Thursday, November 16, 2017

Kazuo Ishiguro - When We Were Orphans

England, 1930s. Christopher Banks has become the country's most celebrated detective, his cases the talk of London society. Yet one unsolved crime has always haunted him; the mysterious disappearance of his parents, in Old Shanghai, when he was a small boy. Now, as the world lurches towards total war, Banks realises the time has come for him to return to the city of his childhood and at last solve the mystery - that only by his doing so will civilisation be saved from the approaching catastrophe.
Moving between London and Shanghai of the inter-war years, When We Were Orphans is a story of memory, intrigue and the need to return; of a childhood vision of the world surviving deep into adulthood, indelibly shaping and distorting a person's life.


Comment: I was at my local library and this book caught my eye. I knew the author is this year's Nobel Prize winner but while I didn't run to get his books immediately, I still remembered and considering this book wasn't too big, I thought it would be a good way to know his work and see if I could also think he deserved the prize.

This book is focused on Christopher Banks, an english man who has lived his childhood in Shanghai and now has a career as a detective, simply because he has had this golden image of detectives in China, looking for his missing parents.Although years have passed, the mystery remains until Christopher finally decided it's time for him to return and use his currently famous skills to uncover what happened so many years ago. But will Christopher like what he finds?

Reading this book was quite an experience. It's not a big book but I confess I wasn't always able to easily focus on what I was doing and often I was easily distracted. Still, it was very interesting to follow the mystery of the disappearance of Christopher's parents, especially because the outcome wasn't what I expected, even if I suspected something on those general lines.

Many readers have commented one of the biggest struggles is the lack of connection with the narrator, Christopher, because he is seen as just a character looking for a goal at the expanse of other details, and we never get to really know him and his thoughts on mundane things, such as how he solves the mysteries in his work. However, I didn't really mind not having more of Christopher's ideas as a grown up. The real beauty in his character is how he has manage to retain so many memories of his past and this clouds him today. One could say this isn't precisely a matter of beauty, but the writing has its appeal in this: we are carried along with Christopher to what he sees and wants to know and not as much the outside details that could have let us engage with his personality more, but...

What really made me like this book was Christopher's detailed images of his past. It's a known fact when we grow old, when we grow up, many of the things that used to make us us are gone, are dismissed, are put aside as fancy childhood phases. We remember this and that but it's gone, it's forever in the past and we can't live it again. Christopher has moved from Shanghai to England but his home will always be Shanghai in a way. How incredibly sad this can be, this need to hold on to things that used to be so fierce and engraved in one's mind but then they disappear. Christopher just focused on this, so he could not only regain his childhood feelings but the way he saw himself at that time. Finding his parents was like finally remembering there was a missed light to turn off after leaving the house and Christopher wants closure but that's not easy to accomplish.

The secondary situations that are part of this book, even the characters, all that almost seems to lack importance but we can see it's just a means for Christopher to remember and to let us know why his demand can't be over until he finds his parents.
I won't reveal the end, the twist but I shed one or two tears when Christopher finds the truth about everything that happened and although I can say it was rather melodramatic, it was interesting to squeeze it all to one basic sentence: our memories can be deceiving, we only remember things partially but the love of a mother can be...everything, forever.

Since I could overlook pretty much everything but Christopher and his wish to find a truth for what his memories meant and still do, this book was a good one for me. But I can understand many readers there are many flaws overall to make it a success. But well, each person sees things differently... I do agree the last 40 pages or something were somehow too weird but... in general, I can say I liked it.
Grade: 7/10

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

TBR Challenge: Lauren Layne - Isn't She Lovely?

Stephanie Kendrick gave up her whole summer to ace her NYU film school screenwriting course, so she's pissed to be stuck with a preppy, spoiled frat boy as her writing partner. Then again, with her piercings, black-rimmed eyes, and Goth wardrobe, Stephanie isn't exactly Ethan Price's type, either. He's probably got his eye on some leggy blonde with a trust fund... or does he?
As the summer scene kicks off in the Hamptons, Ethan is desperate to make his snobbish mother forget the pedigreed girl who broke his heart. While Stephanie's a stretch as a decoy, the right makeover and a pastel cardigan just might do the trick. She may not love the idea of playing Ethan's brainless Barbie girlfriend, but the free rent and luxurious digs make a tempting offer. So does the promise of a ready-made screenplay idea inspired by their charade.
But when Stephanie steps into Ethan's privileged world, the "acting" begins to feel all too real. The kissing and touching that were intended to fool the Hamptons crowd wind up manipulating "them." And Stephanie faces a question she's too afraid to ask: Is Ethan falling for the real her or for the dolled-up princess he wants to see?


