Written in Red - Anne Bishop

Written in Red, a gritty story of...mail delivery?


I'm always on the hunt for PNR/UF with great worldbuilding. Written in Red has this in spades. It's tight with an intriguing premise - a blood prophet, valued and cut repeatedly for her knowledge, hides amongst a group of Others, vicious beings who have zero regard for humans. I was fascinated by the world and customs of the terre indigne. This kept me reading long past the point I ordinarily would have given up.


Unfortunately, the rest of the book did not live up to its potential. Basically it plays out as Meg hides out with the Others, takes a job as a sort of postmistress to them, and befriends them by delivering their packages. And if that sounds duller than dirt, it's because it is. There are minor intrigues along the way, such as Simon's son who refuses to shift from wolf form. But I bet you can guess how that is resolved. Meg is Super Special and has masterful ideas and powers of persuasion. This tiresome theme occupied what could have been a strong, suspenseful story.


Many readers loved this book and have continued reading the series, but it was such a letdown for me I couldn't subject myself to more.

Angel Fire - Lisa Unger

This was a first effort that read like one. While the plotting was decent, the execution felt amateurish in multiple places with bizarre point-of-view shifts and nonsensical plot points thrown in.


The heroine Lydia is someone for whom the reader should be able to root, however I found her to be one of the most annoying main characters I've read recently. She's a writer of true crime books and a private investigator who, when she was a teenager, discovered her mother's bound and mutilated body. She is generally horrible to everyone who has the misfortune to encounter her.

Her love interest Jeffrey is also a private investigator. He happens to be the FBI investigator who was assigned to her mother's case and has looked out for her all these years. I love a good May-December romance (in fairness this is more May-September) but this pairing was squicky. Jeffrey is actually quite nice, but so enamored by her that he allows her to lead him around by the nose. She even makes the observation at one point, something to the effect of, "he would always come when she called."


My primary issue with the story though is that everyone, including the Chief of Police, allows Lydia to run the investigation. She's a writer, yet she directs even the seasoned investigators through the missing persons and murder investigations. She barks orders at the uniforms regarding the processing of evidence, rakes the Chief over the coals regularly, and tells Jeffrey when to jump and how high. They all let her do so, bowing to her "expertise." It made zero sense.


There is the promise of good writing here if the author has honed her talent, so I will try other books by her. But maybe not the ones featuring Lydia.

Heather's Favorite Reads of 2013

2013 was not exactly a banner year for me reading-wise. Or anything else-wise for that matter. However, there were several stand outs for me this year. There were some new stories from favorite authors that I felt certain to love. And there were some surprise new-to-me authors who blew me away with the power of their storytelling. Here are some of my favorite books from 2013:


Firebird by Susanna Kearsley – Twining the past with the present, Ms. Kearsley paints a vivid picture of love and loss and love regained.


The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas – Ms. Thomas excels at the unconventional, going far beyond standard Regency fare. The Luckiest Lady in London is no exception with its less than beautiful heroine and the hero who decides she is worth pursuing.


Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews – Just when I believe the Kate Daniels series has peaked, that the next book cannot possibly surpass he last, Ilona and Gordon raise the bar and deliver a story that takes my breath away. In Magic Rises the stakes are higher, the villains scarier, and the emotional impact greater than any Kate Daniels book that has preceded it.


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Don‘t let the Young Adult designation fool you. This is a story of misfits to which readers of any age (and especially those of us in our late 30s/early 40s) may relate and enjoy. As Eleanor, with her unsettled home life, and Park, who has the perfect family, bond over punk rock and being targeted by school bullies, the reader falls in love with them as well. At the end my heart soared and I felt a strong desire to blast The Ramones for all the world to hear.


Wallbanger by Alice Clayton – What a delight! This story of neighbors who go from nemeses to friends to lovers is fresh and funny.


Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews – While brief, this novella instantly draws the reader into a brand new alternate universe. Sparks fly between the hero and heroine instantly as they reluctantly unite to fight a threat to their neighborhood. While the story is complete, at its conclusion I longed for more.


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – An unorthodox love story, Me Before You demonstrates the beauty and fragility of life through the eyes of a caregiver to a quadriplegic.


Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs – Mercy Thompson’s return was well worth the two year wait. The race to save Adam kept me on the edge of my seat and reading long past my bedtime.


The Double Cross by Carla Kelly – The characterization and sense of place are so strong in this novel that at times I forgot that I was not actually living in 1780s New Mexico territory.


Of course, this year brought clunkers as well, some of them from authors previously enjoyed. Here are my Biggest Disappointments this year:


Possession by JR Ward – Jim’s incessant whining and pining over that twit Cissy got on my last nerve. The “hero and heroine’ were barely given any page time and lacked the chemistry of the series’ other pairings. The twist at the end felt like a desperate attempt to retain readers.


