Revenge on Amazon

23 June 2017

Friday Reads 23 Jun 2017

Reading two novels at a time? That's crazy talk, but that's what I'm doing this week.

15 June 2017

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of Ladies of Harper's Station series
Genre: Christian historical romance
Format: Free digital ARC obtained via Netgalley in exchange for honest review
Heat level: Sweet -- kisses only

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and buy something, I will get a few coins to support my caffeine habit. Thanks!

Five-star ratings are a rarity, coming from me, but I felt this book deserved one. Even after a night to sleep on it, I still can't find anything I disliked about this book. What more can a reader ask for? Anyway . . .

Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer takes place in America in 1894. It tells the story of Grace Mallory, a telegraph operator who has gone into hiding after her father's murder. One night she receives word that her father's killer has found her and is on his way. This message is also heard by Amos Bledsoe, another telegraph operator that Grace has struck up a friendship with under the name of Miss G. After months of correspondence, Amos finally summons up the courage to go meet Miss G just as her life is in danger. He must figure out if he has what it takes to be her hero.

This story had everything I could ask for in a historical romance. The hero and heroine have a fun, light banter with each other in a more formal style than is found in contemporary language. The side characters are interesting and populate a town that I want to revisit. The plot was suspenseful but not so fraught with tension that I wanted to put the book down (that has happened a lot with me; I don't read to be stressed out).

As is customary in inspirational fiction, the physical contact is kept at the kisses-only level. I think it conveyed the passion between the hero and heroine in a way that wouldn't make Grandma blush.  The faith-based content is more upfront that in other inspirational romances I've read recently, but there are no conversion moments. It consists mainly of characters who are already believers calling on God to give them strength.

I missed out on the first book of the series and the novella that came after, but you don't need to read either one to understand what is going on in this book. Of course, now that I've been reminded of how much I like Witemeyer's writing, I will go back and read the other books.

Heart on the Line on Book Depository
Heart on the Line on Amazon

11 June 2017

Friday Reads 09 Jun 2017

Both my computer and my Internet connection were being uncooperative this week, so I'm posting this two days late. Sorry! At least I got some reading done :-).

07 June 2017

Unplugged (A Portrait of a Rock Star) by J. P. Grider

My rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary romance
Format: Free e-book obtained from Amazon (no longer available as an e-book)
Heat level: Warm -- sex scenes are not overly explicit but parts are mentioned

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and buy something, I will get a few coins to support my caffeine habit. Thanks!

The cover for this e-book looks like a blurred photo of Keith Urban. Maybe I watch too many country music videos. Anyway . . .

Unplugged (A Portrait of a Rock Star) by J. P Grider brings readers the story of Tagg Holland, a 90s-era rock star who went into hiding after the death of his wife and sank into a depression. In an effort to give him something to focus on other than his grief, Tagg's mother hires a personal trainer named Mara to get him in shape for a possible reunion tour with his band. Tagg falls for the trainer, but is he stable enough for a relationship?

One review on Goodreads described the writing as "clunky" and I couldn't have said it better. The book was written in the first person from Tagg's perspective. The flowery phrases describing Tagg's mental state sounded awkward coming from his own mouth. This was one of Grider's first novels, and she seemed to be striving to create something that was different than the average romance by using vocabulary that I would normally run across in literary fiction, such as "insentient", but then made poor word choices like using "sorted" instead of "sordid". There is no rule saying that romance can't be literary, but this book doesn't live up to that goal.

This book confused me with its direction in other ways, as well. Since it is labeled as the story of a rock star I expected debauchery, but about 70% of the book read like a sweet and secular romance, meaning no religious content but also no sex and the occasional curse word. Then the author threw in both sex AND Catholicism, and I was baffled. I'm not so innocent as to believe that people who believe in God don't have premarital sex in real life, but in most of my romance reading, sex and church are in different books.

There are certain elements one expects when reading a romance that follows the "celebrity meets girl-next-door" trope, but I have never read a book where they were as predictable as they were here. All the aspects of the stereotypical rock star lifestyle were included but it was like someone was checking them off a list. Drinking? Check. Paparazzi catching photo at the wrong time? Check. Intrusive fans? Check. The hero and heroine's eventual coupling had all the sexiness of a task being checked off the list, as well.

The predictability would have been tolerable if the hero and the heroine weren't so one-dimensional. Tagg was a sloppy mess and Mara was endlessly forgiving, no matter what. The attempts at lighthearted banter fell flat. The frequent descriptions of Mara as tiny and wide-eyed started to sound creepy toward the end, especially since they were in Tagg's voice. However, the worst thing was that I couldn't shake the conviction that Tagg and Mara were together for the wrong reasons. With most romances, after I turn the last page I imagine that the couple had a calm and happy life. With Tagg and Mara, I could only picture the problems that cropped up in their future.

I must mention that there is a note on Goodreads mentioned that this book had a third edition released from a different publisher in 2015 with a major update and complete re-edit. Supposedly people who had the original Kindle edition were to be pushed an update. Well, I've had this book in my Kindle app since 2012 and I have no memory of receiving an update. Furthermore, the book is no longer available in e-book format, and I don't want to pay $10 for the paperback version just to satisfy my curiosity. If any of you have purchased this book since 2015 and read it, I would be curious to know your opinion of it.

Unplugged on Book Depository

Unplugged on Amazon

05 June 2017

Sometime Soon by Debra Doxer

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Chick lit, I think
Format: Free e-book found on Amazon (no longer available as an e-book)
Heat level: Subtle -- one sex scene and it wasn't described in detail

Sometime Soon by Debra Doxer is a what you might call a chick lit novel, or perhaps a slice of life novel. Our heroine is 30-year-old Andrea Whitman. She works in the marketing department of a tech company, she owns her own home, and she has family and friends that she enjoys spending time with. The only thing that isn't going smoothly is her dating life. The people closest to her keep telling her that she is too picky, but Andrea just believes that she has a strong sense of right and wrong. She's decided that she would be perfectly happy with taking a break from dating, but her family and friends won't let that happen.

My feelings about this story were lukewarm. This title has been sitting on my iPad since 2013 and I had forgotten what it was about. I assumed it was a romance, but it really isn't. The story is written in the first person and Andrea tells the reader about what is going on with her family, friends, and a few guys she's dated. There wasn't any big conflict that needed to be resolved and nothing to really keep me turning the pages other than a mild interest in what was going to happen next.

There were a few times when I wasn't sure if I was too far away from the dating scene to understand why Andrea was upset with some of the men. Some of her deal-breakers seemed more like preferences to me -- it would be nice if the guy did XYZ but I could probably overlook the fact that he didn't if he was otherwise a good guy. Andrea got upset over a couple simple things that made me wish someone else was reading this book so I could discuss it with them, but that was the only part of the story that got my blood going a little.

Overall, I found this to be a bland read. It is reading for killing time in the doctor's office. There was just enough spark, though, that I would be willing to check out the author's later books to see if her storytelling skills got better.