Comment: This book was recommended to me as a sweet romance, therefore I thought it would be an appropriate choice for the challenge this month, since it's Recommended Read time. I think I'll always be wary of new adult stories because so often they are just an excuse for erotica with younger characters or it's YA undercover but you know, there's always the hope this will be the one to change my mind. I'm glad this one ended up being a good story.

This is said to be a sort of version on the Pygmalion trope and I happen to like it so  was hopeful about the way the author would treat it here. We have two college students having a summer course on film edition and such and they need to work in pairs. Although our couple meets rather awkwardly right before first class, they are  - surprise! - placed together to work on a two team project. The assignment, however, gets personal contours when their personal lives are mixed but while their work develops and their pseudo film/social experience goes on, they start to realize they can overlook appearances and be happy just as they are...or not?

This is indeed a sweet story. I was worried this would focus too much on dramatics and sex and not the story but I was positively surprised by how the author treated the plot. I liked it how Stephanie and Ethan, our protagonists, had more in them than met the eye. It was also nice to have alternate POVs so that it didn't seem that the focus was mostly in one and not in them as a team, so in this regard I think the author's choice was a good one.
It seems there are two more stories - this is a prequel - but by the blurb alone I don't feel as invested in trying those as I wanted to read this one.

The plot isn't too complicated and even the not so believable scenes have a depth I was not expecting to find here. It's not difficult to guess what happens but I was still very lad by the gradual way the main characters fell in love. There was no insta knowledge or sex but their feelings seemed to develop at a credible pace and this has helped me to like seeing them together. 
As you can imagine, both have some hidden feelings to deal with and this experience is a good escape for them. I must confess I find it difficult to weight in which one had it the heaviest because although I can understand Stephanie's reaction to something in her past, I can't help but imagine some of her attitudes were a little childish but well, how can I really judge... as for Ethan, he seemed a bit more consistent (in terms of personality) but maybe it was in his reaction to something also difficult to overcome.

What I both think clever and disappointing is how this information was treated. We don't get to see the resolution black in white for Ethan's issues but maybe that's a symbol of reality. At the same time it was sort of anti climatic. 
When it comes to Stephanie, her problems do seem to have a lot of closure...is it meant for us to grasp Ethan played a part in making her realize she needed to live for now or was it is just an overload of sugar to make it more romantic? 

The end was cute and if this was a movie, that end would be a very good one, if not a little bit too cheesy. But my overall impression is a positive one. I liked how the story developed for the most part and how we (the readers) weren't screamed at with all the conclusions we needed; we could simply get them at our own pace. As always, there was some focus on things I wouldn't say were necessary but that can be overlooked if one concentrates on the positive aspects and there are several in this story to make it appealing.
I don't think I've changed my opinion on NA books but this one can certainly remain as one I'd use to defend the genre if I had to.
Grade: 8/10

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Elizabeth Hoyt - Notorious Pleasures

Lady Hero Batten, the beautiful sister of the Duke of Wakefield, has everything a woman could want, including the perfect fiancé. True, the Marquis of Mandeville is a trifle dull and has no sense of humor, but that doesn't bother Hero. Until she meets his notorious brother . . .
Griffin Remmington, Lord Reading, is far from perfect - and he likes it that way. How he spends his days is a mystery, but all of London knows he engages in the worst sorts of drunken revelry at night. Hero takes an instant dislike to him, and Griffin thinks that Hero, with her charities and faultless manners, is much too impeccable for society, let alone his brother. Yet their near-constant battle of wits soon sparks desire - desire that causes their carefully constructed worlds to come tumbling down. As Hero's wedding nears, and Griffin's enemies lay plans to end their dreams forever, can two imperfect people find perfect true love?


Comment: This is the second installment in the Maiden Lane series by author Elizabeth Hoyt. I liked the first book so it wasn't a hardship to start this second one as well and it was even better when, at the end of it, I was left with a smile because I really liked it a lot.

