Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson

Title:
Before I Go to Sleep
Author:S. J. Watson
Publication Date:June 2011
Publisher's Description'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love - all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.
My rating:**.5

Warning, totally spoilerific review.

I suppose I should have known that I wouldn’t love this book, because I’m not a fan of “Trust me, you have amnesia” kinds of stories (50 First Dates, I’m looking at you). Still, I thought that I might like it. In a way, I did, although I think that wanting readers to believe in the amount of coincidences and instances of negligence that had to converge before this novel’s circumstances could exist is asking too much. I believe in the goodness of people, but I possess a healthy amount of skepticism, and everything about the setting of this novel set off my creepometer.

The main thing I wondered about was how could NOBODY think to verify the identity of the man to whom they released an amnesiac? Really? Jokes about the British NHS aside, that’s just unforgivably negligent.

I did like how this book combined both an unreliable narrator and intrigue. Christine’s unreliable narration was due to her amnesia, not dishonesty, which made the effect even more chilling: she simply didn’t remember enough to know whether she was telling the truth or not. The main thing that puzzled me was why her memory suddenly started to come back at this point in her life. Could it only be the help of her new doctor, who hadn’t given her any drugs or special treatments AT ALL, or was being exposed to awful Mike what truly made her remember who she was? This book left me with more questions than answers, and not in a good way. The one clear thought I had was that poor Christine possessed truly awful relatives and friends, and my hope is that reclaiming her memory was just the first step in becoming free of the lot of them.


				
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Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson

Title:,Any Man of Mine,&nbsp
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Author:,Rachel Gibson,&nbsp,#colspan#
Publication Date:,"April 26, 2011",&nbsp,#colspan#
Star Rating,2.5 Stars,&nbsp,#colspan#

I have enjoyed Rachel Gibson’s work in the past (including previous books set in the Chinooks organization), but this novel didn’t do much for me. Autumn and Sam start out interestingly enough, and going into this book I was interested to see how they could get past the awful way their relationship began.

Obviously, Autum has an excellent reason for not trusting Sam. Marrying somebody on a whim, getting her pregnant, divorcing her during said pregnancy, and then not seeing your child until a DNA test has been done are all pretty hurtful things. Add being a somewhat slack parent over the ensuing five years, and you have a man who any woman would be wise to avoid. Especially that same woman who he hurt. When you do something awful to a person, she is totally within her rights to examine your motives for suddenly changing. Especially when a child is involved. Trust has to be earned, and Sam’s hurt feelings over Autumn trying to figure out whether to trust him isn’t a tragedy. It isn’t unfair. It’s the natural result of his previous behavior.

Of course Autumn is uncertain of how to behave with Sam! It’s great that he’s suddenly discovered how to behave more or less like a mature adult after nearly six of being in each others’ lives, but it may take her a little bit of time to, you know, believe it. Sam’s attitude is especially galling because his change doesn’t initially begin because of any conscious decision on his part; it is Autumn’s determination not to be angry with him anymore that facilitates his change in behavior.

Sam could have started to behave more like a responsible person at any point in the past, apologized for not being a better father, and made an effort with Conner. Instead he waits until Autumn begins to work through her anger to chage. Yay?  Sam’s transformation happens over a relatively short time, further complicating matters. I understand that romance books are not supposed to mirror reality, but I would have a hard time respecting any person who would so quickly welcome back into hers and her son’s life the man who so callously stomped on her heart.

It was nice that the characters from previous novels popped up from time to time, although Gibson not resolving some of those plot lines after mentioning them (did the breast reduction happen???) annoyed me. I also noticed the odd factual error (American Thanksgiving is the fourth, not the third, Thursday in November) that jumped out at me. Issues aside, this was an okay, quick read. Any Man of Mine is not a bad book at all, but the odd relationship dynamics in this novel kept me from enjoying it the way I did the previous books in the series. I didn’t love this contemporary as much as I wanted to, but even when not at her best, Rachel Gibson is still an entertaining writer.

