Sunday, March 25, 2012

One Night to Remember by Kristin Miller

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: March 23, 2012

First class clothing designer Elizabeth Scott isn’t all that she appears. She may be elegant and poised on the outside, dining with the richest on the ship, but she’s hiding a dark secret within. Thieves boarded the Titanic, too… Officer Thomas McGuire is as honest as they come. Working to make a decent living on the ship of dreams, he can’t believe his eyes when the most striking lady he’s ever seen steals from another first class passenger. As the night goes on, Thomas must decide whether he plans to arrest or seduce Elizabeth and she’s not making it easy on him—the heat sparking between their bodies is unlike anything either of them has ever known. Time is running out… The Titanic is sinking fast, with little more than an hour before it settles on the ocean floor. Although Elizabeth has finally met a true gentlemen, one who gazes upon her with total adoration and fulfills her deepest fantasies, he insists on helping other passengers until the last minute, even if that means going down with the ship.

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The fatal flaw in One Night to Remember is in the formatting. Miller chose to write her story as a novella which is fine but it doesn't give her a lot of opportunity to develop the cast. We learn very little about Miss Scott and even less about Mr. McGuire. They feel as if they are going through the motions more than anything. Miller might understand the motivations and background of her characters but these concepts were never adequately conveyed to her audience. As a reader, the lack of development made it difficult to accept or even care about Elizabeth and Thomas.

From a historic point of view I couldn't get excited over Miller's depiction of the sinking. Having read a handful titles about the ship I was familiar with the concepts Miller approached in her work. The confusion, the uncertainty... even the drama surrounding Collapsible B. All of it was old news. I think Miller and a lot of other authors forget the sinking itself is well known and as such doesn't make for much of a plot twist. 

According to the about the author section, "this book is the culmination of twenty-four years of research and countless dreams about writing a Titanic novel." I don't doubt the author harbors a deep affection for the ship and its fate but that passion doesn't translate well to her work. In reading the piece, I couldn't help feeling One Night to Remember had been slapped together in a mad rush to capitalize on the hundredth anniversary of the disaster. The erotic love scenes might appeal to certain brackets but I don't think there is much here for the main stream reader.

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"Let us pretend that you are bold and I am more than taken by you. Let us pretend that we are secluded within the four walls of this stateroom and whatever happens within these walls stay here."
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Local Library
Read: March 24, 2012

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa's powers for his own dark ends. With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister's war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move and that one of their own has betrayed them. Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will; the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do? As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.

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I liked Clockwork Prince more than I liked Clockwork Angel, but that isn't saying a whole lot. The book is no better written than its predecessor and the story is really no more entertaining. The difference is that my expectations were lower going into the second installment of the Infernal Devices series and thus I wasn't as sharply disappointed as I was with Clockwork Angel. 

The book may be set in Victorian London but the era is hardly relevant to the story. "A gentleman would not normally touch a lady in public, but here in the Institute the Shadowhunters were more familiar with one another than were the mundanes outside." Familiar is a bit of an understatement. Tessa gets a little personal with not one, but two young men in the course of the story and doesn't have the least compunction about doing so. Really? This is 1878 for crying out loud. Sophie Collins is the only character in the entire book who exhibits even an ounce of regard for Victorian etiquette. Perhaps younger readers don't care for or appreciate continuity but the time period of a novel should dictate more than the fashions in which the characters are garbed. 

As a reader of historic fiction I wasn't impressed but I also didn't like that Clockwork Prince is quite literally five hundred pages of hormone driven teenage drama. The Magister doesn't put in an appearance, the members of the Institute do not find any clue as to where he is hiding, and no one has the faintest idea of what he intends to do with Tessa. All totaled we know little more than we did at the conclusion of Clockwork Angel. I'll admit there are a few action packed moments but I've read novellas with more plot movement.

I can accept that my opinion isn't in line with the majority on this one, but all the same, I have to wonder if I am the only person on the planet who is sick to death of Will's blue eyes. Clockwork Prince is comprised of twenty one chapters in which there are more than twenty one references to Master Herondale's brooding baby blues. I swear Clare is more in love with her own creation than Tessa and the entirety of her fan base combined. 

At this point in time I find the love triangle literary device cliché, especially in young adult literature. Considering this is the central theme of Clockwork Prince you can probably understand my indifferent assessment of Clare's work. Solidly written but can honestly say I will not be among the throngs of fans eagerly awaiting the next installment. 

