First up this week is a novella by Mary Ann Rivers, The Story Guy. I'm not sure how to categorise this one - probably contemporary romance (something I almost never read).
I'd never heard of this author. I found her while trawling for new authors (I do this a lot since getting the Kindle - it's usually less expensive to try out a new author, and you can often download a free sample to see if you like their writing style. In this case, the price was so reasonable, I decided to give the whole thing a go).
In her thirties, living alone, and still holidaying with her parents, Carrie is starting to feel dissatisfied with her life. Her friends are in happy relationships, and although she knows her life is good, it's also just a little too safe and boring, and deep down she's lonely. She enjoys reading personal ads placed by men who seem to have a 'real' voice to her - nothing glossy and superficial, just honest, often painful insights into their lives. She never replies. Until the day she sees something a little more intriguing than usual. It begins: I will meet you on Wednesdays at noon in Celebration Park. Kissing Only. Before she has a chance to talk herself out of it, she's replied and agreed to meet him on Wednesday.
When she does muster her courage and go to meet Brian on that first Wednesday, to find that he's kind and passionate - not to mention gorgeous - of course she wonders why he's restricting himself to this small window of contact. And she wants more. As does Brian, apparently, but he won't allow himself to take more. And as they start to fall in love - and, naturally, can't resist contacting each other outside of those Wednesday interludes - you find out why Brian can't take - or give - more. And my goodness, was I ever glad I work from home. I often read while I'm eating my lunch, and sobbing into my sandwiches with an audience would have been most embarrassing! I can't remember the last time I read a book that made me cry like that. Brian's struggle is beautifully drawn, and Carrie is no two-dimensional character either. I defy anyone to read this, and not be sucked in by the characters. It is a well-written love story (and the love scenes are fairly hot, so be warned) by an author I'm going to be reading again, and I highly recommend it.
Secondly, we have the third in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare - City of Glass. It's a young adult urban fantasy series.
Again, I can't give much away with my review, in case you've yet to read the first two in the series. There is still much of Clary jumping into situations without considering the consequences. She is still only sixteen, so I can forgive her that a little, and the things she has gone through in these three books do seem to have made her grow up and make hard decisions that your average sixteen-year-old probably wouldn't need to, so I'm happy with the development of her character. Jace is still witty and gorgeous, along with a newly-acquired streak of self-loathing that makes him even more interesting. And Simon (Clary's friend) has no choice but to grow up fast, thanks to the events of the previous books. I love the way his character has been drawn, and how Clare uses the plot to put him under pressure and prove his worth. There are nice little sub-plots featuring the supporting cast of characters and you never feel as if they're just page-fillers.
There's plenty of peril in the book, and you're never sure the characters are going to survive it - something I think is important in a series of this nature. I used to be a (huge!) fan of the Anita Blake books by Laurell K Hamilton, but she lost me when it became apparent that, in spite of the cast of characters becoming ridiculously large, none of the main characters would ever die. I don't mean I like my series peppered with painful killings-off of my favourite characters, but if you know Anita's going to save the day every single time, the tension is gone, and tension is the second thing after characters that I value in a novel. And never mind the fact that Anita turned into an uber-slut at the same time ... but I digress. (Again!)
This book concerns the villain Valentine and his quest to obtain the third and final Mortal Instrument and his plans to wipe out all opposition when he does. And of course the quest of our heroes to stop him doing that. It's fairly standard heroes and villains fare, but it's nicely done and I like the world-building and the characters. If you don't mind reading YA - and it's not dumbed-down in any way - you might want to give these a try.
It has occurred to me that I'm really only reviewing books I've enjoyed. The reason for this is that if I really don't enjoy a book, I don't finish it. Life is too short (and there are too many great books out there) to waste it on less than stellar books. And I feel that I shouldn't really review a book if I haven't read it in its entirety. So I may just include a little DNF (did not finish) section, with a few words about why I didn't finish the book and my rating for the part I did read.
This week's DNF:
Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler.
I really wanted to like this! An urban fantasy by a new-to-me author, it's about Jane True, a woman who doesn't know why she's drawn to swim in the sea over and over, although it's obvious from the start that it has something to do with her departed mother. It started off well, the writing style was fairly engaging and I didn't hate the protagonist. But I really, really didn't like the 'love' interest. The moment he entered the scene, I pretty much switched off. This is a problem for me. You all know how I feel about tension - including sexual tension - in a novel, and for me it just wasn't there. Jane practically rolls over for him - there may be all sorts of reasons for this that I had yet to read, but it bounced me right out of the story and left me feeling somewhat cheated. Yes, I like the odd smutty book, but I'd rather read a well-written story without a single love scene, than have them included just for the sake of it. I may try and go back to it, but I'm a picky reader - you don't often get two chances to grab my interest! So my rating is based on about 40% of the novel.