Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recent Reads

From one end of the spectrum to the other

It’s rare that I have two such different responses to books by the same author. The first one I read is an keeper and the second I’m sad to say will probably be a DNF. Though I read the keeper first, I’ll start with the probable DNF; just so we end on a happy note.

Captain Sinister’s Lady by Darlene Marshall

Why this one: I loved the previous book I read by her and this one sounded like adorable follow-up.

Steam Level: Chances are good this one will be a DNF and I didn’t get far enough to reach steam level

Blurb: Morgan Roberts, AKA Captain Sinister, dreams of leaving the sea and running away to farm, but when the Zephyr comes across a damaged ship wallowing in the Florida Straits, it's just too good an opportunity for any self-respecting privateer to pass up.

Amanda Stephenson is a widow traveling from Yorkshire to Charleston in the 1820's to set up her soap-making business. It's a grand adventure, just as she's always dreamed—until her ship is boarded by the crew of the Zephyr. Amanda’s plans for her future do not include large, hairy, uncouth pirates.

Morgan Roberts has his work cut out for him, but he's prepared to try his most piratical tricks if it will convince the luscious widow to become Captain Sinister's Lady.

My Thoughts: As I said, this one sounds adorable – a pirate who wants to run away from sea and become a farmer. Who could resist such a premised based on that and a love of a previously read book. Not me, that’s for sure. But alas, I was SO disappointed with what I’ve read so far. My favourite books are the ones where I can feel the characters, where they almost seem like real, fully developed characters, but neither Morgan or Amanda felt like real people to me. I don’t really know how to explain why not, except maybe they weren’t developed enough – we didn’t really get to know them that much so far. Amanda is a widow whose parents had both died but I didn’t get a sense that none of the deaths affected her; they didn’t shape or form her personality at all. There wasn’t anything wrong with her, there just wasn’t that much to her.

I had the same issue with Morgan. At least as far as I got, it was briefly mentioned that he was an orphan but again, this didn’t seem to affect him all that much. For a pirate – or rather privateer – he’s actually kind of, well, boring. And one doesn’t like to read about a boring pirate. They should be larger than life. Maybe not quite as large as life as Captain Jack Sparrow – he’s a difficult one to match. But despite having a great pirate or rather privateer name, Morgan just didn’t do it for me. It didn’t help either that he was described as having a full bushy beard, I am so not a fan of hairy heroes. Even worse, later on he is described as having very bush eyebrows and all I could think was “EEEWW, EEWW, EEWW, Andy Rooney, yuck!”

Now all of this I could have overlooked but then the hero does something that took him out of hero range for me. He wants to “court” Amanda and rather than just ‘court” her, he arranges to have them dropped off on a deserted island for a few days so they could bond. But this turned into a TSTL thing to do as it was kind of a pirate hang out and at one point some bad pirates showed up, risking their lives. I don’t like a TSTL heroine and I also don’t like a TSTL hero.

Combine those factors along with the fact that I have way to many books that remain unread to keep going on one I’m not really enjoying and you end up with a DNF. Maybe if I hadn’t enjoyed the first one so much, maybe if the hero shaved his beard off (which he probably does later, but too little too late), if I could get a younger Andy Rooney out of my head, this might not have been such a disappointment and I might have continued.

Grade: DNF

Sea Change by Darlene Marshall

Why this one: I have meant to try her for a while now but she is primarily an ebook author and I didn’t have an ereader. By the time I did get one, I had forgotten about her until a review came up at AAR and some discussion of this book on the same site. The review was good, the posters enjoyed the book and I love a good pirate – excuse me, that would be privateer – book so I took the plunge.

Steam Level: Very nice cozy temperature

Blurb: American privateer Captain David Fletcher needs a surgeon for his wounded brother. But when he captures a British merchantman in the Caribbean, what he gets is Charley Alcott, an apprentice physician barely old enough to shave. Needs take priority over skill, and Captain Fletcher whisks the prisoner aboard his ship with orders to do his best or he'll be walking the plank. Charley Alcott's medical skills are being put to the test in a life--or--death situation--Charley's life as well as the patient's. Even if Charley can save the captain's brother, there will still be hell to pay, and maybe a plank to walk, when Captain Fletcher learns Charley is really Charlotte Alcott. A war is raging on the world's oceans, and two enemies will fight their own battles and their attraction to each other as they undergo a sea change neither of them is expecting, but cannot deny...

My Thoughts: I went into this book without much expectations. Though I’ve wanted to try this author for a while now, I hadn’t seen any reviews or anything for her books. I just kind of liked her on line voice and knew she wrote about pirates. And I came out completely charmed with this book.

Charlotte or Charley, is a young woman on her way to Jamaica. She has learned medicine at her father’s knew and after his death wants to continue practicing medicine. But she’s a woman and at this point in history, women doctors are, to say the very least, extremely rare. So she is disguised as a male while sailing and acting as a doctor for the captain’s pregnant wife. Their ship is hailed and Charley is stolen by a privateer, one David Fletcher, who is desperate for a doctor to save his younger brother’s life. Charley does indeed save his brother’s life and David realizes the benefits of having a doctor on board and decides to keep her. It’s a riot though as it takes him quite some time to figure out that Charley is really a Charlotte. In the meantime she treats his men for a wide variety of ailments, including STD’s.

