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India Black
India Black
by Carol K. Carr
Edition: Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not much of a mystery ..., 18 Mar. 2011
This review is from: India Black (Paperback)
I really wanted to like this book, but somehow it failed to charm me. I read the first few pages online before ordering the book and I have to say that the beginning immediately drew me in. Unfortunately, once I had the actual book in my hands my enthusiasm waned pretty quickly after the first few chapters.

The main character of the story is the title-giving India Black, a whore with lots of dry humor and a fairly cynical view on life. I didn't dislike her, but I didn't quite like her, either. I can't really put my finger on what exactly bothered me about her. It's not that she was a whore --- that I could live with. I guess I just found her a little annoying at times. Also, a little more backstory on her life before the start of this story would have been nice. What was her childhood like? Why did she become a whore and later decide to run a brothel? Perhaps those questions will be answered in the next book (which I probably won't read, though).

As for French --- maybe it's just me, but I found him to be a little too one-dimensional. There is absolutely nothing that makes him stand out as a character, and there is no chemistry between him and India. Going by the summarization on the back of the book I thought he was supposed to be a love interest for India, but it didn't feel that way to me.

Another thing that bothered me for some reason was the fact that the author often used strange words like "bints" for "whores", "cove" for "client", "rogering" for "having sex" etc.! I've read my fair share of historical novels but I have never heard or read those words before. Normally I don't mind if an author uses words that are different from the ones everybody else uses, but this time around I found it annoying.

And while we're at the subject of language --- parts of the book were written in a style that I would call "period appropriate", but then there were also many sentences and phrases that sounded way too modern for a book set in Victorian England. And the thing is --- the "period appropriate" parts and the modern parts in this book just don't mix well.

"India Black" really isn't much of a mystery. It is mostly a story about two people on a quest to retrieve a stolen briefcase that holds some important information. They already know what's in the briefcase and who has it, so it's really just a matter of getting it back. No mystery there.

In fact, there were several times when I got really bored with the story. You know how with some books you feel like you just *have to* keep turning pages because you absolutely have to know what happens next and how the whole story will end? Well, this isn't one of those books, or at least it wasn't for me.

Also, the more I read the more I had to suspend my disbelief. Several things happened that made me raise both eyebrows because they were so unbelievable and/or just did not make a lot of sense. Without wanting to spoil too much --- I found it very hard to imagine that a 19th-Century woman (even one who is rather unconventional) would sneak into an upscale hotel, dress up as a maid, and try to get into a hotel room by climbing out the window of one room with the intention of scooting along the window ledge (which was slippery and icy, it being winter of course) and climbing into the window of the room next door. In broad daylight. It gets better --- suddenly there's someone beside her, she's caught by surprise (cause she wouldn't have noticed someone else standing on the window ledge when she climbed out the window ...), they both fall down from a height of 20 feet, but miraculously neither one is hurt and they immediately start bickering.

Not enough yet? There is a sex scene between India and another whore named Rowena which is part of the plot to get the briefcase back (don't even ask ...) and which is so ridiculous and badly written that it made me laugh out loud. More than once.

Then there's Lotus House", the brothel that India runs. Early on in the book she says that it's really important that she's always there to run things because otherwise her girls are too easily persuaded to lower their rates by their clients. And yet, once she goes off on her briefcase-chase she's away from the brothel all the time, and there is no mention of anyone else running things in her absence (I doubt the constantly-drunk cook took over for her).

The blurb on the front cover of the book says "A breathless ride through Victorian England" --- well ... I don't think so. The story --- and everything that happens in it --- developed quite slowly so the words "breathless ride" are not something I would associate with this book.

If you expect something along the lines of Deanna Raybourn's superb "Lady Julia Grey" series or Rose Melikan's The Blackstone Key" (as I did) then you might be disappointed. I know I was. "India Black" just holds none of the charm and mystery that made me devour "Silent in the Grave" or The Blackstone Key", and neither the story nor the characters (except for India herself, perhaps) are particularly memorable.

