Thursday, May 24, 2012

CBR IV Review #21 - Dunaway's Crossing by Nancy Brandon

This was a free book that I got through the Kindle store.  Mostly, the books I come across for free are terrible.  No offense intended to the authors - they are trying, bless them.  And it's fucking hard to write a book.  But some of them I can't even get far enough into to review (ie In Deep Shitake - do NOT pick that up, it is absolutely terrible).  This was the rare exception - a book I got for free that I would have paid for.

Dunaway's Crossing takes place in rural Georgia during the influenza outbreak of 1918-1919.  Bea Dot, escaping an abusive marriage for awhile, goes to stay with her pregnant cousin Netta.  However, before she can get there, the flu breaks out, provoking Netta's husband to send the women out of town.  Local man (and WWI vet) Will Dunaway takes the women to his home/store, the titular Dunaway's Crossing, to stay and wait out the outbreak in safety. Neither woman is really prepared for this style of living, especially not highborn lady Bea Dot, but they must learn to play the hand that life has dealt them.  Netta's due day approaches; Bea Dot knows her husband will be furious at her lack of return; and Will and Bea Dot start to find themselves feeling things that both know could lead to problems.  In the meantime, in town, people are dropping like flies and no one seems to know how to stop it.

This was a great little piece of historical fiction, which is a genre I have a weakness for when done well (I spent a year reading almost nothing but historical fiction based on Tudor England and LOVED it).  This novel does a lovely job of really transporting you back to that time and place and feeling the fear and exhaustion of everyone involved.  The descriptions of the ill are unpleasant, but not too disturbing, at least not for me.  I could feel the Georgia heat in the air when Bea Dot arrived in Pineview, and Netta's discomfort in her pregnancy.  It was really immersive for me.

I also loved the characters and their relationships.  I rooted for Bea Dot to succeed and get out of her hell hole of a marriage - I wanted her husband, Ben, dead from the start (he opens the book with violence towards her which spurs her trip to visit her cousin).  I loved that Bea Dot and Netta, who have some water under their bridge, managed to love each other and drive each other crazy at the same time.  It felt honest.  And Will and Bea Dot's relationship, especially given the extreme circumstances, felt real to me, too. 

I figured out Bea Dot's secret early on, but it was still sad to read about later.  And if you are a person who cannot abide stories that involve the abuse of women, this is one you might want to skip - poor Bea Dot has to endure a number of unspeakable things. 

I'd definitely recommend picking this one up (it's now listed at $0.99, or free for Prime members) and look forward to seeing what else Ms. Brandon comes up with in the future.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CBR IV Review #20 - The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts

Last Nora Roberts review for a bit, I promise! Not that it matters - it's my cannon after all, but still.  I need to shake things up!

This is the second book in the Inn Boonsboro Trilogy, which, honestly, serves as a way to advertise the totally kickass inn that Nora Roberts owns, as well as the area surrounding it.  However, it's successful, as I enjoy the stories AND want to go stay there - so good work Roberts!

This volume focuses on the relationship between Owen and Avery.  Owen is the most organized of the Montgomery brothers - Type A to the bone.  Avery is less organized in her personal life, but has to be fairly detail oriented to balance everything she has going, which includes running Vesta, the killer pizza joint across the street from the Inn Boonsboro (which we get to see open in this one!).  Avery and Owen have a history, as they "dated" as kids, and both have harbored feelings for each other for years.  In addition to entering a new business partnership over the course of this book, they also pursue a romantic relationship, which is complicated by Avery's emotional baggage. 

Avery's story takes a leaf out of Vision in White with mommy issues.  Mac's mom may not have walked out on them, but she was slutty and emotionally destructive, and her damage hurts Mac's ability to truly give herself to a relationship.  Avery's mom walked out on her and her father when Avery was 12.  It's left her feeling she's likely to fail in romance like she did, and she's afraid of hurting Owen.  Not a shock that they overcome this.

