Review: Impostor (Slide, #2) by Jill Hathaway

Impostor
Impostor by Jill Hathaway
Genre: Romance – Young Adult – Mystery, Series
Received: Digital copy borrowed from library
Finished: July 22, 2013
Reviewed: July 23, 2013
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Impostor is a step up in the Slide series, but only slightly. I still feel that the writing is, well, a little basic; it gets the job done, but that’s about it. The main plot is an interesting idea that entertained, yet wasn’t used to its full potential. I expected it to be darker and for there to be more peril involved, what with an “impostor” involved (impostor is a bit of a misnomer, it’s not quite the term I’d use), but it never got close to that point. If there had been more grit and danger, the book could have been a killer sequel instead of disappointing. However, on the plus side, the mystery is tighter and better constructed, and I couldn’t say for certain that I had figured it out, but I did have an idea (I so smart. Not.). The other plots are fine, somewhat predictable or didn’t go as deep as they could have, but they were alright. All the plots are tied up just a little too neatly at the end, not that there isn’t enough of the sliding power to be utilized for future books, but everything ends a little too rosy for the circumstances. Oh well.

In Slide (the first book), I found Vee to be a rather shallow characterization and dim as far as picking up on clues. I’m happy to say that changed in this book. Sure, she said/did stupid things, not because she was dumb, but because people do say and do stupid things, no matter their intelligence. It’s a fact (okay, my fact, but it still counts). For most of the book Vee spent a lot of time having a snotty, self-absorbed, “woe is me” attitude, which might annoy some people, but made me believe her as a teenage character. Face it, most teenagers can act like that to some degree or another (I sure know I could be!). I’m not quite sure where the sliding power is going, if I like where it’s gone, or if there’s even going to be more books in the series, but it is an idea that has many possibilities. I’m just not positive that it’ll ever get to them. Overall, a decent book that passes the time, but nothing spectacular that’ll blow your mind (maybe, I could just be assuming things again).

Random notes:
This series sure has many awesome covers.
What is with YA books featuring a female protagonist “borrowing” some of Veronica Mars’ back story? This is the second one I’ve come across. O__o

Review: Epitaph for Three Women (Plantagenet Saga, Book 12) by Jean Plaidy

Epitaph for Three Women (Plantagenet Saga, #12)Epitaph for Three Women by Jean Plaidy

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Book Description (via Goodreads):

On the death of Henry the fifth, a nine-month-old baby is made King of England. Ambitious men surround the baby king, including his two uncles, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester. Shrewd and clever, Bedford seeks to uphold all his late brother had won and preserve it for young Henry the sixth. Gloucester, a man of poor judgment, greedy for wealth and power, has other ideas. In Lancastrian England and war-torn France, there are three women whose lives are to have a marked effect on the future. Katherine de Valois, haunted by an unhappy childhood, finds love in an unexpected quarter and founds the Tudor dynasty; Joan of Arc leaves her village pastures on the command of heavenly voices; and Eleanor of Gloucester is drawn into a murder plot and becomes the center of a cause celebre. Murder, greed and ambition flourish alongside sacrifice, dedication and courage. These are turbulent times as the defeated become the victorious…

*****

2.5 stars

Epitaph for Three Women turned out to be far less about these three women than I was led to believe by the book’s description. Broken into three parts titled Katherine of Valois, Joan of Arc, and Eleanor of Gloucester, only Joan, or Jeannette rather, has an actual story that follows her path in life. The other two are background players to the politics going on at the time, especially those concerning the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester and England’s fight for France. Whenever Katherine enters the picture, it’s all light, airy, and extremely romanticized, especially in regards to Owen Tudor. For most of the book they live a totally idyllic life that doesn’t feel realistic in the least. Eleanor Cobham is portrayed as a scheming, crown-hungry social climber who proves far too trusting of witches and soothsayers. Isabeau of Bavaria fares even worse and I got tired of the constant references to how whorish she was. Since this was written, historians have looked into the accuracy of her reputation and dismissed certain facets as untrue. Still, this isn’t a completely bad book. Putting aside Katherine’s storyline where she only made cameo appearances anyway, I enjoyed the first part the most. Not knowing much about this period, the history was fascinating. The second featuring Jeannette was my least favorite, but I lay full blame at my feet because I have just never cared for Joan of Arc’s story, so found most of this part boring. While there was some interesting information in the book, I didn’t love the book but it’s an easy introduction to this particular time.

