07 July 2017

Friday Reads, 07 Jul 2017

Although I have been reading this week, there hasn't been much of note. I've been dipping in and out of books on Kindle Unlimited, trying to decide if it is worth keeping the subscription after my free trial ends. I've seen a few titles that I would like to read in the future, but frankly, my budget is so tight right now that even $10/month makes a difference. There are so many titles on my TBR that are available at my local library that paying for a book service seems irresponsible. I guess I made up my mind, didn't I?

I have three books on the go:

Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection: Nine Stories of Poverty and Opulence During the Gilded Age   Of Rags and Riches is a novella collection and it is also an ARC for a book that was published a week ago. You know how I feel about letting ARCs languish on my TBR, so I will be rushing to finish that one.

Whiskey Sour (Jack Daniels Mystery, #1)  I had every intention of abandoning Whiskey Sour because mysteries and thrillers are not really my thing. However, I got far enough along in the book that the story keeps popping back up in my head. The same thing happens when I watch a TV show or movie. Even if the show is awful, there is usually a point-of-no-return where I have watched too much to abandon the story easily; I have to know how it ends.

Then We Came to the End I was excited when I received my paperback copy of Then We Came to the End, but after reading only a few pages I could tell that I would have to push myself to finish it. I will definitely read it because the publisher sent me a free copy, but so far I have the impression that this is one of those books where nothing really happens. It will be difficult to get through 300+ pages of observations without action.

You may have noticed that I am not particularly enthusiastic about any of these books. They are all well-written, but they have that sense of obligation hanging over them that makes the contrarian in me push them away. I don't want my reading life to be like exercise -- something I do because I should but I don't get any enjoyment out of it. It has been a while since I lost myself in the world that a book has created. I want to feel that again. Maybe with the next book.

28 June 2017

Trade Me by Courtney Milan

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary romance, new adult
Part of a series?: Book 1 of Cyclone series
Format: E-book borrowed from local library
Publication date: Jan 2015
Heat level: Warm

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!

I recently made a somewhat spontaneous decision to devote the rest of 2017 to reading more of the well-known romance authors whose books I keep hearing mentioned by other bloggers and podcasters. Courtney Milan is definitely on that list. It is a bit strange that I didn't start with one of her historicals since that is my comfort zone. I read mostly Christian historicals, though, and I haven't been able to reconcile the presence of sex scenes in a historical setting. Anyway . . .

Trade Me is the first book in Courtney Milan's Cyclone series. Tina Chen and Blake Reynolds are college classmates who come from totally different backgrounds that still influence their life choices. Tina's family can barely make rent from month to month, while Blake spends the equivalent of Tina's yearly tuition without batting an eye. When they get into a heated debate in class about what it means to be poor, Tina tells him that he couldn't last a month living in her circumstances. Little did she know that he would seriously want to make that trade. Exchanging houses, incomes, and jobs puts them in closer contact than Tina expected and she is not sure she can handle the feelings that surface.

The one word that keeps popping up when I think about this book is "angst". I don't read a lot of contemporary or new adult romance so I don't know if that is a common element of these subgenres. The amount of time I spent in Tina and Blake's minds almost made me feel like I was reading literary fiction, which is something I avoid. Blake was constantly thinking about the particular problems inherent in what looks like an otherwise charmed life, while Tina kept reminding herself of the reasons why she can't let herself be attracted to Blake and why she didn't have time for love. Luckily, the novel had some positive elements to balance out all the agonizing.

One of the positive elements was the dialogue. The banter between Tina and Blake was fun to read, especially during the few times that Tina allowed herself to let loose and enjoy Blake's company. The way Tina consistently held her own against the brashness of Blake's father also made for some enjoyable passages. 

From what little I know of the tech industry, Milan's portrayal of Cyclone Technology (the company that Blake's father founded) felt accurate. On the flip side, the description of how Tina's family had to make choices between paying one thing or another because they didn't have enough money to pay everything definitely rang true. Errors seem to stand out more to me in a book that is set in a time period I actually lived through, but there weren't any obvious ones in this book.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more of the actual trade in the book. One of my favorite tropes is the "fish out of water" scenario. There weren't enough scenes of what it was like for Tina to live in the lap of luxury or how Blake dealt with being broke. The trade was really used as a vehicle for Tina and Blake to spend more time together. That isn't necessarily bad, but I just wish there were more awkward mishaps resulting from living someone else's life.

I rated this book Warm as far as heat level because there wasn't much sexual content; this book was heavy on the longing and light on the action. However, there was enough cursing to give me pause if I were thinking of handing this book to some of my more conservative friends. At least three of George Carlin's seven dirty words are used in this book, a couple of them repeatedly. They weren't jarring to me, but I know that some readers don't even want the occasional "damn" in their books.

Overall, I think this book gave me a good sampling of Milan's writing. I'm not sure if I will read the next book in the series, but I am eager to check out one of her historicals. I don't know why I waited so long to check out her work.

Trade Me on Overdrive
Trade Me on Book Depository
Trade Me on Amazon

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 :-).