Skin Deep by Nora Roberts
I found myself – surprisingly enough – really liking Chantel O’Hurley. She has become a famous actress who often portrays the role of femme fatale, and she takes no shit from anyone. She really warmed my heart when she totally dissed Quinn Doran the chauvinist pig who did change a little throughout the book. Anyway, so when this security expert tells her that as a heart-breaker, she ought to take a few crank calls (uh, make that sick crank calls plus obscene notes plus some wacky ideas of romance) in stride, Chantel totally pins him down, not that he cares.
Chantel looks hard on the surface, but beneath her armor is a soft heart and cool head. By her vulnerability I do not mean anything negative (when did it acquire its negative connotation, anyway?) – it has a feel of openness and generosity in it, although also some hurtful past.
I found the ending a bit too… dramatic. But whatever works.
Without a Trace by Nora Roberts
Mmmm. Trace is not my type. Although it did wonders to me to watch him change thanks to Gillian. I think I bonded with Gillian over her type of relationship to her father – I totally get that. Like, not the follow-my-footsteps kind, but the just-not-loving thing.
Without a Trace was parts boring and parts fascinating because it was my
first second Nora book about an intelligencer and while I do think that the ending was way too easy, I enjoyed the masquerade and the travels quite a lot.
Virgin River by Robyn Carr
So I have this picture of a perfect small town, right? Secluded, peaceful, clean, comforting, brimming with nice people and a small cabin filled with books and furnished in a simple yet elegant way.
The cover totally indicates that way, as do the genre (contemporary romance set in a small town!) and the heroine’s first thoughts as she drives there.
Then Robyn Carr sets me right – the cabin is a dump, there is not a smallest sign of a bookstore, or a supermarket, or a clothing store. People are not always friendly and not always up to a talk about medical emergencies (unless they’re a doctor or patients). The nature can be fierce, and there’s a dark side to even the brightest towns.
But as Mel eased into a small-town life, I gradually relaxed, and let the book’s flow carry me.
Two things that kinda bugged me: 1. The references to Grace Valley characters who are June, John, Jim and Susan, and I got the lot confused quite a few times, especially since a one-sentence introduction was all I got.
2. The way Mel so easily found herself even more in love than the first time around in six months’ time. Her grief was totally authentic and heart-wrenching. And then she healed really quickly, which was good to see. Then she decides she is so over her first love already, whom she had loved for five years, because she is more in love with a guy she’s known for six months.
I’m probably not gonna continue the series, at least not anytime soon, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance.
Bratfest at Tiffany’s by Lisi Harrison
So after enduring four books in a row ranging from “meh” to downright “ugh”, I’d vowed off the series. Until one day when I was sitting in my rocking chair, feeling numb because of the cold, and I flipped through The Revenge of the Wannabes. Suddenly I was gripped by the nostalgia that the first three books in the series have provided – the wit, the fun, the ridiculous, the ignorant and spoiled girls who are yet oddly so human. I decided to give the ninth book a chance.
And boy, was it ridiculously fun.
Maybe because Massie put the NPC on a boyfast, which, after the last two books’ headaches, I totally heart. This book’s focus lies in Massie, and to a smaller extent in Alicia and Claire. I somehow missed Massie’s bossiness, her egocentric worries, her action as a fashion diva, her clever comebacks and sarcasm. And her insecurities. I think one of the reasons I have become so fond of her is because she lets me relax in my should-filled thoughts. I can be as “bad” as Massie if it weren’t for my conscience plaguing me. It’s a constant battle between being confident, feeling good, and doing the right thing. Massie is juggling this in her own way, even though I fully admit I’d be horrified if my own daughter acted so without morals and attempts at kindheartedness. (And she knows fashion.)
In het world it’s all about being a social Alpha and maintaining that position. Its simplicity (and yet so crucial to Massie herself) allows me to calm down my own troubles for a while.
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand there is this unique high fantasy setting based on Russia, a wasteland-like Dark Fold that reminds you of yoma-infested countries without their king or queen*, and a villain that is so chillingly scary that it gives you a tug-and-pull kind of reaction. On the other hand, however, we have the first two hundred pages that feel like a long, long prologue. Alina doesn’t wake up until two-thirds in. She rambles and describes her surroundings in painstaking details, but something is missing. Her it is missing – her personality, her self-recognition, her own voice.
The ending came less as a shock than expected, mostly because I automatically suspect any and every new friend the hero / heroine makes.
I’m unsure whether I want to continue with the series. That remains to be seen.
*a reference to Fuyumi Ono’s Twelve Kingdoms series, in case anyone is interested