For more information on Eleanor Cobham, I recommend Susan Higginbotham’s guest post at Madame Guillotine.

Originally Reviewed: October 17, 2012
Received: Local Library

Review: Sara’s Song

Sara's SongSara’s Song by Fern Michaels

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Short synopsis:

Rock star falls for doctor. Rock star writes song for doctor. Rock star then is in plane crash and is claimed dead. Rock star’s brother enters picture. A love triangle and drama ensues as the rock star’s sleazy former girlfriend slash back-up singer tries to claim song as her own and does everything she can to get her evil mitts on it. Duh duh DUH….

I first read Sara’s Song as a young teen and found the story so romantic that its basic plot has stuck with me since. Being so young, I was able to look past, or more likely didn’t notice, the writing, specifically the stilted dialogue. It’s so clunky and awkward sounding, everybody talks as if they have the dread virus Verbal Diarrhea where they ramble from one topic to the next and back again using short, choppy sentences. Rather akin to riding a random thought roller coaster, I’d say. After a while the dialogue either became better or I became used to how it was written. There’s also some odd adjectives used a couple times (loose-limbed for one) and other words and phrases used too often. One phrase in particular that I’ve always hated: “It is what it is.” Shameful language ahead. No shit, Sherlock. This is surely one the stupidest expressions I’ve ever heard and want to punch anyone in the face who uses it (anger issues? Me?! Never!). Of course it is what it is, what the fuck else would it be?! Okay, calming down now. Anyway, seeing as the plot is rather implausible, I’m willing to forgive a lot, it is fantasy after all. Although, I find it very hard to believe a nurse can go from working at a hospital to working at a veterinarian’s office. Humans and animals may have similarities but they are different species. There’s no way I’d want her to touch my cat without first going back to school and studying to become a veterinary technician. I came across some typos and mistakes while reading the Kindle edition, such as incorrect word usage and random periods thrown into the middle of a sentence. I assume the latter came about through the transfer from paper to digital, but not too sure about the others.

With all that said, I still managed to become charmed by the story, flaws and all (and there are many), and had a hard time putting down the book. That tells a lot, seeing I have the attention span of a fruit fly. Even though this is technically a romance, not a lot of time is spent on developing much of a romance between Sara and Dallas or Sara and Adam, but there’s enough that I didn’t have a problem. However, what I did have an issue with was timing; I never knew how much time had passed in the book to gauge exactly where Sara and Dallas were in their relationship or how long the duration was between Dallas’ “death” and Sara and Adam’s attraction, mostly everything appeared to happen far too soon, but it’s hard to tell for certain. I liked the characters, they’re not anything spectacular or deep for that matter, but basically regular people who talk in an inhuman way. Dallas made some odd decisions that might rile or confound some people but I think that’s because (minor SPOILER, but nothing integral to the book’s plot) he obviously suffered a traumatic brain injury when he fell out of the tree at age eight. While the book makes no claim of the kind and just waives it off as dyslexia, poor eyesight, and being half-deaf. None of those would explain some of his choices like a brain injury would. END SPOILER But that’s just my hypotheses.

While this technically doesn’t deserve more than three stars and most aspects could have been stronger and employed more depth, I enjoyed reading the book and was able to get lost in the story of love, loss and happily ever after.

Originally Reviewed: November 9, 2012
Received: Digital copy borrowed from library
Buy @ Amazon: ebookpaperback

Review: Ghost Walk (Harrison Investigations, Book 2)

Ghost WalkGhost Walk by Heather Graham

My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

Book Description from Amazon.com:

Yes, she believed in ghosts, or if not ghosts, per se, a memory that lingered in certain places.It sure as hell wasn’t something she was going to share with anyone.

Nikki DuMonde’s newest employee is standing at the end of her bed at four o’clock in the morning begging for help. It’s a joke, right? Besides, as manager of a successful New Orleans haunted-tour company, Nikki doesn’t scare easily. But in the light of day, harsh reality sets in as a police officer informs her that Andy was brutally murdered—at the exact time Nikki swears the distraught woman was in her room.

No one believes her except for Brent Blackhawk, a paranormal investigator desperately trying to forget his tragic past. Half Irish, half Lakota—and able to communicate with the dead—Brent is used to living in two worlds. But when he realizes the ghost of a slain government agent is also trying to reach out to Nikki, he knows that she, too, must listen to the dead…if she wants to keep living.