In this book we meet heroine Hero, a secondary character from the previous book, stopping and somehow helping a couple from being caught by the woman's...husband in a compromising position. The man gets on Hero's nerves but she is a lady so she tries to forget about him, something that proves too difficult because he happens to be the younger brother of her dull fiancé.
Griffin is surprised the prim lady he met minutes before is his future sister-in-law. His relationship with his brother no longer is the same but he knows provoking this woman would be a mistake. The problem is she is someone he can't get out f his head and the more he tries to forget her, the more he sees and needs to interact with her. Their common goals also seem quite alluring and it get to a point where it seems a heartbreak in waiting to think she will be married to his brother. 
But will things happen as properly as they should?

I really had a great time reading this book. You know when you finish a book, maybe it's not the best ever, but it touches you somehow and when it's over, you spend a long time thinking about the characters and how their lives went on, even after the book is over? Well, now that are practically five days after I finished it, I still wonder how the lives of those characters could have been and I can't help but smiling very time.

I know perfectly this doesn't make the book the best fiction romance ever but somehow the elements were all aligned to make this a good story for me. I liked ow the apparent silly first meeting of the protagonists was not the motto for the rest of a very romantic situation. Even the sex scenes between them didn't feel "wrong" or "ill timed" because for me the feelings were always there, obvious between them. I truly appreciated how it seemed such a focal point this notion the reader got that they were falling in love. Then the final scenes of the book, before the epilogue, I don't know, but they seemed so perfectly inserted and that made he story feel sweeter.

The plot is not very original, basically younger brother falls for brother's fiancé and his whole personality is misjudged by everyone. Adding an interesting moral battle against gin because of how it affects people, we have a story that has its drama but never gets out of romance areas. It was very interesting how all the little clues were placed in a way that would allow for a convincing story and character's choices and steps.
There is also some secondary sub plots, mainly seen through character's POVs and this is why I like multi POVs, when done well, can give the reader amazing glimpses of others and that makes me have the sensation I'm reading about a cast of characters and not a couple completely isolated from the world (which wouldn't be as compelling overall).

Hero and Griffin don't immediately give in to their feelings and I really loved how gradual that happens. I was eager to keep reading, just to see what they would do the next time thy would be together. Their relationship is both romantic and passionate but doesn't feel anything between them was there just because, I liked the notion of inevitability I always look for in romance stories, after all, that is my hope in fiction, to be wowed and marveled by a romance. 

Since I liked it so much, I haven't got much to say negatively and I pretty much said why I liked so I won't be repetitive and say it all again. I loved this story and I hope the rest of the series is as vibrant and appealing.
Grade: 9/10

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Mini-Comments

Two books I've read recently but, to be truly honest, both felt average to me so I confess I don't have much to say about either.


Annabel Winslow is in a pickle. Having newly arrived in London for her first season and being in possession of a voluptuous figure, is being openly courted the the Earl of Newbury, who is at least 75 and a nasty brute to boot. Annabel does not want to marry him, of course, but feels that she has no choice since her father has recently died and left the whole family, including Annabel's mother and her 7 siblings, almost destitute.
Then, while attending a party in the countryside, Annabel met Sebastian Grey, the Earl of Newbury's nephew. And suddenly she found herself not only courted by the lecherous uncle, but also the charming young nephew. Should she follow her heart so that she can be with the one she loves, or should she marry the loathsome earl just so she can put food on the table for her family and make sure that her brothers get to stay in school?


Ten Things I Love About You is the third installment in the Bevelstoke trilogy by author Julia Quinn. I admit I haven't read the others but since this can also be read as a stand alone, I don't think it was a loss not having read the previous ones. 
In this sweet story we meet Annabel and Sebastian, an unlikely couple that proves to be very well matched. Annabel needs to find a wealthy husband because her family is in a dire situation and the earl of Newbury seems to be the most likely candidate but the problem is he is old enough to be her grandfather. Sebastian is his nephew, whom he hates. 
The situation also provides funny scenes but although I liked how the protagonists slowly developed feelings for each other, I just didn't like them individually. Ok, didn't like is too strong, I didn't feel much empathy, even if their personal issues were important and relevant. Therefore, even knowing the plot made sense most of the time, I just didn't enjoy reading this one as much as I did others by the author.
Grade: 6/10


-//-

Vic Bronsen has a problem. He's stuck in a rut, uninspired by his job, and in love with a man who has
no clue. Thinking a change of scenery and company will do his aching heart some good, he goes off on a road trip with his best friend, only to find that the answers to his problems may have been right there in front of him all along.