Would I read a sequel to "India Black"? At this point I'd have to say no.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 18, 2015 12:00 PM BST

Exit the Actress: A Novel
Exit the Actress: A Novel
by Priya Parmar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.23

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true delight!, 14 Mar. 2011
What a treasure of a book!!! I loved it, loved it, loved it ... :o) "Exit the Actress" is a wonderful, absolutely delightful novel telling the story of Nell Gwyn who went from being a fairly poor girl selling oranges to becoming the favorite mistress of King Charles II.

The story is told through Nell's diary entries; through letters between the King, his mother, and his sister; through newspaper articles, memos, and more. This makes for very interesting (and often amusing) reading, to say the least. Ms. Parmar paints a vivid picture of everyday life in 17th-Century London, and there is never a dull moment in this book.

I especially loved the diary entries --- Nell has such a unique voice when telling her own story. Ms. Parmar did a really great job at bringing her to life. Nell is charming, funny, witty, and smart, and I was rooting for her from start to finish.

In fact, all of the characters --- from Nell right down to all of the secondary characters --- are drawn so vividly that they seem to spring from the page. I was really sad when the book ended because I would have happily spent another 400 pages or more with them ... :o)

If you enjoy well-written historical fiction and characters that you will truly care about, then do yourself a favor and read "Exit the Actress" and let yourself be charmed by Nell!

The Rapture
The Rapture
by Liz Jensen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a waste of time ..., 14 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Rapture (Paperback)
I really did not like "The Rapture". The only reason why I finished this book is because I kept thinking that it had to get better at some point, and because in the beginning I was still curious as to the outcome of the story (needless to say, that changed after a while). I did skim pages in the second half of the book, though, because I don't think I would have made it through otherwise. The subject of natural disaster and climate change is of course very real (just turn on the television these days to see coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan), and could have made for a great eco thriller. However, Ms. Jensen somehow managed to take this subject and write a book that is incredibly boring, and that just left me absolutely cold.

So, what is wrong with this book? Well, here goes:

1.) The style of writing is very cold and distant --- it reads like a very, very dry textbook most of the time. There are passages that aren't quite that bad, but they are few and far between.

2.) Considering that this book has been advertised as a "an apocalyptical thriller that will give you nightmares" it is surprisingly dull. Nothing much happens in the first half, and then a lot of what happens in the second half is just uninteresting. It felt to me that the author really didn't know what kind of book she wanted to write --- a thriller? a religious drama? a study of the human psyche? --- but she failed on all counts. "The Rapture" mostly reads like the screenplay for a really bad disaster movie. Well, maybe not even that because in a disaster movie much more would happen ...!

3.) Gabrielle. She's the lead character --- an art therapist who sits in a wheelchair because of an accident she had not too long before --- and the story is narrated by her. A large part of the book is centered on her insecurities and self-pity, and on her psychological debates with herself. She is constantly stating that she doesn't feel like a real woman anymore because she is in a wheelchair. So don't read this book unless you are prepared to spend *a lot* of time reading about the inner workings of a bitter, jealous, cynical and insecure woman. Gabrielle is mostly just concerned about herself, so I find it hard to believe anyone would let her work as a therapist --- she needs one herself!

4.) The romance. Such as it is. Gabrielle meets a man called Frazer Melville. There is zero chemistry between them, and I personally have no idea why he is attracted to her. I also found it somewhat irritating that she would constantly call him by his full name --- Frazer Melville did this, Frazer Melville said that (even after they slept together) --- or by his profession, "The Physicist" (as in "I wanted to call the physicist to tell him ..."). Very strange. Their romance just did not ring true for me. It felt forced and, basically, cringe-worthy most of the time. Also, once she meets Frazer, Gabrielle becomes completely obsessed with sex. So be prepared to read a lot about that obsession.