*****

Oh boy, where to begin…. I’ve enjoyed Heather Graham’s books in the past as the fun brain candy they can be, sadly this wasn’t one of them. I can’t say it’s a terrible book, but it’s far from good. Everything is just so lifeless, the characters, the mystery plot, the romance, everything was lame and weak. Which brings me to the dialogue which is clunky and often awkward. At one time, Nikki, the main character, had just come from her best friend’s funeral and is now at the after-service gathering, where she proceeds to remark to another friend that she and her boyfriend are good for each other. What? How? Who? Who does that? How could you even think of anything else at a time where you’re crushed at your friend’s death? Totally strange and was one of many instances that took me out of the book. The romance, oh the romance. We get these two supposedly perfect people who both have the personality of a wet rag on a good day, aren’t very bright, more so on Nikki’s end, don’t know each other, never seem to have any conversations, and definitely have no (none! nein! zilch! nada!) chemistry together. Oy vey. Looks really aren’t everything. Okay, so the ghosts are a bit more interesting but that’s not enough to save the book. Come to think of it, they were actually more alive than the living characters. Ha! Too bad the book wasn’t told from their view.

I had issues with the constant PC (politically correct) references throughout, mainly when someone would use the horrific, scarred-for-life-if-uttered I-word. *whispers* Indian. Sarcasm Alert! OMG, did someone just die? I’m so sorry, I meant Native American! Talk about annoying, there were at least three instances of that, one especially stupid. Believe it or not, but there are actually those who prefer to be called (American) Indian rather than Native American.

I don’t know if Ms. Graham was going through something or if this was a rush job or what, but this was one boring book filled with boring people who lead boring lives where boring situations may or may not happen, all of which leads up to an absolutely dumb ending to the book’s lame plot. It’s so dumb I don’t even want to think about it anymore. The only thing saving this from one star is that I didn’t hate the book, it just didn’t inspire me to care one way or the other about anything or anybody in the story. Thumbs down.

Originally Reviewed: October 4, 2012
Received: Digital copy borrowed from my library

Review: Vixen (Flappers, No. 1)

Vixen (Flappers, #1)Vixen by Jillian Larkin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.75 stars

Once upon a time there were three beautiful girls who went to the best schools (and speakeasies), and they were each assigned booze and clothes that are the cat’s meow. But the flapper lifestyle took them into different directions and now they work to find out who they are and what makes them truly happy. My name is Vixen.

And so you’ve been introduced to the first installment of The Flappers series Charlie’s Angels’ style (the best I was able to come up with anyway).

Meet our Angels Vixens:

Gloria
She’s the one who has it all: the name, riches, looks, clothes, a handsome fiancee, everything comes easily to her, and everybody seemingly loves her. But this poor little rich girl isn’t so happy after all and so she begins to rebel.

Clara
Burned by her former flapper lifestyle, she’s now trying to start over as “Country Clara” without her sordid past coming to light. So has she turned into a goody-two shoes or is it just part of a grander scheme? Only time will tell.

Lorraine
Jealous of best friend, Gloria, she’s desperate to step out of Glo’s shadow to become the center of attention as an individual.

Before getting to my review, there are a few questions that should be addressed:
Is this great literature? No.
Will this book change your life? No.
Will you learn anything from reading this book? No. Well, maybe some twenties’ slang.
Is this book accurate to the period. No, there are some liberties, but it’s good enough as wallpaper to the players and scenes.
Is this book entertaining beyond belief? A resounding YES!

VIXEN is very easy to read and captured my attention from the first page, and while it may not be the best book ever, I had a lot of fun reading it. While there’s nothing glaringly obvious anachronism-wise, I did question some word choices, phrases, and actions, but overall they were easy to overlook and I likened it to watching A Knight’s Tale starring Heath Ledger. Written in third-person, each chapter focuses on one the three girls’ point-of-view, starting with Gloria and continuing with Clara and then Lorraine, throughout the book until the end.

