Tag Archives: romance

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (unabridged audiobook read by Davina Porter; 32.5 hrs on 28 discs): Claire is vacationing in Scotland with her husband Frank in 1945 when suddenly she is transported 200 years into the past. This is more historical romance than science fiction, and a lot of it is quite unsettling: graphic violence, corporal punishment of children and spouses alike, and lots and lots of sex, much of it very rough. The homosexual characters are all pedophiles, sadists, and/or rapists. I did, however, really enjoy the glimpse of ordinary life in the 1740s, the witch trials, and the comparison of medical practices between the 18th and 20th centuries. I may actually give the second book in the series a try, as the ending of this one implies it may have more to do with actual time travel, changing history, and the like. This book is mostly about Claire’s relationship with Jamie, an intriguing Scotsman whose fate seems intertwined with her own. Which is fine, as far as that goes, but don’t come into this expecting a science fiction tale. That said, if you’re a sucker for 18th century Highlands romance, this is not to be missed.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Thwonk by Joan Bauer

Thwonk by Joan Bauer: A.J. McCreary is a teen photographer desperately in love with the unattainable Peter Terris. One day she is visited by a real life cupid who offers to make her dreams come true. Because she is a teen girl and without stupid decisions we wouldn’t have a story, she immediately asks for Peter to fall in love with her. The whole thing pans out about as well as you’d expect it to, but the really interesting thing about this book is the photography angle. My favorite parts were A.J.’s experiences snapping pictures and developing them. It’s easy to forget that photography is just as much an art form as drawing and music, where composition is key. So while the teen romance story was a bit silly and a lot predictable, I still enjoyed this cautionary tale about love and art. I don’t know how well it would hold up to a current teenager (I found it very relatable since it takes place in the years I attended high school), but what do I know?

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Every Day by David Levithan

Every Day by David Levithan (unabridged audiobook read by Alex McKenna; 8.5 hrs on 7 discs): I have very mixed feelings about this book. It says some very good things about acceptance, sexuality, and gender identity. It also says some very bad things about how to pursue a love interest. Every morning, A wakes up in the body of a different person, able to access their memories but not their emotions or consciousness. (Note: though A has no gender and inhabits both male and female bodies with equal ease, I will use male pronouns to make typing less cumbersome.) The body is always roughly his same age, and he lives in it only until midnight before moving on. (Though the switch happens at midnight, A always wakes up the next morning, implying that these kids never stay up past midnight or something.) He has no control over these switches, and mostly acts in order to make as little impact on the body’s life as possible – until one day when he inhabits the body of Justin, boyfriend of Rhiannon. A falls in love with Rhiannon, becomes convinced that she loves him too, and turns the lives of his subsequent hosts upside-down in his attempts to win her over, pretty much stalking her until she gives in. A few times I wanted to shout at A, “Just leave her alone already!” It was like A was completely incapable of having a conversation with Rhiannon that didn’t focus on his love for her and how Justin wasn’t good enough for her and blah blah blah. Yes, I know that teenagers are obsessive like that, but it got kind of tiresome. I wish the story had done more with Nathan and the Reverend, exploring the science fiction side of A’s existence as a wandering soul, but its narrow focus on the complicated romance rarely wavered. On the bright side, the writing was superb, and A’s experiences in so many different kinds of lives (from drug addict to immigrant house cleaner to transgendered person) were compelling, believable, and memorable. I also did really appreciate A’s views of gender identity and unconditional love, and Rhiannon’s reactions were quite realistic. Yes, there are people out there who could fall in love with someone who looked completely different every single day, but could you? The ending was dissatisfying, though I suppose it was good that A finally appeared to mature a little bit, even if he still couldn’t seem to muster any respect for his host bodies. I kind of hope there’s a sequel, if only to explore the premise a bit more and lay off the teen romance a tad.