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Already Home by Susan Mallery

Title:
Already Home
Author:Susan Mallery
Publication Date:March 29, 2011
Publisher's DescriptionAfter nearly a decade as a sous-chef in a trendy eatery, Jenna is desperate for a change. She’s supported her ex-husband’s dreams for so long that she can’t even remember her own. Until she sees a for-lease sign near her parents’ home andenvisions her very own cooking store.

Her crash course in business is aided by a streetwise store manager and Jenna’s adoptive mother. But just as she’s gaining a foothold in her new life, in walk her birth parents—aging hippies on a quest to reconnect with their firstborn.

Now Jenna must figure out how to reconcile the free-spirited Serenity and Tom with her traditional parents, deal with her feelings for a new love interest and decide what to do about her ex’s latest outrageous request. In the end, Jenna will find that there is no perfect family, only the people we love....
My rating:5 Stars

I was really blown away by this book. I’ve read and enjoyed many of Ms. Mallery’s previous books, so I thought I knew what to expect here, but I could not have been more wrong. She did a great job of showing Jenna’s growth and healing over the course of events that take place in this book. And I loved (loved loved loved, etc) that Jenna’s healing did not come about because of a man. In fact, her love interest didn’t even pop up until nearly halfway through the book. This wasn’t the story of two flawed people who healed each other with love; it’s about two people who were making great strides in their individual and professional lives reaching out toward one another amidst calamity. I respect that.

 

The characters in this book, from Jenna on down the line, were well realized. People weren’t always who they seemed to be in the beginning, which is how things often really happen. When the characters hurt, I hurt for them. When they rolled their eyes, I often felt the same way. Everybody in this book just seemed so real!

The adopted as a baby/meeting the birth parents trope is not an uncommon one, but this is the best I’ve ever seen it done. There were many points of view presented here: we glimpsed the feelings of the birth parents, the adoptive parents, the biological siblings, and the adoptee herself.

I have no hesitation recommending this book to previous fans of Ms. Mallery’s work. I also think that people who are more likely to read “women’s fiction” than regular romance novels will really connect with this title.

 

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Spirit Dances by C. E. Murphy

I am a huge fan of C. E. Murphy’s work. My favorite works of hers are her Walker Papers novels, but I also enjoyed the books in The Negotiator series. One of my vague hopes when I became a librarian was that I’d get to review books in some capacity. This hasn’t happened in journals or trade publications although, to be honest, I haven’t even attempted to go that route. I just post reviews on my blog when the mood takes me (and possibly more frequently than that now that I’m going to be making an effort with the books on NetGalley). We’re looking to add reviews to my library’s blog, so it’s good that I’m stocking up on new titles for future review blog posts.

Title:
Spirit Dances
Author:C. E. Murphy
Publication Date:March 22, 2011
Publisher's Description:One date with the boss can get coyote ugly.

For Seattle detective Joanne Walker, spring is about new beginnings. She’s mastered her shamanic abilities (mostly), survived a cannibalistic serial killer (barely) and now she’s facing the biggest challenge of her career—attending a dance concert with her sexy boss, Captain Michael Morrison. But when the performance— billed as transformative—actually changes her into a coyote, she and Morrison have bigger things to deal with.

And there’s more. Homeless people are disappearing, a mystical murder puts Joanne
way out of her jurisdiction and with the full moon coming on, it’s looking like the killer is a creature that can’t possibly exist. But Jo could probably handle all of that, if one ordinary homicide hadn’t pushed her to the very edge.…

Cop or shaman? The choice isn’t easy. But it’s one she just might have to make.…
My Rating4 Stars

So I was hugely excited to read this book. This is the sixth entry in The Walker Papers books, one of my favorite current series in any genre. There’s always the worry that the newest entry in a series won’t live up to the books that preceded it. I’m happy to report that, far from losing momentum, Spirit Dances may very well be the best Walker Papers book yet. I appreciate how the character of Joanne has progressed throughout the series, and how what she has learned in previous books is often tied into what is happening in the present. I especially appreciate how it sometimes takes a couple of books for her to realize and rectify her mistakes. In this world, nothing is pat, nothing is simple, and nothing is static.