Unrequited is a short story about two friends who go on a vacation together and how their feelings change from simple friendship to care and love. 
Vic is a busy man who has been in love with Owen for a long time but Owen never seems to get the notion Vic's feelings might be deeper...although Vic never told him how he truly feels. His friend Shane shows up because of their common job and somehow convinces Vic to go on holiday with him and that is the mote for new discoveries.
Interesting was how Vic felt his feelings were unrequited by Owen and Shane felt his were the same by Vic. I think there were too many similarities in such a small story so I couldn't go past that. The situation was solved in a way I thought difficult to simply accept and the friends to lovers scenario isn't one I appreciate much, it's too weird most of the time. This was a cute story but not my favorite by the author.
Grade: 5/10

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

JD Tyler - Wolf's Fall

Still tormented by his recent captivity, Alpha Pack commander Nick Westfall isn’t sure he’s fit to lead—especially when he meets the one woman he can’t claim without reliving the torture he endured at the hands of a rogue vampire.
Vampire princess Calla Shaw has seen her own share of heartbreak, but she can tell that the wild attraction she and Nick feel for each other could turn into something significant—if only he’d let it. But Calla isn’t about to give up on her mate without a fight.
Time is running out, not only for Nick to claim his mate, but for Calla and her coven. A vampire war is on the horizon, one the Alpha Pack can’t hope to win if their leader can’t pull himself back from the abyss… 


Comment: This is the 6th installment in the Alpha Pack series by author JD Tyler. Although all the books haven't been perfection, I've had quite an entertaining tie with them, so I keep reading, even more because I want to know what happens to the characters that will be protagonists yet.

In this book we finally have Nick Westfall's story. Since he is the alpha of the group of shifters/soldiers in the alpha team, Nick has always been the person the others look up to. Nick is also a pre cog, which means he often has visions about scenes that will happen in the future and that can sometimes be very useful but often it's not, as Nick himself can attest.
In the previous book something happened to Nick so now he isn't feeling his best and the notion he and Calla, the vampire sister of one of his allies, are mates makes everything change for him...

Well, this is a shorter book when compared to the others in the series, so my comment will be a short one as well.
I thought this book to be too generalist, as if anyone could be the hero and not Nick alone. Nick has ben the hero behind the scenes in every book there has always been an aura of mystery behind him and his life so I feel his story was sadly played down. 
I also think his heroine wasn't a good choice. Nothing against her being a vampire, that obviously played well into the plot needs, but Calla, as a character didn't offer much in terms of personality and although I wouldn't want someone impossible for him, I certainly imagined a much more balanced relationship.

The romance isn't perfect, no. Nick need to face a situation that started in the previous book and that affects his bond with Calla. I get it that he needs to solve something for himself before he can let go and embrace happiness, but the reality is that the whole situation feels contrived and "staged" and I couldn't really feel empathy towards his issues.
Calla also had some bad memories to overcome but I felt she was more stable, emotionally, than Nick. I just didn't find her interesting and imagined someone different for Nick when it came to personality. I don't mind they are a couple but I certainly imagined the interactions between them would have been much better.

The plot is focused on the usual battles, there's always an enemy on the lookout and our heroes need to make things right. I don't mind this since we still see scenes with everyone here and there and their friendships seem strong and good. I hope the next books bring more of this.
As for this book, I feel sad this isn't a favorite but to me Nick's characters wasn't used up well in his own plot, his mating felt weak and he doesn't seem to be as well portrayed here as he was in previous books.
Grade: 5/10

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Alison Packard - Catching Heat

Life has taught Angie DeMarco that all baseball players are womanizers, and her incredible one-night stand with sexy San Francisco Blaze back-up catcher J.T. Sawyer seemed to prove it. Determined not to give in to their sizzling chemistry a second time, she's kept her distance ever since, focusing on her accounting job with the team. But now she's laid off...and pregnant.
J.T. was hurt by Angie's rejection, but with one more year with the Blaze, he has no time for love. He needs to spend the off season training hard so he can negotiate a better contract with a new team at the end of the year. But when Angie shows up on his doorstep, he's overwhelmed by wanting to not just do right by her but pursue a relationship with her. Hoping for a second chance, he proposes.
Angie agrees to marry J.T. on one condition: the marriage will be purely a business arrangement. But as Angie spends time with him and his family, and J.T. neglects his training to spend time with her, what begins as a union in name only slowly grows into something more--something that looks a whole lot like love and friendship.