As for the characters, Clara (named after Ms. Clara Bow?) was definitely my favorite to read about, she’s recovering from the aftereffects of her life in New York City (which includes a boy of course), and is trying her best to leave the past behind her and move on with her life. Her story had a lot to offer and she felt like a real person who had made mistakes and was now left dealing with the repercussions. Lorraine was a trainwreck you can’t take your eyes off of, and while I can’t say I liked her, I felt sorry for her. She tries way too hard to stand out and ends up making herself look pathetic; if she keeps it up she’ll turn into a very ugly person whom everyone hates. Forget Gloria, Lorraine is the “real” poor little rich girl of the book. She’s in the middle of making all the wrong decisions and we’re along for the journey, which made her multidimensional and interesting to read about as well. Gloria was my least favorite, mainly because I don’t think the author knew quite how to write her. At one moment Gloria seemed like a good girl rebelling, but then there would be moments where she was a real bitch and those two aspects just didn’t gel into a cohesive whole. Now if she was seemingly sweet on the outside and really was a conniving bitch underneath, then I’d be on board or at least would get it. But she wasn’t that type of bitch and she wasn’t Alexis Carrington-bitchy (or insert less-dated reference here) either. How she was written made her look more like Sybil and didn’t render me to sympathize with her at all. It didn’t help that I felt she was too close to a Mary-Sue for my liking. I don’t like perfect or near-perfect characters, they’re boring and so was she. What was her motivation for anything, such as singing? Was that always a dream or did it just now come about? Is her recent behavior only happening because she’s unhappy? Sorry, but there’s just not enough there to make me care about this character. Gloria needed to be more fleshed out to make her feel like a real human, with real thoughts in her head and real feelings, and not a cliched cardboard cut-out.

The love aspects of the novel were fairly glossed over, mainly Gloria and Jerome’s story, and felt more like teenage hormones than actual real love.
“I don’t know you but you’re hot and I love you.”
“Nothing will keep us apart!”
“We’ll be together forever!”

Which is too bad because I like the idea of an interracial romance taking place in the 1920’s, it could have been fantastic, but instead was tepid and generally unromantic. It didn’t help that half the duo was boring old Gloria and the other half never developed beyond the fact that he’s a black musician who’s forbidden to her due to the color of his skin. I wished for more impact and still hope for that in the next installment of the series. Clara’s budding relationship with Marcus was far more realistic because they actually had conversations *gasp* and was well-paced. The relationships between the girls were touch and go, sometimes they felt authentic, then at other times interactions appeared too advanced to where the relationship had last left off; it was like there were scenes edited out in chunks. The same could be said of the developing romance between Gloria and Jerome.

So a few things bothered me in the book, such as the issue I had with every girl who wasn’t one of the main trio being cattily described, i.e. eyes are close together, that color makes her look sallow, etc. Can we get over doing that already? That’s not encouraging good behavior. A little more positivity would be a refreshing change. Another thing that annoyed me was at one point, the crap hit the fan and *minor spoiler* Gloria’s career as a torch singer, which she’s naturally perfect at (of course), came out into the open. So who does she immediately blame? Her best friend, Lorraine of course, whom she slaps! And who to this point Gloria had no provocation to even think it’d be her who had spilled the beans. Lorraine had not done anything to deserve Gloria’s wrath, or at least nothing she knew about yet, so I don’t know if the author had forgotten that fact or what. It did not make any kind of sense because there were other people who knew what Gloria was up to and others who could have easily found out. To me it was sloppy writing. What kind of friend does that make Gloria anyway? Not one I’d like, who always thinks the worst of her best friend without any miniscule proof of guilt. Told ya she was a bitch. **END SPOILER** There were some minor editing inaccuracies, such as when Gloria’s dress goes from gold sequined to red in less than a page (pages 74-5) but nothing too overt to jar me out of the book altogether. Lastly, perhaps there was a bit too much twenties’ slang that wasn’t always incorporated into the text as smoothly as possible.

Overall, the plots were well-done and moved along at a brisk enough pace that I never got bored. The ending unfolded so that it tied up the multiple plotlines while still keeping plenty of loose ends for the sequel. So, a lot of the book is superficial, in some cases there are caricatures instead of characters, and it is a shallow interpretation of the Roaring Twenties, I don’t care, the book is just plain fun and sometimes that’s all I need. And while I can’t say I loved this book and it totally lived up to its beautiful cover (seriously that dress is gorgeous, though I could do without the pit shot), I was suitably entertained and will read the sequels to find out what happens next, while I keep up the hope that Gloria will turn into a real, live girl.
Originally reviewed: July 8
Received: Local library

Review: Hex Marks the Spot

Hex Marks the Spot
Hex Marks the Spot by Madelyn Alt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Here we are into the third entry into the Bewitching Mystery series. So what’s Maggie into this time? The murder of an Amish ladies’ man, one who’s married and has young kids, at that. She also has struggles with her love life and is overcoming her fear of the “unknown” and becoming more adept at using her gift.

