Friday, March 21, 2008

Flowers From The Storm Review

Book: Flowers From The Storm
Author: Laura Kinsale
Category: Historical
Grade: A+

The Duke of Jervaulx was brilliant-and dangerous. Considered dissolute, reckless, and extravagant, he was transparently referred to as the "D of J" in scandal sheets. But sometimes the most womanizing rakehell can be irresistible, and even his most casual attentions fascinated the sheltered the sheltered Maddy Timms.

Then one fateful day she receives shocking news-the duke is lost to the world. And Maddy knows it is her destiny to help him and her only chance to find the true man behind the wicked facade.

But she never dreamed her gentle, healing touch would alter his life and her own so completely, and bind then together in need, desire... and love.

I've been sitting on this review, pondering my feelings about this story for a few days and still, I haven't been able to successfully put this story into a neat little review. The book- itself- is not easy, the subject matter is not one that you find on the pages of many romances.

Bare with me, this review is lengthy.

The hero, Christian Langland, Duke of Jervaulx is a rake, notorious for his lascivious, promiscuous behavior that finds its way into the scandal sheets. He is also a brilliant mathematician. Jervalux is working on a mathematical theory paper with fellow mathematician, John Timms. Timms is a Quaker so their partnership is an odd one, to say the least. The two have never met personally, only conversed through notes sent through John's daughter, the sheltered Archemedia (Maddy) Timms. Maddy acts as her fathers aid and eyes, as he is blind. She dutifully makes trips to the Duke's house with notes from her father only to be ushered into a breakfast alcove by a servant to wait while Jervaulx rudely takes hours to go over the notes before finally sending them back down to her.

Maddy finds herself turned off by Jervaulx's behavior and worldly ways, even if she is a little intrigued by the elusive Duke. Her confusion about him only grows upon their first meeting where Christian boldly flirts with her, a Quaker, in front of her father, no less.

Christian's past transgressions find him in a duel where he falls- stricken with an unknown affliction. Maddy soon finds out that Christian was killed and she is left trying to sort her feelings about it. She thought Christian a wicked, creaturely man, but she cries for him; the Duke she did not like.

Time passes and Maddy has been brought to Blythedale, a mental asylum run by her cousin Edward, to help him care for the patients in his wife's absence. Maddy is shown around the asylum and finally brought to a room that houses one of Blythedale's most violent patients. Maddy is shocked to find that Christian is that patient. He is nothing that she remembered him to be. He is wild, intense, in his eyes there is rage.

*We, the readers, realize that he suffered a stroke - But at that time his sudden loss of motor skills and some memory, partnered with his volatile behavior, painted him insane.

Christian suffers harsh treatment in the asylum at the hands of the attendants that leaves him broken inside. It is Maddy that Christian holds dear, as she is the only person to treat him kindly, even though he is not always kind to her. He clings to Maddy as his lifeline and in many ways becomes dependant on her.

Maddy believes that Christian is her opening- that God has placed her in this situation so that she can help him. She becomes assigned as his main caregiver and with her help Christian slowly shows a little progression. Maddy finds out that, at his family's insistence, Christian will go before a judge for a competency hearing that will determine whether or not he will be able to handle his estate again or loose his title and become forever confined to the asylum. She helps to ready him for the hearing and in doing so gets sucked into a world that goes against everything that she believes in.

At 533 pages, Flowers From The Storm is not a light read. The romance is not conventional. Christian is a Duke and is, by all intents and purposes, insane. Maddy is a Quaker, her religion speaks against everything that Christian is.

The internal struggle for both characters is very real, very palpable. I felt for them both: Maddy, in her struggle to stay in the light of her religion, while she hopelessly falls in love with Christian. Christian, in his dependence and love for Maddy. His struggle with the affliction that has turned him "buffle-headed." And then there are the external forces that they both must deal with. Maddy and her fellow Friends or Quakers- who do not agree with the direction she has taken. Christian and his brother-in-laws, who want to see him stripped of his title for their own nefarious purposes. His struggle to prove to the outside world that despite his condition, he is capable.

After reading the last line and closing the book I felt like I had been put through the wringer. I was emotionally exhausted but giddy at the same time. Happy that I came across this book and had the pleasure of reading it. The writing is compelling, the characters are vivid, the story is amazing. Grade A+

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Restless Knight

Book: A Restless Knight
Author: Deborah Macgillivary
Category: Historical, Paranormal
Grade: C-
As proud and defiant as her Pict blood, Tamlyn so wants to resist her enemy, the enemy of her people, with every weapon at her disposal. Only she is nearly torn in two by what she perceives as her duty and the burning passions evoked by the ruthless English earl.