To sum it up, "The Rapture" is a badly-written, fairly predictable, and completely pointless book. The story develops *very* slowly, the style of writing requires a lot of patience on the reader's side, and the constant religious and/or psychological babble grated on my nerves. I didn't care about the characters at all, and I certainly didn't care about whether or not any of them survived in the end. In the hands of a better writer this might have been a much better book, but as it is it was a waste of time.

The Book of Fires
The Book of Fires
by Jane Borodale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad at all ..., 11 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Book of Fires (Paperback)
"The Book of Fires" is a really good book. It wasn't flawless or perfect, and it didn't leave me with that "WOW --- this book was really, really great" feeling (which is why I am only giving it 4 stars), but it was still a very good book.

I have to admit that after reading the first few chapters I was a bit skeptical about whether I would like it. The writing seemed somehow very distanced and wooden at first, which made it difficult to empathize with the characters. But by the time Agnes Trussell (the heroine of this story --- a 17-year-old unwed girl from Sussex who runs away from home after she becomes pregnant) arrives in London somewhere around page 60 the writing got much better!

One thing that Ms. Borodale is really good at is making you feel like you are right there in the world she has created. Her writing is very detailed and descriptive, and I for one could really see Agnes walking through the crowded streets of 18th Century London, or bent over the table in Mr. Blacklock's workshop.

On the other hand, as contradictory as it may sound, it is also this attention to detail which is one of the book's problems. There are whole passages about the various chemicals needed to create fireworks - their uses, and what happens when they are put together - that made me feel like I was reading a school textbook.

Then there is the pregnancy. I found it hard to believe that Agnes was able to hide her pregnancy almost until the end from the three people with whom she shared a household (with two of them being streetwise women) while several passing strangers did notice it.

But despite these sometimes tedious passages about chemicals and the fact that I really had to suspend my disbelief regarding the hidden pregnancy I did enjoy this story, and thought it was mostly well-written.

"The Book of Fires" will never be one of my all-time favorite books, but I would absolutely buy another book by this author.

Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, Book 1)
Paranormalcy (Paranormalcy, Book 1)
by Kiersten White
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately nothing special ...!, 11 Mar. 2011
I'll start with the best thing --- the cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous!!! Other than that "Paranormalcy" has been a disappointment for me. Maybe my expectations were too high, but after reading all the rave reviews I just expected so much more!

The first chapter of this book is absolutely great. It made me think that here was an interesting story with a kick-ass heroine reminiscent of Television's "Veronica Mars". The premise sounded really good, and I settled in for what I thought would be a fun and truly enjoyable read.

Unfortunately, after this terrific first chapter the book does not live up to its promise. The character of Evie soon turned out to be nothing more than annoying. I can't say much about the other characters because there simply isn't much to say --- characterization does not seem to be the author's strong point.

The writing itself was so-so ... I know that this was the author's first novel, and it really shows. I really had to make myself keep reading because the story was just so ... well ... uninteresting.

Whenever I read a book (or watch a movie) I ask for one thing: Make me care. About the story ... about the characters ... about what happens to them. Just make me care.

With "Paranormalcy" I just didn't care. Not about what would happen to the characters, nor about how the story would be resolved.

Would I pick up another novel by Kiersten White? Probably not ...!

The Tudor Wife
The Tudor Wife
by Emily Purdy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction meets soap opera!, 11 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Tudor Wife (Paperback)
With "The Tudor Wife" Ms. Purdy has written a novel that is somewhere between historical fiction and soap opera --- the writing is vivid and detailed, and it felt like a movie was playing right in front of my eyes. However, there were some scenes that I did not like at all, and that did not seem to fit the rest of the story --- I felt that the book could have been much better if a few scenes had been left out.

The book essentially tells the story of Anne Boleyn through the eyes of her sister-in-law Jane Boleyn, wife of Anne's beloved brother George. Jane is a mean-spirited, hateful, and despicable character, and more often than not while reading this book I would shake my head in disbelief at the things Jane said or did out of pure jealousy.