May contain minor spoilers of previous books.

A few times throughout this short book (246 pages), I felt like throwing in the towel. After reading the first book, I really felt this was a series for me. One that I connected with and would be able to read book after book. Sadly it has not panned out this way. Mostly because of the main character, Maggie O’Neill, who I really liked in the first book. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with her, I cannot relate to her and I don’t like her too much either. She’s rather a dull fish. Also, some of her thoughts feel forced, especially the “humorous” kind, which might be a big part of why I’m not liking her anymore. Well, whatever it is exactly, she’s just not quite working for me. Though now that she’s using her gift more, this may liven her up in the future, I don’t know. The other thing is her presumptions, or rather the one presumption about the “relationship” between Marcus and Liss she’s had since the first book. Where she ever got that idea in her head, I haven’t a clue, but at least it was resolved by the end of this book. On the up side, she wasn’t as dumb as in the previous book, A Charmed Death. All the other characters in the series I like and feel really add to the series, with maybe the exception of Tom, who is very closed-minded and basically just irritates me as a modern woman. I suppose a character who is that way is needed, and he is making some strides in opening his mind to new and frightening (to him) things, but I don’t get Maggie’s attraction to him; it just has not come across in the three books I’ve read. As for Maggie’s other love interest, Marcus, while he’s definitely way (way, way, way, way, way) more interesting than Tom, and I’m going to flip this, but I totally don’t understand Marcus’s interest in Maggie. I cannot think of anything that would intrigue him about her. I honestly can’t, other than she’s nice. A nice, boring, girl-next-door-type. Well, I guess that’s something. So, the mystery…. Surprisingly, it seemed very minimal in this installment and the baddie very easy to figure out since there wasn’t many, or any, other suspects. Still, it was tied up pretty neatly and made some sort of sense.

At the beginning of every book there is enough of a recap of characters and what’s been going on so each book in the series can easily be read by itself, and not necessarily in order. While that is nice for a new reader or one who has gone a long time inbetween books, it makes for a repetitive nature if read too closely together, so I think it’ll be a while before I pick up the next entry.

Library copy.

Review: Kilmeny of the Orchard

Kilmeny of the Orchard
Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kilmeny of the Orchard is the tale of Eric Marshall, who as a favor to a sick friend comes to the small town of Lindsay on Prince Edward Island to teach at the school. While walking one day, he wanders into a long forgotten orchard and hears beautiful violin music being played by a beguiling young lady, the book’s namesake, Kilmeny. Frightened, Kilmeny flees the orchard and though Eric comes back the next night and then the next, she doesn’t return. Disappointed and intrigued, he asks his landlady about the girl he has seen, not yet knowing her name, and in doing so learns the story of Kilmeny. Mute since birth, she lives sequestered at home with her aunt and uncle who the town considers odd because they keep to themselves, so no one in the town has ever laid eyes on her. Soon after that first meeting, she comes back to the orchard and a friendship between the two begins to bloom towards love.

I went into Kilmeny of the Orchard expecting a sweet love story, which is basically what I got, but I wanted to love the book and unfortunately only ended up finding it so-so. The writing was as lovely as you would expect from L.M. Montgomery and the descriptions brought a certain life to most scenes. However, while I enjoyed the story for the most part, I didn’t become immersed into either it or the characters. This may have to due with how perfect both Eric and Kilmeny were and there was really no “impossible obstacles” to overcome (as the book put it). While I expected a slight fairy tale feel to the book, I was disappointed that there really wasn’t depth to the overall story or the characters, especially whenever Eric thought about Kilmeny it was mostly to mention her looks or how innocent and without guile she was. Okay, so it’s a new love and his first true love, but a little more interaction rather than rhapsodizing over her perfections would have been preferable. Because the book is a product of a different time and place, a few remarks about “foreigners”, such as Neil Gordon who was born in Lindsay to Italian peddlers, Kilmeny’s “defect”, and other mindsets stood out. I wouldn’t say they alienated me from the book but they took me out of the story at times. Even though I understand those views in context to the times this was written, it can still be a hard adjustment for a modern reader. So while this was at times a nice read, it’s hardly something I’ll remember back upon.

Borrowed from the library.