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The Shadowhunter boy was becoming like an annoying relative... someone whose habits you knew well but could not change. Someone whose presence you could recognize by the sound of their boots in the hallway. Someone who felt free to argue with the footman when he'd been given orders to tell everyone that you were not at home.
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Friday, March 16, 2012

The Misses Moffet Mend a Marriage: A Victorian San Francisco Story by M. Louisa Locke

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: March 12, 2012

This short story, set in 1879 San Francisco, features two elderly dressmakers, Miss Minnie and Miss Millie Moffet, who face a moral dilemma of no small dimensions. They turn for advice to Annie Fuller, a widowed boardinghouse owner who supplements her income as a clairvoyant, Madam Sibyl. For those who have read Locke’s two full-length Victorian San Francisco mysteries, Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits, and her other short story, Dandy Detects, this is an amusing glimpse into the lives of Annie Fuller’s two most eccentric boarders. For those unfamiliar with Locke’s mysteries and the late nineteenth century world they portray, this is just a taste of things to come.

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Much to the distress of Nate Dawson, the Moffet sisters have been permanent fixtures of Annie Fuller's boarding house since its introduction in Maids of Misfortune. However, despite their constant presence, we readers haven't been privy to much of their story or character. Locke remedies this in her delightful short, The Misses Moffet Mend a Marriage. 

First of all, I love that these two elderly women are so much more perceptive than people give them credit for. As unmarried ladies of a certain age, they are assumed to be naive in and uninterested in the workings of the world. The revelation is almost surprising to their young landlord but I found it highly amusing. 

On the same note, I love how these seemingly sheltered ladies handle a rather delicate situation. Where most would run, wild-eyed, fingers raised in accusation, the Misses Moffet play old school. Their tactics are subtle, but infinitely more effective and less damaging than an open confrontation of the issue. It is a skill that has sadly fallen by the wayside in my opinion. 

As always I am delighted with Locke's work. Short but sweet and more than worth looking in to.

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Annie was speechless. Until now she had thought of these elderly ladies as complete innocents, delicately reared in the South, living a narrow sheltered life, and taking care of their bachelor brother until they were forced to support themselves upon his death. She was quickly revising that image.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Summons From Yorkshire by Ava Stone, Aileen Fish & Julie Johnstone

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Author
Read: Nov. 7, 2011 

The powerful Duke of Danby summons all of his wayward grandchildren home for the holidays. Book one of the Regency Christmas Summons Collection.

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This review is different than most of the books I feature here as it is an anthology collection. I feel commenting on the entire book as I do with most of my reviews would be unfair so I have opted to review each piece individually. My overall rating reflects my opinion of the book in its entirety.

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The Counterfeit Christmas Summons by Ava Stone
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I don’t consider myself well versed in the genre but from time to time I’ve been known to pick up the odd regency romance. Occasionally one will surprise me, but by and large I find the stories altogether fluffy. Case and point, the opening chapter of the Regency Christmas Summons Collection. Stone does a wonderful job introducing the premise of the series, but I wasn’t really impressed by the details of her contribution. Emma and Heathfield felt like the stereotypical regency couple. They just didn’t jump off the page for me. Neither did the events of their story for that matter. It started out strong with Emma luring the viscount to Danby Castle under false pretense but the simple misunderstandings between the couple weren’t exactly unique. The short is well-constructed and I appreciate the light humor but not a particularly noteworthy piece. 

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The Viscount’s Sweet Temptation by Aileen Fish
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It is a universal truth that regency lit always ends with a happy couple. Not a lot of suspense there. That being said I really liked the premise of Fish’s contribution. Harriet’s flight from what she assumes to be a loveless marriage is a plot much to my liking and Morley’s lack of enthusiasm regarding his forced involvement in her escape offered an amusing twist to the story. The romance felt a bit contrived but a cute piece nonetheless. 

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Gift of Seduction by Julie Johnstone
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Easily the strongest of the three shorts that make up book one of the Collection. I’m not an editor and I have absolutely no expertise but I would have opened the volume with this piece. Neither of the other two contributions came close to including this much plot, characterization or depth. Personal opinion of course, but Johnstone shines by comparison. Charlotte is determined and strong despite the tragic romance that determined the direction her life was to take. Drew is heartbroken and full of remorse as he returns to Danby Castle having never settled his feelings regarding the woman he abandoned. Their whole situation, ripped apart by societal expectation, as well as their reintroduction caught me hook, line and sinker. 


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She was not above the need to be admired and wanted. She had earned that small bit of vanity the day she had picked up the millions of jagged pieces of her broken heart that Drew had left on his bedroom floor.
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