Comment: After having read the book before this one in 2015 and enjoying it, I added the following two (this one and the installment after) to my reading lists and this month I did pick it up. I confess, however, that I was expecting more...

In this story, we have Angie and JT's romance. They were secondary characters in the previous toy, it didn't seem they would have that much in common but a night together has had is consequences and now Angie is pregnant. To top it, she is also out of a job so after some debating she does accept JT's offer of marriage but only for two years so she can find a job and not have to worry about lack of health benefits int he meantime. But deceiving his those around them and dealing with their families can prove to be quite challenging...
As for their personalities, I liked them individually but together they didn't seem to become that much better or stronger or maybe this was just my impression.

I sort of expected more out of this novel, after a slow but promising beginning. The marriage of convenience trope no longer works as well in contemporary romance as it used to but I like it when the situation is told in a way that even if I can't truly accept it, I can suspend belief to see how it's done. I just think that the romance wasn't as "romantic" or "special" as I imagined.

One great way to show the characters are falling for each other and wanting to be together but don't immediately give in for some reason is using sexual tension scenes. Not placing them having sex and stop before things go to far! Just showing scenes where their connection is developing, scenes with them doing things together or looking at one another that it can't be mistaken or letting us know they are thinking or doing something with the other one always in their minds. I think it's usually just easier to make them talk about or act more sexually interested than it was necessary to give us the clue they are hot for one another... that should be supposed to be a given, I, personally, would prefer the subtlety that would increase until it got to the point they couldn't ignore it anymore.
I jut felt their relationship wasn't done well, they were all about the marriage deal, she said no sex but quickly changed her mind... I thought the relationship wasn't a good element of this book.

The bigger conflict, however, comes from Angie's relationship with her mother. The older woman also had a romance with a ballplayer so she doesn't seem to accept how Angie left a stable fiancé to be with this man. I can understand her reasoning based on her experience but she was also clearly made to be the villain so although some plot moves make sense based on her personality, it was also something that could be avoided or dealt with differently...

What I liked the best in this novel was JT's parents. They are lovely, they (and two of his brothers) provided the stability Angie needs so it's no surprise when she and her mother in law connect and the future seems promising to Angie. The HEA is believable enough, I'd say. Just too bad about how everything was done and developed.
Also, for a sports romance there isn't that much talk about the sport JT plays...not that I'd want a list of every single practice or game or preparation but...it felt like it was just an element to suit the plot.

All in all, I thought this book would stronger, considering the previous one, but despite the things I liked less, it was still entertaining and had some cute scenes here and there. I'm curious about the dynamics of the next one and I will read it somewhere in the future...next year, most likely.
Grade: 6/10

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tiffany Clare - The Secret Desires of a Governess

From the moment Abby meets her new employer -- the mysterious, brooding Earl of Brendall -- she is appalled by his brutish manner…and even moreso by her own attraction to him. Has she lost her senses? As a governess, Abby has no choice but to play by the rules. But as a woman, she cannot deny the fiery sensations he ignites -- or the fantasies he inspires…
From the moment Elliott lays eyes on his new young governess, he knows he’s in trouble. Abby is intelligent, defiant, and utterly captivating, though Elliott must do his very best to resist her. But as the two grow closer, the passion burns hotter. Soon, the only thing that can destroy their love is the darkest secret of his past -- and the secret desires of a governess…


Comment:  I got interested in this book after browsing a list at GR about books where a governess was the heroine. I tend to usually appreciate this trope, governess/lord or governess/master because it's always interesting to see how the dynamics  of the relationship work out and how well the romance can develop. But sometimes things don't go the way we initially imagined.