It was interesting to see how comfortable Joanne has become with things formerly outside of her comfort zone: two obvious examples are being more intentional about using her magic and discussing her Native American heritage without defensiveness. While she still has a lot of learning to do, I appreciate that she’s so willing to suspend her disbelief and discomfort until there’s time to deal with them. She didn’t always do that. Our Joanie’s growing up! The role that Joanne’s teachers (both magical and non) play in her life cannot be overestimated. With their help, and her own good sense, she makes some huge strides when it comes to the magical traditions of both of her parents’ cultures, even as she ends up experiencing things she didn’t know existed.

Joanne’s identification with her job as a police officer is another thing that I found interesting. This might be the first book in the series where I can remember her thinking more of herself as a cop than as a mechanic who has been thrust into the wrong role. Her police work is how she gets involved in the supernatural events that take place in this book, and really shapes a lot of what she experiences. Officer Joanne and Shaman Joanne end up working together here, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

C. E. Murphy continues to expand Joanne’s world, in a gradual and realistic way. For those who’ve enjoyed the previous books in this series, I recommend this book unreservedly. For those who are looking for an interesting urban fantasy series to start reading, The Walker Papers and Spirit Dances may be for you. If you like good writing and strong, complex, and utterly endearing protagonists, I don’t see how you can go wrong reading these books!

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Hell Fire by Ann Aguirre

Book: Hell Fire

Author: Ann Aguirre

Published: March 2010

I really enjoyed Ann Aguirre’s first Corine Solomon novel, Blue Diablo: A Corine Solomon Novel. The characters in that book were well-defined and their experiences were so absorbing that I read the book in one sitting. I was hooked on the series, and only hoped that the next book would build on the strong foundation laid by Aguirre. I am pleased to say that Hell Fire more than lived up to my expectations!

Corine is still the same strong, tough character that she was in Blue Diablo, but we also get to see her grow in terms of her interpersonal relationships and her talent. Corine’s journey back to Kilmer to find out who killed her mother is the most difficult thing she’s ever done, and I appreciated how momentous of an experience it ends up being for her. Also, Chance is about the hottest guy in all of UF-dom (picturing Chance in action in nearly any scene really enhanced the experience of reading this book for me)!
I like that Corine has gone from being alone in the world to having this makeshift family (not that she calls them that, but that’s who they are to her); I like even better that this sudden major change in her life isn’t always a comfortable fit for her. Like real life, there are no happily-ever-afters here, and I love it.

I suck at not giving spoilers, so I’ll say no more, but if you read and enjoyed Blue Diablo, I think you’ll love Hell Fire. And if you haven’t read Blue Diablo, what are you waiting for? If you’re a fan of interesting urban fantasy and strong, consistent characterization, you’re going to love this series!

Rating: 4 Stars

I really enjoyed Ann Aguirre’s first Corine Solomon novel, Blue Diablo: A Corine Solomon Novel. The characters in that book were well-defined and their experiences were so absorbing that I read the book in one sitting. I was hooked on the series, and only hoped that the next book would build on the strong foundation laid by Aguirre. I am pleased to say that Hell Fire more than lived up to my expectations! Corine is still the same strong, tough character that she was in Blue Diablo, but we also get to see her grow in terms of her interpersonal relationships and her talent. Corine’s journey back to Kilmer to find out who killed her mother is the most difficult thing she’s ever done, and I appreciated how momentous of an experience it ends up being for her. Also, Chance is about the hottest guy in all of UF-dom (picturing Chance in action in nearly any scene really enhanced the experience of reading this book for me)!
I like that Corine has gone from being alone in the world to having this makeshift family (not that she calls them that, but that’s who they are to her); I like even better that this sudden major change in her life isn’t always a comfortable fit for her. Like real life, there are no happily-ever-afters here, and I love it. 

I suck at not giving spoilers, so I’ll say no more, but if you read and enjoyed Blue Diablo, I think you’ll love Hell Fire. And if you haven’t read Blue Diablo, what are you waiting for? If you’re a fan of interesting urban fantasy and strong, consistent characterization, you’re going to love this series!

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