The ‘girl disguised as a guy’ is fairly familiar and can either work very well or fall flat. For me it worked very well. A few people including David’s brother figure out that he’s a she, but David is clueless. This makes for some hilarious moments that had me laughing out loud. He can tell that Charley is attracted to him and that creeps him out. It gets even worse when he has ‘notions’ about her. He’s a big bad privateer don’t you know. There is one scene where he arranges for Charley to gain some ‘experience’ that is priceless. David really likes Charley as a person too and it’s nice to see them developing a friendship first. He can talk to Charley about things that he can’t talk to with many people. And he is somewhat bemused that he doesn’t intimidate her like he does so many others. She’ll stand up to him and give it right back to him. Not many people do that to him so he is intrigued that this young man who hasn’t even started shaving yet isn’t afraid of him.

I loved David, loved him, loved him, loved him. Once he finds out that Charley is Charlotte, his first reaction is horror that she is doing this doctor thing. He expects her to start acting like women should act. But eventually he realizes how good she is at what she does and how important it is to her so he accepts her as she is. He’s an alpha type hero, but an alpha with some softness in him.

And Charley is equally wonderful. She is making the best of this unusual path life has given her and she excels at what she does. When she finally makes it to Jamaica she really does give it her best effort to adapt to the lifestyle that women of her time lead. But she is just too different. She has experienced life to its fullest and doesn’t want to go back into the box.

I was most impressed with this book and while the first book here was a disappointment, Sea Change is her latest book so I hold out much hope that some of the others will make me as happy as this one did.

Grade: 5 out of 5

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

TBR Challenge - February

This month's challenge is a "recommended read" book. You are going to see some quick tap dancing and some interesting justifying and should there be a prize at the end of this year long
challenge, I should technically withdraw my name from consideration. This isn’t so much a book that’s been in my TBR pile as much as a book by an author that should have been in my TBR pile.

I’ve loved Cheryl St. John books for years and whenever she has a new one come out I scoop it right up – which reminds me – I do believe there should be a new one soon. And I just assumed I had all her back list. So when I read Leslie’s TBR January Challenge and it was The Mistaken Widow, I read it, prepared to nod in agreement or shake my head in disagreement. But much to my astonishment, nothing sounded the least bit familiar and when I checked my Most Excellent Spreadsheet, it wasn’t there. So that very same day I got an electronic copy.

So this was recommended by Leslie but hasn’t been in the TBR pile very long – but should have been.

The Mistaken Widow by Cheryl St. John

Why this one: explained above

Heat Level: there was only one love scene at the end
but it fit with the story so I found it fine

Published: 1998

Blurb: Sarah Thorton wanted to shout, but revealing her true
identity could only bring disaster on herself and her infant son. Still, sorrowful circumstance had turned a mistake into a miracle. She suddenly had a home, a family—and Nicholas Halliday, a man as dangerous to her as he was desirable…!

His newly widowed sister-in-law wore mystery as elegantly as an evening wrap, rousing more than suspicions in Nicholas Halliday—for this beautiful stranger had a claim not only to the family fortune, but also to his heart and soul…!

My Thoughts: Just a couple of weeks ago I reread Joe’s Wife for probably about the 4th
or 5th time and I have to be honest and say I enjoyed that one ever so much better. Though I liked The Mistaken Widow and I’m glad I read it, I don’t think it will be one I’ll read over and over like Joe’s Wife.

I was only meh about both the hero and heroine. Whether I might have had warmer feelings for
them if I hadn’t read Joe’s Wife so recently I don’t know, but Sarah kind of got on my nerves after a while. She was feeling guilty over stepping into the shoes of the heroe’s sister-in-law to the point of almost annoyance. Then when she finally decides to come clean, she does it in a letter and then leaves; a cowardly act in my opinion. On top of that, the letter is stolen by a villain so Nicholas and his mother are still in the dark about what really happened. The decent thing for her to do was tell them to their faces. I’m sure she should have realized they would have been understanding.

And Nicholas failed somewhat in the role of a hero too. He was rather nasty and judgmental to Sarah in almost a passive aggressive way which I didn’t find as a heroic way to act. He should have come out in the open with his suspicions of who Sarah really was. I also didn’t think he suffered enough angst over lusting for his just Very Recently deceased brother’s wife.

I also thought there was a noticeable lack of grief displayed. I know if I were to lose one of my sons, I’d be broken, yet his mother didn’t display the amount of grief I would think she would. But then that’s a personal thing I guess.

I almost hate to say it, but of all the Cheryl St. John books I’ve read, this is one I didn’t ‘feel’ at all. But since it was written in 1998 and I’ve read many an excellent book since then, the fact that this one didn’t work for me is alright and I’m glad I read it anyway since it could have been a Joe’s
Wife kind of book.

Grade: 3 out of 5

And oh, oh, oh - I forgot to mention. If you travel around and see other participants, you will notice a number have chosen the same book! Our fearless Challenge Leader Wendy, SonomaLass, Phyl, and Nath and Leslie did a joint review at Breezing Through. And guess what? They ALL really enjoyed it!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Gotta love this

I always feel ripped off on during the Superbowl. I have cable and Canadian stations take over so we never get to see the famous commercials. But kudos to Budweiser because while we didn't get many of the great ones, we did get this one and it's a real treat!