Extra bonus material on this is the progression of Lizzy's story.  Lizzy is the ghost at the Inn, who saved Clare in the last volume by warning Beckett that she was in danger.  Owen manages to actually see Lizzy in this one, and Lizzy gives Clare something of hers near the end.  They start to establish who Lizzy is, who she is waiting for, and how she is connected to the people present.

I'm interested to see how everything wraps in the next story, which will be about Hope and Ryder.  That's due out in November, so expect to see a review of that before the cannon wraps!

Friday, May 11, 2012

CBR IV Review #17,18,19 - The Key Trilogy by Nora Roberts

“Do you know what happens when you always look before you leap?" She reached out and touched his hand before hurrying toward the door. "You hardly ever make the jump.”- Key of Light

Yes, I know.  Another Nora Roberts' trilogy. Deal.  My life has been filled with busy, occupying things, good and bad, and reading her books is like curling up on the couch under a warm blanket with some tea - it's comforting, easy and relaxing.  And there's only one more Roberts' review (of the newest volume in a trilogy she's yet to finish) coming up on my slate.  I read it after this series, and then moved on to other things.  So there.  :-)

The Key Trilogy is the story of three women in rural PA who are ask to complete a quest.  Malory, Dana and Zoe, who have never met, find themselves the guests of a mysterious couple who live up on Warrior's Peak.  Rowena and Pitte, two gods thrown down to our world as punishment, task the women with finding three keys to unlock a box containing the souls of three sister demigoddesses who were imprisoned there by an evil sorcerer god named Kane.  There is monetary incentive, which is important, since all three women find themselves in a state of personal disaster - each is on the brink of losing their jobs, or have just lost one.  So the excitement and the money spur all three to sign up, despite the consequences - should they fail, they will each lose a year of their lives.  In the process, the three women not only bond with each other, but become business partners, creating a triple threat business called Indulgence, which is part art gallery (for Malory), part book shop (for Dana), and part salon/spa (for Zoe).

First up, in Key of Light, is Malory, the artist.  Each book chronicles each woman's search for the key, their bond with a goddess (one of art, one of knowledge, one of courage - and who resemble the women, as indicated by paintings that become significant to plot), and, of course, their romantic entanglements.  It's not Roberts if there isn't romance, and the pairings are set up in this volume.  There are the three women tasked with the challenge, and three men who are best friends and connected to two of the three girls before the events of the books take place.  Malory works in a Gallery, since she never had the talent to create art herself, but certainly knows how to value it.  She falls for Dana's step brother, Flynn, and their relationship is essential to locating and acquiring her key.

Key of Knowledge is all about Dana, and mostly about her troubled past with author Jordan Hawke.  He left her without hardly a word after his mother died, and she still holds a grudge.  But like with Malory, addressing her feelings for Jordan (and vice versa) is essential to her journey for the key.

The final volume, Key of Valor, is about Zoe, the single mom.  She has a LOT more going on in terms of depth of story.  Zoe comes from a trailer park in West Virginia, and is a young single mother who made her own way in the world when the baby's father refused to be involved.  She's a powerful character, accustomed to doing everything herself, and as such, getting regular help from Brad, the third of the men, is hard for her.  She has to overcome a great deal to get to her key, and ends up being the most active in destroying Kane for good before they release the demigoddess's souls.

I enjoyed all of these, but Zoe's story was by far my favorite.  Her relationship with her son, Simon, is beautiful.  And her character is so dense and interesting.  Her obstacles when it came to both the key and to accepting Brad's advances (and help in general) were complicated and real.  She felt the most fleshed out of all three women, though obviously she benefited by being the last - I had two other books to get a basic knowledge of her and the world they lived in before delving into her story.

I also loved the relationships between everyone.  It was such a happy group of friends, who really created their own family.  I think it's very true that as adults, we have different family than who we are born into.  The older you get, the more you start making your own family out of the important people in your life, and that's especially true here.  Does it all happen a little faster in the books than in reality?  Sure, but it's fiction.  That doesn't diminish the sincerity of the feeling between everyone.  And the dialogue is written in such a way that I had no trouble believing the men had always been friends, while the women were still finding their footing.

Overall, another great read!