As some of you are aware, I've been a book reviewer for ForeWord Clarion Reviews for several years, and it's a job I love to do. I'm excited to expand my "review repertoire" here on my own blog, and I'm hoping to occasionally review both traditional and self-published/indie works in the coming months. These reviews will be a bit more "informal" in tone, and most likely primarily romances.
I am also hoping that as this review category evolves, I can include some guest reviewers, as well, so if there's a book you'd love to talk about, do let me know if you'd be interested in sharing your own book reviews here. Contact me anytime via email or through the "Contact Me" page.
Thanks for dropping by!
June 8, 2012
Title: The Malorie Phoenix
Author: Janet Mullany
Publisher: TKA Distribution
Pub Date: April 24, 2012
I really enjoyed Janet Mullany’s novel, Improper Relations, so I was thrilled to be able to read and review The Malorie Phoenix.
Because I am apparently too lazy to summarize today, I’ll begin with the marketing copy/blurb provided by the publisher:
She plays a deadly game, but nothing is as dangerous as love. Benedict de Malorie, Earl of Trevisan, can never forget the masked woman he met one night at a
pleasure garden. The clever pickpocket stole his heart and his family's prized jewel - the Malorie Phoenix. But the family treasure reappears in Benedict's darkest hour, returned by its thief, along with the unexpected gift of his infant daughter.Believing that she is dying, Jenny Smith leaves her daughter in the custody of the baby's blueblood father. Seven years later she finds herself in good health and alone, yearning for her only child. To raise enough money to support them both, she takes part in a daring escapade that requires her to impersonate a woman of quality. She fools the ton and Benedict himself.When Jenny finds herself entangled in a murderous plot against Benedict, the father of her child, her carefully laid plans begin to fall apart. All she wants is her daughter back, but she never thought she'd fall in love with Benedict. Revealing her part in the plot means she will almost certainly lose Benedict and their daughter forever. But continuing to play her role puts them all in terrible danger. London
Jenny and Benedict couldn’t be more different. Benedict, raised to be Earl of Trevisan, could never know what life was like for Jenny, whose circumstances lead her to steal merely to survive. Their initial attraction is something that both of them act on without thinking, although they each fully believe their liaison will never go further than that one night in the gardens of Vauxhall.
Jenny Smith is a refreshingly unconventional Regency heroine. She has the guts to make her own decisions and stand by them, beginning with that choice to toss caution to the wind and act on her attraction to Benedict. She consistently trusts her instincts while doing whatever is necessary to ensure her future and her child's. She doesn't apologize for her past or the choices she makes, even when circumstances become challenging.
As for Benedict, he is equally likable. A good man who tries to always do the right thing, he is portrayed as an involved, exceptional father and his scenes with daughter Sarah are warm and touching. Mullany skillfully shows the depth of that father/daughter relationship as well as the progression of Jenny’s understanding of it; while she initially wants to get her daughter back no matter the cost, she quickly realizes how devoted Benedict and Sarah are to one another. Combined with her own evolving feelings, her choices are not quite so easy anymore.
The progression of the romance is realistic, although some aspects of the plot are less so. Jenny’s motivation for her actions is made clear, as are the actions and motivations of the villain of the story. However, the whole masquerading-as-someone-else trope can often stretch the limits of credulity a bit far sometimes, as it does here. Jenny’s masquerade is pulled off much too easily, and her acceptance by the family of the woman she impersonates as well as Benedict and the entire ton just doesn’t quite ring true. Even considering only the people of the ton that she must have come into contact with during the years between her meetings with Benedict, it seems rather unlikely that no one at all would recognize her, or know she wasn't who she claimed to be. Although some characters’ doubts are revealed later on, for the most part her impersonation is just too readily accepted.
That said, I did find myself rooting for the two to find their obligatory happy ending, and hoping they'd end up one big. happy family. In the end, I just liked them. The romance and characters were strong enough to help me to overcome my inability to suspend disbelief, and The Malorie Phoenix was ultimately a fun, engaging read with both touching and humorous moments.
*Title was provided courtesy of The Knight Agency, via NetGalley
May 18, 2012
Title: Getting Married and Other Mistakes
Author: Barbara Slate
Publisher: Other Press
Pub Date: June 12, 2012
It can be argued that those who can retain a sense of humor in the face of heartbreak and disillusionment get through it better than most, and Barbara Slate demonstrates just that in her graphic novel, Getting Married and Other Mistakes.
Slate’s book is filled with moments many women will be able to identify with. Her protagonist, Jo, is devastated when her marriage suddenly disintegrates, and somewhat surprised that her ensuing depression doesn’t seem to have anything to do with missing her soon-to-be ex-husband. What follows is an affecting journey of self-discovery in which she tries to face herself honestly and find her true voice.
The dissolution of her marriage leaves Jo with plenty of time for introspection, and she uses it well. Looking back over her life, she soon discerns a pattern of self-repression, much of which can be traced straight back to her manipulative mother whose primary goal for her daughter was landing the right man. Jo wonders, “Did I get married to make my mother happy?..to make her proud?...to finally shut her up?” These questions lead to many more, and eventually send Jo on a search for her own voice, which she had learned to ignore for so long.
Remembering one of her first disappointments involving a man in her life, Jo recalls the intense hurt, but also remembers how she instinctively downplayed her feelings, even with her best friend: “I knew if I ever showed them, then I could never take them back. I would be fully exposed…my naked self…out there for the universe to gobble up.” In this respect, Jo is very much us (haven't we all had moments where we've held back our true feelings, pasted on a smile, and pretended that whatever we were crushed by doesn't really matter at all?), and Barbara Slate has created a character that readers will almost instantly identify with and root for.
Slate’s effective prose is enhanced by her illustrations, which are primarily bright and vibrant with the exception of those panels depicting Jo’s memories, which are rendered in grays and whites with an occasional splash of red. The device could have been too obvious, but here it works, with the stark grays serving to emphasize the loneliness in Jo’s memories and the poor decisions she made in the name of “being a good girl,” even as the bright splashes of color in the panels highlight her spark of life that survived it all.
While the subject matter in Getting Married and Other Mistakes may be a rather sober one, Slate’s humor shines through in every panel, softening the edges of what might otherwise seem bleak and depressing through her own witty voice and apparent ability to see the proverbial silver linings.
Graphic novelist Slate’s list of credits is truly too large and impressive to fully list here. She’s created cartoons and illustrations for Mattel, DC Comics, Cosmopolitan magazine and more, she’s authored a book called You Can Do A Graphic Novel which, along with a companion Teacher Guide, is used to teach teens how to create their own graphic novels, and she also lectures and teaches workshops.
Find out more about her here: http://www.barbaraslate.com/
Getting Married and Other Mistakes is both witty and poignant, and those who mistakenly pass it by on the assumption that graphic novel = comic book will be missing out on a great and often illuminating reading experience. Highly recommended.