A note on the audio: McKenna’s raspy voice took some getting used to, but ultimately it really worked.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

ATC Sunday

Expiation by Greg Messel

Expiation by Greg Messel: Dan and Katie are high school sweethearts who break up during their first year apart, attending college in different states. They completely lose touch with each other for thirty years, then reconnect and fall in love again. Their friends and family are completely supportive. And that’s pretty much the entire story, but it’s not a spoiler because it happens in the first two chapters. In fact, most of the book is thoroughly summarized in early chapters, then again right before being described in detail. Dan is narrating, and considering both he and the author are former newspapermen it wasn’t so surprising this novel was laid out much like a news article. I felt like I was having a story described to me, rather than actually reading it first hand. With so much advanced warning for every event, I felt no emotional response whatsoever. Of course, it didn’t help that Dan and Katie were completely devoid of personality. I have absolutely no idea what they saw in each other because the only thing they ever talked about was how in love they are and how attractive they still find each other. I remember having similar conversations with beaus in high school, but I can’t imagine being satisfied with such empty talk in my late 40s.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. I liked Dan’s first wife Wendy and his brother, who both had strong and memorable – if a touch stereotypical – personalities. The reading was reasonably fast, allowing even a slow reader like me to plow through multiple chapters in a sitting. The issue was mostly a lack of conflict, which led to a lack of plot. I really wish more had been done with the pack of letters, or Dan’s marital troubles, or even Diana’s financial woes. If you like simple romance novels, you may enjoy this one, since that’s essentially what it is: a story about a romance. I, alas, am a more demanding reader.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim: I am curious if the Twilight frenzy will continue long enough for there to be a volume 2. But that’s neither here nor there. This is Twilight from the beginning to the first kiss. Since there is art to go along with the dialog, the reader is saved from Bella’s endless, repetitive inner monologue, and thus we never have to endure constant reminders of Edward’s marble icy granite skin. Which is much appreciated, but also makes the story move so quickly that the blossoming love is even less believable than in the books. The couple moves from “hello” to “you are my reason for living” in just a few pages. The art, luckily, is lovely. I thought it was interesting how most of the characters, most notably the leads, look nothing like their movie counterparts, but minor character Jessica Stanley rather strikingly resembles Anna Kendrick. I was amused at how often I felt Bella resembled Sarah Michelle Gellar, who is most famous for her portrayal of a certain vampire slayer. Once I noticed most of the backgrounds were photographs I found it somewhat distracting; however, I did enjoy the sporadic use of color. I doubt anyone who isn’t already a Twilight fan would enjoy this, especially with the accelerated timeline that occasionally left me checking to make sure I hadn’t missed a page. That said, I’ll be curious to see what else Young Kim does in her career. She is clearly talented. I’ll be on the lookout for further installments of this series, if only to see how she portrays the other characters.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Immortal Ones by John F. Ferrer

The Immortal Ones by John F. Ferrer: Derek lives a life of horror-movie fantasies until he meets a girl at a club and those horror movie monsters turn out to be real. Overnight his life is turned upside-down. Though there is a fair bit of action, the love polygon is the backbone of the story. Werewolves love vampires; vampires love humans; humans love werewolves; it’s all just a mess. There are definitely echoes of Twilight here, but with more sex and less angst. The vampire and werewolf mythos are a little different from the traditional as well. Like in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, vampires look like ordinary (though beautiful) humans until they get angry or hungry, at which point their faces “crack” and the fangs come out. Werewolves are pretty much hairy vampires: they also wolf out under stress, live forever, and drink blood. Both species can learn to keep their respective transformations under control. Both have a preference for human blood but can survive on the less tasty blood of animals. Werewolves, however, like vampire blood best of all, and are arguably the only thing (besides the sun) that can kill a vampire. (Whether or not a werewolf can be killed remains to be seen.) The other twists are more subtle: gold (not silver) hurts werewolves, and vampires (but not werewolves) are weakened by wolfsbane. (To be fair, Dracula was kept out by wolfsbane.)