To the war-weary Black Dragon, the charter to Glen Shane is an opportunity to be seized hungrily. Julian views this as his last hope for peace & for sanity. Too long with Edward and his endless bloody wars, Julian is so very afraid he's coming apart inside. Nearly crippled by the dark memory of the English's Sack of Berwick, he hopes this moody, forgotten glen in a pocket of the Scottish Highlands will grant him the tranquility for which his soul thirsts.

Only, his yearning for hearthside, sons and a quiet existence has not taken into account the woman he is forced to accept as lady wife. A woman of Pict warrior-blood, so steeped in traditions of Alba of Auld, she 's too rebellious by half and quite possibly a witch.

A Restless Knight starts out promising. The heroine, Tamlyn MacShane, holds the title to her own land in the Highlands of Scotland where the pagan ways are honored. She is a strong and interesting character. The hero, an Englishman, Julian Challon (The Black Dragon), has made his way to Tamlyn’s land. He is under orders of King Edward to take the land that rests in the hands of the three MacShane sisters. Julian decides before he makes it to the MacShane lands that he will also be taking Lady Tamlyn of Glenrogha, as his wife.

The chemistry between Tamlyn and Julian heats up the pages from their first meeting. Both are drawn to the other and find it hard to resist the spark that lies between them. But in spite of that spark there is still a great deal of push/pull. Julian immediately mistakes Tamlyn as a whore of Lord MacShane, her father. Of course Tamlyn does not know this and after finding out that Julian has come to take MacShane land she keeps her identity hidden, choosing to go by "Fool" than to reveal who she really is. Julian decides that even though he plans to marry Tamlyn MacShane he will still keep the woman who he knows only as “Fool” as his mistress. His "Fool" will bare his children and be his side honey. :(

Well, of course, both truths come out and from there I was sure that the story would take off. Only, it didn’t. The push and pull just kept going and going... This is the point where the promising beginning goes out the window, becoming replaced by an endless story with a frivolous plot.

While Tamlyn is busy resisting Julian the plot begins to transpire, but it was weak and easily overshadowed by Julian and Tamlyn’s back and forth. Which, by halfway through the book, had become redundant.

I found much of the writing to be repetitive. The conversations and musings were constantly about the same things: how much Julian wanted Tamlyn, and how much Tamlyn wanted to resist. The internal thoughts of the characters didn't change until about mid way through the book, but by then the story had lost its luster.

One of the reasons I picked this book to read is because I was in the mood for a paranormal romance. The problem I found with A Restless Knight was that the paranormal elements were confusing. There were points in the book where the pagan ways made sense and other points where I was scratching my head about them. There were also times where the stream of explanation of a pagan event would go on and on, at these points I found myself skimming passage after passage.

I did hold out hope, as I turned each new page, that something more would happen, that an event would come along to kick the story into high gear. I did this because A Restless Knight has the constant feel that there is something big on the horizon, unfortunately, it never comes.

Most of the story is spent with Julian and Tamlyn dancing around each other:

"You will give in."

"No, I will not."

"But you will."


"Oh, yes."

Okay, so that's not verbatim, but you get my drift. Then, when they finally do give in to their undying love, the story became even more mundane.

Not that the whole book was a disappointment, I did enjoy Tamlyn. Julian was a very Alpha, "You will bear my children," type of guy. But I didn't fault him for that because he had his own charm. You would think, with a great hero and heroine that the book would be a hit, right? Not this time.

After finishing this book I went over to Amazon to check the reviews. A Restless Knight has a five star rating. There are 56 reviews, with only two of them being below a five. I'm always surprised when I read a book and dislike it, then go searching for other opinions, only to find that I am in the minority. It makes me wonder if maybe I missed something?

Oh, well. Grade C-.


Monday, March 10, 2008

MeMe: Four Things

I was tagged by Jace. Hi, Jace!

4 Jobs I've Had

Banquet Server- High school
Chili's Waitress- College

*I've only had three jobs :p

4 Movies I've Watched Over and Over

Forrest Gump
The Goonies
The Wedding Crashers
Clueless... Don't ask.

4 Places I've Lived

Atlanta, Georgia
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Honolulu, Hawaii

*Only three.

4 Shows I Watch

The Wire (Sad to see it go)
Grey's Anatomy
General Hospital (Love Jason and Elizabeth)
The Hills

4 Places I've Been

(So many places. I'll just name some small towns)

Malvern, Arkansas
Tallahassee, Florida
Meridian, Mississippi
Gary, Indiana

4 Things I Love To Eat

Fried Ice Cream
Godiva Chocolates
Ruben Sandwiches
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

4 Places I'd Rather Be

In a jacuzzi.

