Wednesday, May 10, 2017

My April Reading

Keira and romantic comedy? Who'd've thunk?! But Lucy Parker's books were a revelation to me, and I loved them so much, I can hardly wait for her next one. This doesn't mean that I'm going to dive into RomCom now. I doubt it, because whatever I have read in the past has been, ah, execrable not for me. (Convince me otherwise, please!) Nevertheless, I will read whatever Lucy Parker writes.

Act Like It by Lucy Parker
Pretty Face by Lucy Parker
Categories: RomCom
Comments: How I LOVED these two books: the snappy dialog, the wit, the modern characterization, the London theater scene, all of it so detailed and well-tuned. Parker's talent is in building tight, complex relationships that don't feel rushed or smoothened out. All the problems are out in the open, and they are all dealt with. There're no deus ex machina events that magically get characters out of the tight spots they put themselves in. Act Like It was a far funnier and tighter book than Pretty Face, but both are good. My review is here.

Artistic License by Elle Pierson
Categories: Contemporary Romance
Comments: Lucy Parker also writes as Elle Pierson but in a different vein. This is a sweet, gentle story of two socially awkward, diffident people finding freedom and love and trust with each other. How wonderful is that! Each thinks the other is wonderful and talented, and while neither can talk much to most other people, they can talk up a storm with each other. She's an introvert and he thinks he is ugly. This is their meet cute: Sophy James is a twenty-something art student on a tour of a gallery hosting the art collection of the Ryland Curry Corporation in Queenstown, New Zealand. Mick Hollister is the security guard hired to guard the touring collection. While Sophy and her fellow students of the Dunedin Art School were supposed to study and sketch some of the art, Sophy was not-so-secretly sketching Mick. He's irritated by her attention while also reveling in it. My review is here.

Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama
Categories: Children's Picture Book
Comments: I cried as I read this book—it made me proud and it touched me, even as I absorbed the book with my mind and heart. The book covers the important figures of our nation's history with a paucity of words and a wealth of meaning. Obama is telling his kids how wonderful they are and how the beauty and hardships, successes and failures of history are all part of them. He touches upon the bravery of Jackie Robinson, the brilliance of Einstein, the creativity of O'Keefe, the healing power of Sitting Bull, the strength of Helen Keller, the emotional depth of Maya Lin, the kindness of Jane Addams, the persistence of Martin Luther King Jr., the bravery of Neil Armstrong, the inspiration of Cesar Chavez, the pride of Lincoln, and others.

"Have I told you that America is made up of people of every kind? People of all races, religions, and beliefs. People front the coastlines and the mountains. people who have made bright lights shine by sharing their unique gifts and giving us the courage to lift one another up, to keep up the fight, to work and build upon all that is good in our nation."

Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson
Categories: General Fiction
Comments: Set in London during the 1940s, Robson brings the whole wartime atmosphere alive with great characterization and excellent setting. No detail was deemed too small to get right: journalism jobs, character thoughts and actions, pop culture references, the effects of the Blitz on the people and the city structures, and subsisting on the rationing of everything. The gentle, trusting romance is the icing on the top. Ruby Sutton is a young, ambitious American journalist, who's offered a plum assignment to move to London in the summer of 1940 to report on the war. She's great at her job and very passionate about it. The whole wartime journalism aspect of the story is done superbly well. My discussion of the book with two other reviewers is here.

All Through the Night by Connie Brockway
Categories: Regency Romance
Comments: My Dearest Enemy and All Through the Night are among my top favorite romances of all time. Thieves in Regency stories are not new, in fact, their popularity waxes and wanes all the time. And yet, ATTN is not a run-of-the-mill story. Anne Wilder is a widowed lady of the ton by day and the Wrexhall Wraith by night, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, liberating wealth aristocrats of their jewelry and lucre. Colonel Jack Seward is a master spy and agent of the crown, known for his ruthlessness and success in catching his prey. London's two secret masterminds have set Jack after Anne, but their inexplicable physical response to each other foils their attempts to do their jobs successfully. What I loved about the story is that these former adversaries never lose their dangerous sides when they meet up with each other. I dislike stories where the mighty lion becomes a cuddly bear because of love. These two stay mighty lions and their trust and respect for each other is earned at great sacrifice.

Emily and the Dark Angel by Jo Beverley
Categories: Traditional Regency Romance
Comments: There's not much of a plot in this book, but it is all about the characters, and such memorable characters at that. Even the secondary characters, like the Daffodil Dandy and Violet Tart, are unforgettable. This was a re-read for me, and I've read it a few times before. Emily Grantwich is a mid-twenties miss running the family estate while keeping house for a crippled father and an eccentric aunt. She is saved from being a mopey dismal character by her strength of personality and forward-thinking outlook to life. You do wish life would be better for her, because she's not tiresomely me-poor-me-ing. Piers Verderan is a rake through and through and their meet cute is outside the house of his mistress that he's just left while she's screeching at him. He makes no excuses for his degenerate, debauched life, though once he meets Emily, he wishes he were a better man. He brings excitement and yearning into Emily's life, while she brings steadiness and yearning in his life. Never a more disparate couple have I read about who are perfect for each other.

Whispering Palms by Rosalind Brett
Categories: Contemporary 1979 Romance
Comments: Alas, this book did not hold up to the test of time. It had racism, a brusque domineering wealthy hero, a formerly brave but now doormat heroine, a scheming beautiful older sister, and gorgeous African countryside. Africa was the only secondary character with anything positive going for it—I enjoyed reading about the description of countryside living in the mid-to-late 20th century. Unfortunately, we see only Caucasians in roles of power and wealth with casual racism running rampant through the narrative. Africa is a backdrop, a painting drop-cloth to the story, but it was unable to save it from its cheesiness. I got this 1979 Mills & Boon from a library book sale, and I won't get back the time I invested in it. Back to the library it goes, to be visited upon another hapless soul. Perhaps I should be kind and simply recycle it.

The Rake to Rescue Her by Julia Justiss
Categories: Historical Romance
Comments: I adore Julia Justiss's work but I just wasn't in the mood for the type of second-chance love this proved to be in the first few chapters. It was a DNF for me, and I felt very silently apologetic to Justiss for abandoning her book. In what little I read, the writing is as usual very good. My beef was with the type of story and the characters. The whole tragedy surrounding Diana and why she spurned the young Alastair's love so cruelly in front of all the ton after having professed her love for him was melodramatic and unbelievable. I simply could not move forward from there.