Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What I've Read This Week: Part I

What I've Read This Week : Part I . . .

Sizzling Sixteen (a Stephanie Plum novel) by Janet Evanovich
Stephanie's cousin and employer, Vinnie has gone missing and without him Stephanie is out of a job. Armed with her lucky bottle inherited from an uncle, her gun (sans bullets), and sidekicks Connie and Lula, Stephanie sets out to rescue Vinnie and save the company. Before the danger is over, they encounter alligators, dangerous mob-men and Hobbits (yes Hobbits). As with the last few Plum novels, this one lacks an interesting plot and serves as a vehicle to make the characters behave even more crazy than in previous books. The funniest bits in the story involve alligators and stink bombs; most of the jokes would appeal to middle-school boys. The ending is rather anti-climatic as Stephanie sits around waiting to be rescued. I think the story had come to the inevitable conclusion and it's time for Stephanie to retire.

Miss Jacobson's Journey by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance
In 1802 London, Miriam Jacobson's parents have decided it's high time she is married. Against her wishes, they call in the matchmaker, according to Jewish tradition, who chooses Isaac Cohen, the scholarly son of a moneylender, to be Miriam's husband. Miriam takes one look at the scrawny, weak-eyed young man and flees. For the next nine years she travels around Europe with her uncle, a doctor, helping him treat patients and organize his notes. Now her uncle is dead and it's time to return to England. With Napolean's troops all over Europe, getting home is difficult. Miriam is referred to Jakob Rothschild, a banker whose family firm transports money back and forth from England. He asks Miriam to undertake a difficult journey smuggling gold to Welington's troops in Spain in exchange for his help getting her home. Miriam agrees, ready for one last adventure. Her traveling companions include the handsome gentile Lord Felix Roworth and the equally handsome and somewhat familiar Isaac Cohen. The gentlemen hate each other at first and Isaac seems to dislike Miriam for no reason she can recall. Since they must travel as relatives, Miriam decides to undertake the difficult task of befriending the gentlemen and getting them to like each other. Their safe passage is threatened by overzealous French police and the fear of imprisonment. It's only Miriam's resourcefulness that gets them through the most difficult times. It's only natural that both the gentlemen should fall in love with Miriam, and her with them, but which one should she choose? This fun adventure is a bit different from the typical Regency novel. It combines adventure with a dash of romance and throws in some history and religion as well. The Jewish characters are unusual in that they inhabit a world outside of that which Regency novels are usually set and therefore, this book takes the story out of the ballrooms and drawing rooms of London. I enjoyed the adventure though there could have been a bit more romance. Miriam is a typical Dunn heroine: smart, resourceful, beautiful and strong-willed. The gentlemen are a bit different and they develop nicely. I really like that the characters get to know one another and grow up along the way, a nice change from the usual courtship of just a few weeks! The downside to this book is that there are certain aspects of Jewish history and culture that the reader may not understand if they are unfamiliar with Judaism. The second fault of the novel is that it lacks the quirky secondary characters that Dunn writes so well. The final, and in my opinion, biggest, fault is that there's too much time spent on the journey and not enough of the romance. The story does keep the reader guessing which one Miriam really loves though it's easy to guess who she'll end up with given certain circumstances but I think her romance with that gentleman could have been a bit more romantic. This is a good, fun read and perfect for summer vacation!

Love Walked in: A Novel by Marisa de los Santos -- Fiction
Cornelia Brown's life changes forever when a handsome stranger walks through the door of the coffee shop where she works. Sounds corny right? Not in the least! Cornelia notices the man's resemblance to Cary Grant right away and puts to use all the fantastic flirting skills she's learned from years of obsessing over old movies. Martin seems to be into her too and their relationship affects Cornelia in ways she never expected. Clare is a going-on-eleven year-old girl who lives with her single mom in an affluent area outside of Philadelphia. Her father doesn't have much interest in her, but her mother's love more than makes up for her father's lack of love. When Clare's mother begins to act strangely, Clare is scared. She reaches out to her father and he dismisses her concerns. Clare is a resourceful and mature child so she copes the best she can. When Clare and Cornelia's lives intersect, they form an instant bond. With help from her brother-in-law Teo and her loud, but loving, family, Cornelia helps Clare cope with the changes life has thrown at her. This is an incredibly moving story about different types of love and the way love can help heal the most broken heart. The prose is beautifully written by first-time author, Marisa del los Santos and there are many amusing references to old movies and classic children's books, both of which I love. The plot kept me turning pages way too late into the night and there were twists I never saw coming. The story does not end the way I expected it to or really wanted it to but the ending is right for the characters. It's perfect the way it is and leaves room for a sequel but also closes the story if there's not a sequel. Some of the events are too contrived but I was too caught up in the story of heartbreak and love to be really annoyed. The character development is mostly good, but there are awkward insightful moments that come when a story is told in first person. Clare's story is the stronger of the two. My heart goes out to her and I admire her maturity. Cornelia comes across as a little ditzy and annoying at first but I can relate to her issues about growing up and dealing with real life. I also love many of the same movies she does and can easily understand her obsession with them! Though this is different from my usual type of novel, I loved it. This is a great book for older teens and adults who want a heartwarming story that will make you cry and smile.

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