Macrieve by Kresley Cole – This pains me, but I didn’t love it. Macrieve was a terrible character and was awful to the heroine for the majority of the book. He vomited after having sex with her, for heaven’s sake.


Iced by Karen Marie Moning – Just what on earth was this mess? Dani was an annoying narrator, the worldbuilding was shoddy and the storyline weak. I was underwhelmed.


Dark Witch by Nora Roberts – The magick just was not there for me. This felt like a mashup of every other series the author has ever written. It wasn’t bad, just a retread.


May 2014 bring us all great reads and new authors to glom! Cheers!

Not Quite at the Halfway Mark

Possession  - J.R. Ward

So I think I'm the one person in Romancelandia who prefers the Fallen Angel series to the BDB series at this point. I adored Crave and Envy, so I went into this with high hopes. But I'm not quite sure they'll be borne out at this point.


Jim has always had an odd, metaphysical connection to Sissy that seems to transcend the events of the here and now. So far a lot of time has been spent on the two of them circling one another, not yet at ease. And I find their "relationship" more than a little discomfiting. But with so much else at play, I can disregard the squick factor they're emitting at this point.


Even the "romance" between Cait and Duke has consisted solely of a lot of staring and one hot coupling on the floor. And it has definitely taken a backseat to the rest of the drama.


I'm still not sure how I feel, but I'm trying to keep an open mind. More to come.

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

Me Before You says so much about existing versus living and the restrictions placed upon us both by ourselves and by circumstances. Daredevil Will has found himself a victim of the capriciousness of fate. Ironically it wasn't mountain climbing or skydiving that landed him in a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury, but a wrong place/wrong time scenario.

Knowing the possibility of a full recovery from his injuries is nil, Will plans to venture to Dignitas, an assisted suicide facility. Before he does though, he has promised his parents six months of living with assisted care under their roof.

In a desperate bid to change their son's mind, the Traynors employee Louisa Clark. Lou has recently found herself without a job and without any sort of prospects in a down economy. She accepts the job offered by the Traynors as a companion to their son, though soon the full import of her decision is made apparent in an overheard conversation with Will's mother in which Will’s plans are revealed. Desperate to make things right and not let the Traynors down, Lou sets out to change Will's mind.

Though Me Before You could be said to be about the subject of euthanasia, the text is truly about what is life versus living. So many elements coincide to this point: The irony of Will's accident being not the result of some outlandish thrill-seeking, but rather a fateful encounter with a motorbike as a pedestrian. Lou's self-doubt fueled by her family's disparagement as not being the "smart" one that leads her to not aspire beyond the coffee shop in which she was employed. The paradox of Lou's parents - her pessimistic father and cheerful mother, which seems to encapsulate so much of the book: optimism and hope for a better future versus reality. The sacrifice of parents who love their children enough to let them go. And ultimately there is the theme of choices we all make and the ripple effect each has.

Moyes never hits the reader over the head with whether euthanasia is right or wrong. It would be easy to get preachy either way in this story, but she takes an evenhanded approach, allowing Will's reasoning to be made prominent even as opposing forces work for him to have a change of heart.

Me Before You is simultaneously lovely and heartbreaking, a story of love and sacrifice, hope and despair. It is not a joyous read, but certainly is a worthwhile one.

Me Before You - At the halfway point

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

If you've read the synopsis for the book, you know that Me Before You deals with some heavy subject matter. The fragility of life, our own mortality, what gives us the will to endure indignities both large and small - all of these play a role here.


I'm really enjoying the rollercoaster ride of the book even as it takes me to some dark, extremely uncomfortable places emotionally. Moyes balances this darkness with sharp banter between Lou and Will and provides plenty of laugh out loud moments. If she did not, the low points would be nearly unbearable.


I must comment that the portrayal of attempting an outing with someone who is wheelchair-bound is completely accurate from my experiences. The tiny things that the able-bodied take for granted, like a crack in the sidewalk, can prove to be a major obstacle when negotiating a wheelchair. The anger Lou feels when she watches people stare at Will and murmur behind their hands about his plight is relatable. The reader feels Lou's anger on Will's behalf as they are the victim of well-meaning, though ill-mannered, stares and whispers. It's a familiar feeling for anyone who has traveled with a young disabled companion.


I'm looking forward to spending more time with Lou and Will, Nathan, and even Mr. and Mrs. Traynor. They're all trapped in a seemingly-impossible situation and I'm anxious and not a little nervous to see what the future holds for all of them.