In this book we meet Lady Abigail and when the book starts she is just arriving at the estate where she is supposed to work as a governess but apparently no one went to get her at the station and she had to walk for a long time. When she arrives she is mad and she starts yelling at the first person she meets, who happens to be the master of the house, the Earl of Brandall. Of course the attraction between them is immediate but Abby is a proper lady so she is welcomed but nothing happens. 
The Earl has a tragic past, his mother killed herself, his wife is rumored to have done the same, he only wants to protect his eight year old son and to do so he hires a governess to give him lessons until he is older. He was not counting on falling for her nor she for him but before they can even ponder a possibility of being together, they need to discover who is sometimes causing harm to Abby and why...

I'll start by saying that I can easily put aside historical accuracy in romances set in times before the so called modern times simply because often the characters are larger than life and the details can be put aside. There are obvious elements that need to be kept realistic for the era, otherwise it wouldn't make much sense but sometimes readers can ignore certain things and that doesn't mean the book won't be appreciated in the fullest.

However, in this book's case, maybe because some scenes/situations were sub par to what I was expecting, the anachronisms just seemed too evident and I couldn't help noticing several little details that made me think this story was led more by the author's need to insert as much content as possible rather than to follow a more realistic plot line one would accept as part of the 1840s, when the action takes place.

I guess I'll just leave a small list of the sort of things that I couldn't not think about:
- Abby is a governess not because she truly needs it  (she has loving sisters and while it's commendable she doesn't want to live off them while her inheritance isn't given to her in two years, it's hardly a challenge) but because she feels she needs to do something and of course all ladies would immediately think of going alone to a distant estate to do something they don't truly need. I'd have liked her more if her being a governess was more of a true need.
- When arriving at an unknown estate, after being forgotten for hours, of course any professional lady at a time ladies were respected but didn't really have rights would start yelling at someone before at least knowing who that person is and of course a lord, instead of thinking this person is weird thinks she's pretty and defiant instead.
- Abby is a young woman, she has a not old "boss" and while one can't swear governesses and the lords they worked for never felt attracted nor acted on it, is it really that simple that they would go to bed together so quickly and without a believable emotion connection - because none was a slave of their libido and this isn't supposed to be erotica?

I know these examples can only be quibbles of mine and there are several books out there where similar situations happened and I wasn't as bothered. However, in this book they just seemed to blind me all the time and I couldn't ignore it. I couldn't imagine the scenes happening in a house where more people lived and where everyone would realize what was happening. 
The characters, as a whole, didn't really win me over in a way that would enable me to forget the details I don't think are believable.

Abby and Elliott, the earl, are certainly a good match but I think their relationship didn't develop in a romantic way, at least not to the point the author seems to want to convinces us of. Their reasons didn't seem credible, their actions weren't something people at this time would do so carelessly as they did and not even the fact there is a mystery and a sugary HEA made me think they had so many good qualities after all. I can understand their limitations but still... this was not as magical as I imagined by the blurb.
Maybe I'm being unfair but it's the way it looked like to me.
Grade: 5/10

Friday, November 3, 2017

Jennifer Crusie - Anyone But You

For Nina Askew, turning forty means freedom--from the ex-husband, freedom from their stuffy suburban home, freedom to focus on what she wants for a change. And what she wants is something her ex always vetoed--a puppy. A bouncy, adorable puppy. Instead she gets...Fred.
Overweight, middle-aged, a bit smelly and obviously depressed, Fred is light-years from perky. But he does manage to put Nina in the path of Alex Moore, her gorgeous, younger-by-a-decade neighbor.
Alex seems perfect--he's a sexy, seemingly sane, surprisingly single E.R. doctor--but the age gap convinces Nina that anyone but Alex would be better relationship material. But with every silver-haired stiff she dates, the more she suspects it's the young, dog-loving doc she wants to sit and stay!


Comment: This book has been in the list for quite some time now and for some reason I never picked it up but this month it was finally part of my reading list.

In this book we meet Nina, a 40 year old woman who has recently moved to a new apartment after her divorce and selling of the house where she used to live with her ex husband. Nina's life is now all about living hr life as she wants after years of following what others wanted. What Nina wasn't ready for was her downstairs younger neighbor, a new friend after all but...will he be something more than that?

This isn't a big book so I chose it to end my month of October purely because it fit my need to read a book in one day. I didn't pay much attention to it when I bought it, to be honest. But it was well critiqued and I enjoyed other things by the author as well so I didn't mind just getting it. Maybe I should have, though, because I wasn't overly glad while reading.