4 Things I Look Forward To

Friday nights.
Sleeping in.
Books to arrive in the mail.
Going to Target... Strange, I know.

I'm tagging Nath, and anyone else who wants to participate.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Driven Review

Book: Driven
Author: Eve Kenin
Category: Futuristic
Grade: B+

Raina Bowen knows she can handle herself just fine against anything the harsh Northern Waste throws at her. Until it throws her an enigmatic stranger called Wizard. First, she has to haul him out of a brawl he can't hope to win. And next, her libido is shooting into overdrive at the feel of his hard body pressed against hers on the back of her snowscooter. But there's something not quite right about this guy. Before she can strip bare Wizard's secrets, they're lured into a race for their lives, battling rival truckers, ice pirates...and a merciless maniac with a very personal vendetta.

When I began reading Driven I was immediately sucked in to the futuristic atmosphere. The story took off at a running pace and never slowed down.

Raina Bowen is used to being a loner and she likes it just fine. The little female, big rig driver even thinks that being alone is better than having people in her life. In her experience, people she gets close to end up getting hurt or turning on her and as far as Raina is concerned, the less attachments, the better. But Raina does have one attachment, a sister that she recently found out about. Wanting to win a cash prize so that she can ensure her little sister stays taken care of, Raina enters a contest to race across the longest stretch of highway in the world: The ICW or Intercontinental Worldwide.

All Raina needs is a pass that will allow her to bypass the Jansen trucks that basically run the ICW. The Jansen drivers are big bully's that feel like they own the ICW. Raina knows that without the pass she has no chance at a win. Luckily, there is a pass out there with Raina's name on it.

Wizard is the man with the pass that Raina has been guaranteed, but before she can get the transaction over with, Wizard gets into trouble with the Jansen drivers. Raina ends up dragging herself into his drama and from there, chaos ensues.

This story hit the ground running and never let go. The pace was fast and entertaining. The characters were very likeable.

Raina is a do it herself, no strings attached, need no one type of girl. Her past experiences have made her that way. While many heroines that I've read with these type of characteristics tend to aggravate me with their constant "need no man" mantra, I didn't find myself being bothered by Raina. I understood why she was the way she was and I enjoyed seeing her evolve into the woman she became.

I do wish that Wizard would have gotten more POV. His perspective was short lived, giving us limited insight to his thoughts. This is where the story read almost like a first person book to me and caused my grade to slip a bit. I guess I like to know what's happening inside the brains of both of the lead characters, more than just one of them.

Even though the tone of Driven is serious, being that the Raina and Wizard are in constant danger, there were moments of comic relief; mainly from Wizard. I found much of what he said to be funny. He was so clueless when it came to emotions and when he tried his hand at jokes or simple sentiment it proved to be hilarious. I really wish there was more of his view point throughout the story.

Overall, Driven was a great book. Kenin's descriptions and explanations of futuristic devices were thorough, but not overdrawn. I never felt lost which could easily happen with a story based in the future, I appreciated this greatly. Grade B+


Kenin also has a second book coming out soon, Hidden, will follow Wizard's younger sister, Tatiana. We learned a little about her in Driven and now I'm eager to read her story. Here is the synopsis:

Tatiana has honed her genetic gifts to perfection. She can withstand the subzero temperatures of the Northern Waste, read somebody's mind with the briefest touch, and slice through bone with her bare hands. Which makes her one badass chick, all right. Nothing gets to her. Until she meets Tristan. Villain or ally, she can't be sure. But one thing she does know: he has gifts too-including the ability to ramp up her heart rate to dangerous levels. But before they can start some chemistry of their own, they have to survive being trapped in an underground lab, hunted by a madman, and exposed to a plague that could destroy mankind.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What The Frig?

I'm trying to finish Driven but so many frigging obstacles keep slowing me down. Between my new job, school/homework, and home-life, I'm only able to read one frigging chapter a day. Frig!

Just in case you hadn't noticed, I went just "'frig" crazy. It's the book, I tell ya. Raina, the heroine in Driven, uses the expression a lot. I guess that it's rubbed off on me.

Last night I read this really cute part in the book, where Wizard, our robotic-like hero, uses the term "frig." I thought it was really funny. I'll share:

"Frig. He tried the word aloud, attempting to copy Raina's tone. The level of irritation did not alter. "frigging hell," he tried again, louder but with no more effective result.

To someone who has not read the book I'm sure that does not sound funny at all. But if you are familiar with the hero it is quite hilarious.