Like many self-published books, this one is in desperate need of a good editor. The author clearly has a basic misunderstanding of punctuation. For most of the story I felt less like I was reading a story than having one described to me. The main characters were all fairly interchangeable in terms of personality, but I did enjoy a couple of the minor walk-ons, like Hank from the jazz club and Emma from the bookstore. I could easily see and hear them in my mind. So would I recommend this particular book? Well, no, but I do see promise in Ferrer. He has good ideas, and proper execution can be taught. I look forward to seeing what he can do with time, training, and a really good editor.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby: It’s rare that I pick up a book based on its movie, but this time I did. I really enjoyed John Cusack as Rob, though I’d heard that Hornby had been surprised at the quality of the film, since to him the book was very much about living in London and yet the story was almost seamlessly transplanted to Chicago for the movie. Anyway, this book is brilliant. It’s the story of Rob, a thirty-something owner of a semi-failing record shop, and his life after his girlfriend leaves him. Rob is obsessed with music, top five everything, his past, and himself in general. His manner of narrating is at once painfully honest and absolutely hilarious, and I laughed out loud on several occasions. The time flew by whenever I was reading. I’ll definitely be looking up other Hornby books in the future.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (unabridged audiobook read by Ilyana Kadushin and Matt Walters): This final book of the Twilight series opens with Bella and Edward’s wedding and subsequent honeymoon, and covers the first six months or so of their life together. There’s a bit of drama here and there, but by and large it’s not nearly as suspenseful as the earlier books – and those were pretty tame. As I’d expected, imprinting was used as a convenient solution to the love triangle. The idea is that when a werewolf meets his soulmate, he “imprints” on them and suddenly has eyes for no one else. Bella can’t be with Edward without breaking Jacob’s heart? Simple: Jacob imprints on somebody else and ceases being interested in Bella all together. Problem solved. Pretty cheap, if you ask me, but hardly unexpected. It’s not like I ever thought Jacob ever had a chance with Bella, even when Edward was out of the picture in New Moon.

And you know, I was okay with the invulnerability to sunlight and the extra-sensory powers and even the sparkling, but vampire pregnancy is something I can’t quite wrap my head around. I mean, they’re supposed to be physically dead – or at least permanently unchanging – right? Your body – male and female alike – has to be doing something inside there if you’re going to be able to make babies. That said, I still have to give props to Meyer for the hilarious dichotomy between the teen romance and the graphic horror. I just could not stop laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I also enjoyed Jacob as a temporary narrator; even when he’s being angstful he’s amusing. Oh, and for the record: Renesmee is a terrible name, and Nessie is a really unintuitive nickname.

The ending is happy, of course, and thorough to the point of absurdity. Everyone finds love, peace, and joy, untainted by regret or danger or even, in most cases, mortality. It’s also a fanfiction gold mine: loads of new characters (and creatures) introduced with only the barest of backstories. A talented fanfic writer could really go to town here. As for me, I felt a profound and somewhat embarrassing sense of freedom as I finished this book. The Twilight universe has devoured my brain for the past few months, but now it’s done, and I am free at last. It’s a very sudden, very weird sensation. I don’t even feel a desire to reread any of the books. I’ll see the movies, though I’m not in any particular hurry anymore. I enjoyed the story, laughed more than was probably appropriate (oh come on, these books are silly), and now I’m on to the next one. Rock on.

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (unabridged audiobook read by Ilyana Kadushin): Edward wants to get married, but Bella, who is perfectly willing to spend eternity as a vampire with him, is balking at the idea. To complicate things, Jacob’s stepped up to the plate, offering himself as a saner alternative to the living dead. (Which says something, considering he’s a werewolf.) Not that either choice is all that appealing for most of the book: both men act like pretentious assholes and treat Bella like a child incapable of making her own decisions. And for two people who are supposed to be perfect for each other, Edward and Bella sure do spend a lot of time arguing. Yet, they can’t handle spending even a few hours apart. I don’t find obsessive co-dependence to be all that romantic, but then I’m an old married lady – what do I know about love? ;)

“‘Yes,’ I agreed.” “‘Sorry,’ he apologized.” The writing has marginally improved in this volume but is still distractingly amateurish. The literary allusions were less heavy-handed and repetitive (New Moon’s constant Romeo and Juliet references grew quite tiresome), and I’m now actually somewhat curious to read Wuthering Heights and see what all the fuss is about. Like the previous two books in the series, the action doesn’t really get going until about the last quarter of the book. It felt scatterbrained, tossing around Victoria and the Volturi almost at random to add some actual drama to the romantic shenanigans. That said, I did get a kick out of quite a bit of the craziness. Jacob’s brash arrogance was more funny than annoying, and horny Bella amused the heck out of me. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story wraps up in the next book: if Bella finally takes the plunge into vampiredom, if her father has a coronary when Edward asks for his daughter’s hand, if Jacob imprints on somebody, etc. I’ve read that all the loose ends are tied up far too conveniently, but I’ve come to expect that from this series. In short: better than Twilight, not quite as strong as New Moon, but a decent enough continuation of the story to keep me looking forward to the next book.

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