One one hand I could understand where some of her behaviour was coming from --- she was desperately in love with George, who in turn did not care at all about her and chose to spend all his time with his friends and his sister Anne, leaving Jane an unwelcome outsider. On the other hand, the way she behaved towards Anne (and at times George as well) probably made things much worse than they would have been if she had tried to actually like and befriend Anne and get on George's good side in that way.

The biggest part of the book is devoted to the period of time from the moment Jane first meets Anne to the moment of Anne's execution. I think it might have been better if Ms. Purdy had ended her story with (or shortly after) George and Anne's executions. Instead she tacked on another 100 pages about the years after that, with the first few of those pages being about Jane Seymour and Anna of Cleves, and the remaining pages about Jane's involvement in the fall of Henry VIII's fifth queen, Katherine Howard (ironically, a cousin of Anne Boleyn), and her subsequent death.

But where the first (and biggest) part of the book --- the one that contained the story of Jane, George and Anne --- was really good and kept me turning the pages, the rest of it felt like it had just been tacked on to add some length to the novel.

I think "The Tudor Wife" will appeal to readers who enjoy light historical fiction and are at least a little familiar with the history of Tudor England. Keep in mind, though, that this is a work of historical fiction, and the author did take quite a few liberties (read: it's not exactly historically accurate).

Overall, I liked it, and I think Ms. Purdy's writing has a lot of potential. Would I read another book by this author again? Absolutely.

Afterlight (Dark Ink Chronicles)
Afterlight (Dark Ink Chronicles)
by Elle Jasper
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A solid start to a new series ..., 11 Mar. 2011
"Afterlight" is set in Savannah, and tells the story of tattoo-artist Riley Poe who wants to save her younger brother, Seth, from turning into one of the undead. Help comes in the form of the Dupré family --- they are very much vampire-like, but prefer to call themselves "creatures of the afterlight". They made a pact with some powerful hoodoo priests, and are therefore able to walk outside in the daylight. In exchange, they protect the human population of Savannah from evil creatures.

Riley is an interesting character, and I liked her most of the time. There were moments when I wanted to cheer her on, and then there were moments when I wanted to hit her over the head with something. Seriously --- the girl could sometimes be obstinate to the point of stupidity. And, well, at times her "tough girl" act was a little too much for me. But still, overall I liked her.

Eli Dupré, on the other hand, was to die for (pun absolutely intended). I really liked this character, and I would probably read the next book in the series just to get more Eli ...;o)

I also liked the supporting characters --- Nyx, Estelle, Preacher, and Eli's siblings Luc and especially Josie and Phin ... the latter two were just hilarious!

As for the story itself --- well, points for originality, because at least Ms. Jasper tried to create a myth that is different from that in other similar books. And while there is a lot of sexual tension between Riley and Eli --- and while there are a few pretty graphic scenes between them --- her story is not just an excuse to write porn (the way it is with some other popular authors of this genre).

However, there were a few things that bothered me a little. For example, I really didn't need all those details about Riley's outfits. The author described exactly what she put on every time she changed clothes, right down to the clips in her hair.

There are several scenes which just don't feel right, or which should maybe have been handled differently. For example, there's that moment when Riley's best friend Nyx finds her brother Seth floating a few feet above his bed --- you can't really explain that away, right? Yet, the next day, when Riley tells Nyx that it was all to do with drugs, and that Seth was now "in detox" (the explanation for his absence), Nyx --- who is allegedly oh so worried about Seth --- simply accepts that as fact, and never asks any further questions. Hello? Anyone ever heard of someone floating in the air when they were high on drugs? Personally, if it was me, I would be asking a lot of questions after seeing something like that ...

Anyway, overall I'd say it's a promising start to a new series, and I'm pretty sure that I will read the next one when it comes out.

How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf (Pocket Books Paranormal Romance)
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf (Pocket Books Paranormal Romance)
by Molly Harper
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.10

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Molly Harper does it again ... :o), 11 Mar. 2011
When I started this book I told myself that I would just take a little peek. Read a chapter or two and then finsh the other two books that I had already started. BUT ... (and you knew there would be a "But" coming, right?) ... once I had started reading "How to flirt with a naked werewolf" I just couldn't stop anymore.