The writing in this book is appealing, engaging, easy to follow. I think the way the story is presented is interesting and touches interesting subjects in a non invasive manner, meaning the elements are there but the author isn't using this to force the reader to have an opinion, it's simply part for the plot and the readers can get their own conclusions and/or opinions. In this regard, I think the author was brilliant and provided a charming story.

My issue and why I couldn't enjoy this more was the age difference. Yes, I know it's pure prejudice and it's unfair but the age difference bothered me, especially because it was such a huge part of the plot. The point is for the reader, obviously, to figure out the age difference is not a matter of contention at all if people love each other.
My opinion about this in real life is also totally opposite and I would cheer up older woman to defend their relationships of being with a younger person was what they wanted. But in novels...I can't explain but I can't seem to abstract myself from that and when the gap is as significant as here, ten years, there just doesn't seem to exist a balance and that bothers me a bit. Yes, I'm fully aware it's silly but there you go.

There is also a secondary plot that, again, quickly mentions some of today's situations when it comes to publishing houses and public's demands...I think it must be a proof of talent to briefly mention an issue or a situation to the point where that alone is enough to give the reader a means to almost start an opinion on it. As expected, the final solution for this "conflict" is simple and ends happily.

The romance also has a predictable resolution although there some moments before the HEA that felt too obviously silly and pointless, considering the way the plot started and how it moved along. Alex isn't a bad hero but he didn't look his best in some moments. Nina was a great heroine and I liked how she evolved but I just can't visualize their relationship that easily. Plus, it sort of felt too easy and not truly believable (not the age difference acceptance) that they would be attracted and would act on it so quickly...but what do I know...

All in all, this is a good, short and easy story.It had some issues I was not a fan of but the dog is certainly a positive bonus!
Grade: 6/10

Thursday, November 2, 2017

AS Byatt - Possession

Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.

Comment: This is a book I added to my reading list because I saw it being recommended quite passionately in some site. I liked what the person recommending it said, so there it went to my list. At the end of October I finally picked it up.

In this literary novel, we have basically two plots: a contemporary one where people in an academic field investigate the work of two poets and the second plot is the relationship between those two poets which we get by reading some of their correspondence and of those around them.
This is a very detailed and well thought work, the literary aspect is magnificent and very well researched. At the same time, the fictional elements also provide a lot of knowledge and the two plots converge in a surprisingly dramatic end.

I liked the overall idea of this book. I can see and appreciate the beauty of the words and the ideas we are supposed to understand.
The literary content is rich and involves you and the plot, at its base, is fascinating. I think my biggest issue wasn't simply the confusion created in some parts nor the sometimes boring passages. I think the problem, for me, was how the language written by the author, no matter how correct, was often too pretentious and lacked enough precision to make the story easier to follow.

This was certainly a fascinating literary story with strong elements of romance but the majority of its message and beauty was lost, I'd say, among all the references, poems and descriptions that didn't become obvious if they were just part of the overall plot or the author's attempt to have a tone as academic as possible. 
I missed a more objective message, meaning, the author wasn't precise enough in some moments in the story and it was quite confusing if a certain passage was about what was happening now or related to the correspondence of the poets. I know, I know, part of the plan is for us to be able to see between the lines and come up with an opinion but much of my enjoyment of the story was lost in my attempt to understand what was happening.
It seem readers of this novel can be loosely divided into two categories, those who can fully see the magic of this work and those who can't see anything. I guess I'm in the middle because even while appreciating the beauty of the written word it was also boring a lot of the time...

The two main plots are solved differently. I liked the supposed connection between the two poets but the academic approach to their lives and work was too analytical to be fully savored until the end where we find a surprising outcome.
As for the contemporary characters, namely the two researchers/professors who are trying to find and and prove the connection between the poets, their relationship is just too weird. I suppose there is a hidden message there and one could even imagine the old fashioned ideas about platonic love giving in to modern needs but honestly, it was a bit too weird and unbelievable to be read as something one can easily imagine two professionals would do. I don't buy into the "possession" notion one is supposed to infer. Metaphorically speaking, of course!

I feel a little bad I can't manage to find many positive things to say... I did like many passages but the way things happen, the way they are described and analyzed and processed for us to read and absorb just didn't make me feel that glad I was spending time with the book. Maybe one day in the distant future I can try to re-read and my focus will be different but so far it wasn't as dazzling as I imagined.
Grade: 5/10