#142 – Just For Now, by Rosalind James
I’ve read five of James’ novels already, so I think I have a handle on her writing style and can say, without bias, that this is a rough and choppy novel. The scenes are exceptionally short, and almost all of them start with a line of dialogue which rarely has any context. So every page or two, the action would jump to a new, unknown place and time, and somebody would say something, and for a paragraph I’d be dizzily wondering what was happening.
The only thing I found in this story worth praising is that James acknowledges, repeatedly, the questionable dynamic of our hero sleeping with his housekeeper (ie, employee.) Not that boss romances aren’t a thing, because they totally are, but since she’s live-in help, this situation is definitely a shade more personal than a CEO and his secretary, or something more standard. Both of the leads talk it over and come to an agreement on how to keep business and pleasure as separate as possible, because of course they’re going to hop in the sack, but at least the issue isn’t hand-waved past or completely ignored.
#143 – Hungry Like the Wolf, by Paige Tyler
This hits every major shifter-romance stereotype I’ve been warned about, without diving into any reasonable worldbuilding to support it. And it’s insta-love. And there are sixteen werewolves in the squad, introduced very quickly and without any personality to any of them, presumably because they get to be romantic heroes in later books in the series. That’s far too many minor characters to bother with.
#144 – Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King
I flew through this one. The writing is clean, the pace gripping, and the characters reasonably interesting–the side guys more so than our hero and his nemesis, but when an author can take a character who we meet as a throwaway relative of another character and turn her into an anxious-but-whip-smart crime-solving badass…well, I can forgive some flaws.
And there are definitely flaws. Because this is a crime thriller and not a mystery, we’re allowed to spend as much time with the bad guy as we do with the hero–and Brady’s just not very deep. He’s got all the box-standard issues a spree-killer needs (in fiction, at least) but not much more than that.
So basically, I enjoyed it, but I know it doesn’t deserve the full five stars, even if I had a grand time. And I do mean to read the rest of the trilogy, too.
#145 – Arrogant Bastard, by Winter Renshaw
I have so many complaints about this one. First, the setup made no sense. Child services don’t handle 18-year-olds, so our hero being removed from his abusive father to be placed with his mother, who abandoned them when he was young, wouldn’t happen.
But it had to be stressed that both he and the not-quite-stepsister he’s about to fall in insta-love with are both of age, so we readers aren’t perving on children.
Not that reading about high school seniors getting freaky didn’t make me squirm. Especially because the “sister” is so cloyingly innocent, being a member of an uber-strict religious family, that (get this) is polygamous.
So she’s the daughter of one of his mother’s sister-wives, making them “family” in the loosest possible sense, but not actually related directly in any way.
And of course when she tries to assert herself a little too much (she wants to go away to college the next year) Daddy Dearest decides she’s going to marry one of his church buddies instead. Because her living situation has to be as gross as possible to make her running away with her “brother” the right thing to do.
It’s all very juvenile and shallow and woefully underdeveloped.
#146 – The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty
DNF around page 110. I hated the writing style from the very beginning–the semicolon and sentence-fragment abuse reached preposterous levels–but I kept going, hoping the scary parts I’ve heard so much about would actually scare me. They didn’t.
Someday I’ll get around to watching the movie instead.
#147 – The Mermaid Chair, by Sue Monk Kidd
ADULTERY IS NOT INHERENTLY INTERESTING. ADULTERY DOES NOT MAKE THE MAIN CHARACTER MORE INTERESTING. ADULTERY DOES NOT MAKE THE MAIN CHARACTER MORE LIKEABLE OR RELATABLE TO MOST PEOPLE.
I thought, prior to this, that the mid-life crisis/affair combo was a thing Male Writers™ did in their literary fiction as a lurid form of wish fulfillment. Turns out, women authors can be that gross too!
Nothing could save this dumpster fire, not the most beautiful imagery or language (which it didn’t have) or the most sympathetic supporting characters (also absent.)
I don’t understand what’s supposed to be “moving” or “inspiring” about a selfish woman whining that she’s unhappy, cheating on her husband, then deciding the affair wasn’t what she really needed and expecting him to take her back without anything more than an “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
And he does.
#148 – A Swiftly Tilting Planet, by Madeleine L’Engle
I remember enjoying this book as a kid, and I can only say that’s because I didn’t know any better. Rereading it as an adult, for the first time in probably twenty years, it’s a story that manages, somehow, to be both boring and confusing.
The confusing part is due to the rampant time-travel and the fact that all the names of the characters in the past are variations on a theme. You’ve got Madoc, Madog, Maddok, and Maddox. Zyll, Zillie, Zillah. I think there’s two Brandons, but there might be three? I’m honestly not sure. We get it, Ms. L’Engle. Family ties don’t have to be hammered down with nearly-identical names.
But that’s the skeleton on which the entirety of the story rests.
The boring part is that our two protagonists, Meg and Charles Wallace, don’t actually do much. Meg is “watching” Charles Wallace time-travel via kything, a holdover from the previous novel, and in the whole book she discovers and relays exactly one piece of information to Charles that he needs. Meanwhile, Charles himself travels “Within” people in the various points in the past, allowing the reader to experience their lives in the narrative, but all he does (sometimes) is give the most subtle nudges to his host in one direction or another. He’s supposed to be passive so he doesn’t ruin the past, yet the whole point of this journey is for him to change the ancestry of the madman who’s about to plunge the world into Armageddon in the present.
It’s honestly a little ludicrous. And dull.