I immediately liked Mo, and I quickly fell in love with the cast of likable and quirky characters that make up the citizens of Grundy, Alaska. And let's not forget Mo's parents who are ... well ... let's just say they aren't quite like any normal parents I know ... ;o)

Molly Harper is just very good at creating wonderful and memorable characters as well as writing witty and funny dialogue.

As for the story --- imagine an episode of the tv show "Men in Trees" - but with the addition of werewolves and a little mystery. Total comfort food, and funny as hell! I'm not kidding --- Molly Harper made me laugh so much with this book that my sides actually hurt.

Is the story realistic? Well, not really. But then I don't expect "realistic" from a book that has the words "naked" and "werewolf" in the title ... ;o)

I for one really enjoyed "How to flirt with a naked werewolf", and I can't wait to get my hands on the next book in the series!!!

P.S.: Molly Harper's "Nice Girls" series (about reluctant new vampire Jane Jameson) is really good, too!!!

Sweet Misfortune
Sweet Misfortune
by Kevin Alan Milne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "Sweet Misfortune", 11 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Sweet Misfortune (Hardcover)
It's not easy to find the right words to describe this book. It wasn't perfect --- and yet, it was so well-written and it touched me in so many ways that I cannot possibly give it less than five stars!

The book tells the story of Sophie - a young woman with a tragic past - and Garrett, her former fiancé who left her a few days before their wedding. When Garrett suddenly reappears in Sophie's life, telling her that he still loves her and that he wants one evening to explain to her why he cancelled their wedding, she comes up with one condition: Garrett must publish an ad asking people to tell him what they consider true fortune (or happiness) to be. If he can get together 100 good answers (and Sophie will be the one to judge which answers are good and which are not) then - and only then - will she give him the chance to explain. But Sophie isn't quite prepared for the number of replies - nor for the way that her life will be changed by this ad ...

"Sweet Misfortune" is a story that is at times funny and cute, and at other times emotional and sad. It's a story about fortune, and what it truly means; about two people whose lives were intertwined long before they realized it, and who each blamed themselves for something that was out of their control; and last but not least, it is a story about the healing power of love and forgiveness.

It is also one of those books that I almost didn't read. I got a copy of the German edition through Amazon's Vine program --- they had a few titles this month, and this was the one that sounded most interesting --- and so I had to read it rightaway because I'm expected to write a review for Amazon. Chances are that I never would have stumbled across "Sweet Misfortune" if it hadn't been for Amazon Vine.

Now, I may not have had to pay for this book, but I will be buying copies of it for all of my friends because "Sweet Misfortune" is one of those rare books that you just want to share with everyone you know.

Where I Belong
Where I Belong
by Gwendolyn Heasley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.36

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cute and funny riches-to-rags story ..., 11 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Where I Belong (Paperback)
I can see why some people might get a little annoyed with the main character, Corrinne, but after having watched three seasons of "Gossip Girl" (one of my favorite guilty pleasures ...) I actually found her selfish and spoiled superficiality pretty amusing (and she does change over the course the book!).

Seriously, though --- Corrinne's reactions to her new life are a huge part of what makes this book so funny and oddly endearing. Watching her change from a rich Manhattan princess to a girl with a more healthy and realistic perspective on life was definitely enjoyable.

The secondary characters --- from Corrinne's grandparents to her reluctant new friends (reluctant on Corrinne's part!!!) Kitsy and Bubby (how did the author come up with these names?!?!?!) --- are really likable.

I liked the Small-Town-Texas setting ... I'm really glad now, though, for all those hours spent watching "Friday Night Lights" (one of my favorite tv shows) because that meant that I was at least a little familiar with the whole Texan "Football above everything else" mentality ... ;o)

If you like "Gossip Girl" (or the movie "Wild Child" which has a somewhat similar premise) then you will probably really enjoy this book!

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